Blessing of the new oratory and formation center at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grapevine
GRAPEVINE – St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grapevine unveiled its new Adoration oratory and catechetical center on September 15, during a dedication ceremony in which the facilities were blessed by the Most Reverend Bishop Michael Olson.
The $5.7-million project comprises 15,000 square feet, according to Reverend Sojan George, pastor of St. Francis. The St. Dominic Savio Catechetical Center extends off the existing Family Life Center and has a separate entrance facing Wildwood Lane.
The two-story building features a central gathering area for use for youth events, guest speakers, and exhibitions. And it’s where approximately 200 parishioners came together for its dedication.
The second floor houses six atrium classrooms. They are to be used for incorporation of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is a Montessori-style approach to faith formation.
The Holy Family Oratory sits right alongside the new center, but it also has a special entrance of its own where adorers will find a peaceful environment for worship when the doors open to the public for 40 consecutive hours of Adoration starting October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.
“I think the facilities reflect the nature of the people as a parish – anchored firmly in the ground of tradition, looking forward, though, with the mission of the Church, which is to spread the Good News,” Bishop Olson said. “And of course, rooted entirely in prayer.”
The catechetical center’s significance, he added, is “education and faith formation not only for children but also for adults and families as a whole.”
The center’s first exhibition, Eucharistic Miracles, is set for October 4-8. It’s based on the website built by Blessed Carlo Acutis.
Inside the rustic gathering area lined with hardwood floors, modern lighting, and white stone walls that match the original church building, Bishop Olson opened the dedication with a prayer:
“Here the young will learn their Catholic faith, and adults will deepen their commitment to live as Christ taught us. We pray that the Word of God may always echo from its walls.”
The ceremony continued with readings, a homily, and a procession during which Bishop Olson doused the center, oratory, and outside grounds with holy water. He was attended by Fr. George and members of the Knights of Columbus.
“This building is an extension of what goes on in the church, where we celebrate the Eucharist,” Bishop Olson said during his reflection. “The Eucharist is the center, source, and summit of our lives together. It sends us forth with the Good News of the Gospel, that we have been saved...”
Others who were part of the dedication included Reverend Mel Bessellieu, parochial vicar at St. Francis. All the deacons that serve the parish were in attendance, as was Elsie Marquez, wife of the church’s late, longtime deacon, M.C. Marquez.
Following the ceremony, Fr. George made several remarks before a reception commenced in the Family Life Center.
“We thank Bishop Olson for all of his support, especially for being here tonight to bless the building and share in our joy,” he said. “It will be used for many generations to come.”
Fr. George also revealed RGA Architects of Roanoke, owned by parishioners Rick and Kathleen Gilliland, donated their services to the project.
“They have not sent us a bill, and they’re not planning to send us a bill,” Fr. George said to an extended round of applause.
Fr. George went on to thank representatives of the Diocese of Fort Worth, project managers, construction teams, those who made donations, and the staff at St. Francis.
A longtime member of St. Francis, Anne Pechuls Earp donated to the project. She attended the dedication ceremony in the center.
“Of course, it’s beautiful – and huge,” she said. “Thank you to all those people that Father introduced who were involved. That was wonderful to hear so many names – and they’re parishioners, a lot of them.”
Fr. George said the project is Phase II of an improvements campaign that comes just ahead of St. Francis celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2024. In addition to the new center and oratory, Phase II included the installation of a new parking lot and new security and fire safety elements throughout the church. Phase I was the renovation of the altar, sanctuary, and surrounding facilities, which was completed at a cost of about $1 million.
The new catechetical center’s namesake is St. Savio because he is a “model of holiness for our children,” said Rev. George, noting the disciple of St. John Bosco died as a teenager.
The oratory, meanwhile, is named for Jesus and His parents, St. Mary and St. Joseph.
“The greatest example of family life is the Holy Family,” said Fr. George.
Bishop Olson was greeted by many of the faithful during the reception and said one highlight of his visit was seeing how much the parishioners embrace Rev. George.
“He’s such a good pastor here,” Bishop Olson said. “And it’s quite evident they love him very much.”
Much like Reverend Baltasar Szarka. The pastor of St. Francis from 1961-1997, the beloved “Fr. B” oversaw exponential growth during his tenure. The trend has continued with the current population of 3,000 families, which has led to the need for the new center and oratory. It’s a thriving St. Francis faith community that would no doubt please Fr. B.
“I think he’d be delighted, and I think he’d be very proud of the people,” Bishop Olson said. “And I think probably right now, he’s smiling down from heaven.”
By Mary Rampellini, an NTC staff writer.