“Christ will make it His Church” – Bishop Michael Olson breaks ground on new church for Sacred Heart
COMANCHE — Imagine if half the congregation at Sunday Mass watched the sacred liturgy through a window.
On any given Sunday at Sacred Heart Parish in Comanche, about 120 parishioners squeeze into the nave, the main seating area of the church, and an overflow crowd gathers in the parish hall, which has a window into the sanctuary and a set of speakers.
The parish, in the southwest reaches of the Diocese of Fort Worth, held a ceremonial groundbreaking on June 18 for a solution to the overflow attendance: a new church that will seat 400 people.
“We will build the building, but Christ will make it His Church,” said Bishop Olson in a short homily before he blessed the site and broke ground along with Father James Amasi, SAC, parochial vicar of the parish, Deacon Tommy Diaz, members of the parish, and diocesan representatives. Pastor Matthew Sanka, SAC, was out of town.
Bishop Olson began the “day of gratitude” by praying for God’s blessing, His protection of the construction workers, and thanksgiving for the lay leadership and priests who have served Sacred Heart, especially Fr. Philip McNamara, SAC, who served the south deanery of the diocese for 37 years.
“The Lord blesses and consecrates some places for holy spots for His people to gather, and for them to gather as belonging to Him. We belong to the Lord, and by His will we also belong to His Church,” said the prelate.
About 250 people attended the bilingual groundbreaking in temperatures that hovered around the century mark.
“We are continuing to grow. We’ve outgrown the church, and the parish hall is full,” said Dcn. Diaz, a member of the parish since his childhood and its deacon for 12 years. Because the parish shares clergy with St. Brendan Parish in Stephenville, St. Mary Parish in Dublin, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in De Leon, adding a second Mass to relieve overcrowding is impractical.
The parish, which began as a mission of St. Brendan in 1963, has been fundraising for the new construction for more than 10 years, according to Dcn. Diaz. Three years ago, the parish purchased the land across the street, which measures more than eight acres and has direct access to Highway 16, which will increase the church’s visibility.
The estimated cost of construction has risen significantly since the initial planning, from $1.5 million to around $4 million, according to David DeJong, the building committee chair. The parish has raised $2.3 million, which includes a $900,000 grant from the Advancement Foundation’s Annual Diocesan Appeal. The Diocese will loan the parish funds for the remainder of the construction expense while fundraising continues.
“The spirit of this congregation is alive and well,” said DeJong. “There is a true need here, and [the parish] doesn’t have a lot.”
The increased costs have also scaled back the initial plan to build classrooms and a family life center in addition to the church. Even after the church is complete in late 2023, the parish will continue to use its current classrooms and parish hall.
The Knights of Columbus Council 10816 has devoted most of its fundraising efforts for the last few years to the construction fund. Although the council represents all four parishes, “Everybody is on board” with contributing to the Comanche parish, said Grand Knight Karmichael Ramos, a parishioner at St. Brendan. “We help each other.”