St. Mark Parish celebrates breaking ground on new church building
DENTON — With “Christ as the Cornerstone,” parishioners of St. Mark Church in Denton celebrated with Bishop Michael Olson, clergy, and guests the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream with the groundbreaking on a new church building April 23.
Close to 1,000 people attended the event on a breezy morning at the site of the future sanctuary.
Joining Bishop Olson in the processional were Father George Pullambrayil and Deacon Jim Galbraith, both of St. Mark, and Monsignor James Hart, chancellor of the diocese, and Vicar General Father Jonathan Wallis.
For the processional, St. Mark’s choir sang “How Lovely Are Your Dwelling Places.”
During his greeting, Bishop Olson said, “We have awaited this day with great joy.”
The growing parish, which covers South Denton, Argyle, and surrounding areas, has been waiting for a church building for many years.
St. Mark Parish was established in 1995 with Father Eugene Sweeney as its first pastor at a site on Teasley Lane, but the number of registered families more than tripled over the next decade, prompting then-pastor Father Tim Thompson to lead efforts to build at a new location in Argyle, near the Denton border: 27 acres on Crawford Road and John Paine Road.
Father George became pastor in 2011, and in December of 2014 Bishop Olson led the Rite of Blessing and Dedication at St. Mark’s multipurpose parish activities center, which includes a space that serves both for Mass and special events. On the first Sunday in Advent, December 2023, parishioners hope to celebrate the dedication of the new church, a 34,000-square-foot facility with seating for 1,800, more than doubling the current capacity.
The church, with an estimated cost of $25 million, is designed by Dallas-based architects CP&Y to match the existing buildings in a Spanish mission style. Linbeck Construction is the general contractor on the project. The costs will be funded by $7 million in St. Mark’s savings, a $10 million parish capital campaign, and a $8 million diocesan loan.
Building God’s house
In his homily, Bishop Olson recognized Father George’s “pastoral and servant leadership,” noting the groundbreaking was taking place on the Feast of Saint George.
He also recalled with gratitude the major milestones and parish pastors over the 27 years since its founding. His message focused on the difference between dreams and fantasies, and how God-given dreams like St. Mark’s building projects require perseverance, prayer, and action.
“Dreams, when brought to prayer and discernment, can enable us to envision the future through our desire to know and to love something lasting that is beyond our immediate pleasure or satisfaction,” he said. “Authentic dreams gradually take shape and develop our lives through our decisive actions in response to the eternal call and promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
Following the homily, Bishop Olson blessed the site and sprinkled it with holy water.
Then Bishop Olson and clergy, along with Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth and Argyle Town Councilmembers Rick Bradford and Joan Delashaw, shoveled dirt for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
After the groundbreaking, parishioner Leo Wehkamp, building committee chair, thanked everyone for coming.
“After spending 50 years in construction, I still love the smell of fresh-turned dirt,” he said.
He and his wife Jeanette have been members of St. Mark since its early days. With Wehkamp’s background in construction, Father Eugene Sweeney asked him in 2000 to put together a building committee.
He said that it never occurred to him that it would take 14 years for the first buildings. With the long-anticipated church building coming nine years later, Wehkamp said he envisions St. Mark as a “shining star of the diocese.”
In their case statement for the new church, St. Mark’s leaders noted that by giving worship its own special place, the availability of the parish activities center will allow them to expand their ministries. After worshipping for many years in temporary spaces, church families are looking forward to meeting together in God’s house, a place that would inspire reverence and the desire to evangelize.
In his homily, Bishop Olson agreed and gave a blessing. “May this parish church serve as a worthy vessel for you and your children and grandchildren to discern and be formed in your baptismal vocations and in many vocations to holy matrimony, religious life, diaconal ministry, and priestly vocations.”
In the concluding hymn, “Living Stones,” St. Mark’s choir sang, “Living stones, we raise a temple where the Spirit comes to dwell in each act of loving service, in the Gospel truth we tell. In the places where we worship, plain or lavish, large or small, as the church of God incarnate, Christ is cornerstone of all.”