The Reconsecration of Electra’s Cross at Mt. Carmel: where the light of God’s presence is bright

North Texas Catholic
(Jul 14, 2023) Local

Father Joseph Moreno walks up to the 40-foot cross that St. Paul in Electra parishioners recently renovated outside of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel cemetery on July 5, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

ELECTRA- A symbol of enduring faith, the newly illuminated cross commemorating Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Electra will be reconsecrated by the congregation of Saint Paul Parish this Sunday, July 16. 

The 40-foot cross that lights up at night is found next to the St. Paul Parish's Mt. Carmel cemetery. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The reconsecration ceremony will “start with a Liturgy of the Word, followed by consecration prayers, and then I will sprinkle the cross with Holy Water to bless it,” said Father Joseph Moreno, who was ordained into priesthood on May 22, 2021, and assigned as the pastoral administrator of the neighboring parishes of St. Jude Thaddeus in Burkburnett, Christ the King in Iowa Park, and St. Paul in Electra on July 1, 2021. 

Fr. Moreno will lead the ceremony on the steps leading up to the cross— the same steps that once led up to the long-retired Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, which was closed in 1965 once the parish community moved further south. 

According to Fr. Moreno, the 40-ft cross cost about $15,000 to renovate and was funded by an endowment established by one of the founding families of the area. Made up of LED lights, the cross will light up every night as the sun sets due to its solar-powered battery.  Fr. Moreno said that “any maintenance or repair of the cross will be covered by the endowment as well as the electric bill — they’re estimating $25 a month on the electricity costs.”

Fr. Moreno hopes the Cross at Mount Carmel will be “a real beacon of hope and of light for this darkening world.”    ­­ 

The Our Lady of Mt. Carmel cemetery can be found to the left of the Mt. Carmel Cross. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Rebuilding the Cross

The Cross at Mount Carmel has an interesting history that stems back to 1985.

“Eugene Flusche was a member of one of the original families here,” said Billy Don Clark, a long-time parishioner of St. Paul Parish, speaking about the builder of the original illuminated cross constructed in 1985. Flusche built the cross to commemorate the old Mt. Carmel Catholic Parish and as a memorial for the community’s parish cemetery, which is still used today and can be found just fifty feet away from the cross.

Within a year of its construction, Flusche’s hard work was “dismantled, and the frame was stripped to the bare minimum,” said Clark, who has been studying the history of the cross and area along with his wife, Mary Jane. Together, Billy Don and Mary Jane unearthed a trifold from the parish storeroom that featured news articles dating back to July 29, 1985, along with headshots of all the clergy who had served at the Catholic congregation in Electra since 1910 and pictures of the three churches the community have called home. 

Billy Don and Mary Jane Clark are seen at their home parish of St. Paul in Electra on July 5, 2023. They are recipients of a Light of Christ award for their gifts of time, talent, and treasure to the parish. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The Clarks, as well as other long-term residents of their community, felt an enduring sense of sadness and anger at the torn-apart memorial of their previous parish location. The cross, according to Mary Jane, had “been dismissed. I’m not familiar with construction materials, so it just looked like a pile of stuff.”  Billy Don agreed with her assessment, adding that what remained was "kind of like rebar welded together in squares to form the basis of the cross.”

Fast forward 43 years, a nearby Methodist church approached St. Paul Parish with a donation to put toward the cross’s reconstruction, said Billy Don. Although that donation offer was later retracted, it sparked a conversation within the Catholic congregation for a new community project.

Fr. Moreno, who had been serving St. Paul Parish for about a year at the time, welcomed his community’s eager inquiries and requests to renovate the old cross frame.  

“I started to pray about it,” said Fr. Moreno. “Well, I had to find out, what is this cross they were talking about? Because I'd seen the frame, but I had no idea about this.” 

Father Joseph Moreno stands next to the 40-foot cross that St. Paul in Electra parishioners recently renovated outside of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel cemetery on July 5, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

After confirming that the land the leftover cross frame was left on was indeed owned by the Diocese of Fort Worth and that the remaining structure was secure to add onto, Fr. Moreno’s next step was to find funding. But “then, all of a sudden, we get a call from one of the founding families. They want to help beautify the cemetery before one of the matriarchs passes away, and they offer us the money to do it,” Fr. Moreno said.

The ease and speed of the entire process was remarkable, Fr. Moreno said. “This must be a God thing — all of this coming together at once,” he recalled thinking.  “I don't believe in coincidence, just in divine providence. In this way, it all came together at the same time.”  

Once the funding was secured, all that was left was to send down the official request for the diocese to approve. 

“You know, normally it takes two, three weeks, a month, or more to get approval on a project,” Fr. Moreno remarked. However, “just two days later, I had the project approved. That's definitely God.”

Father Joseph Moreno looks up at the 40-foot cross on July 5, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

A Bright Community Reception

While some of the long-time parishioners like the Clarks are familiar with the cross’s history and plan to attend the reconsecration, many others in their town have also noticed a change in the formerly stripped-down steel structure and are elated with its improvements, said Billy Don.

“Fr. Moreno asked me to spread the word of the reconsecration ceremony here in town," Billy Don said. “People I've talked to have said how much they appreciate this being done again.” 

Speaking to a neighbor who worships at a nearby Baptist church, Billy Don was surprised to hear that while she clearly remembered the previous ruins of the original cross, having seen it for the majority of her life, "she didn't know who Our Lady of Mount Carmel was or the significance of where it was located... She was really nice and excited. She just didn't know."

Billy Don hopes the cross, with all the attention it’s receiving, will be remembered fondly in the future. He has since written an article for the Electra Star-News detailing the history of the cross, the area's original parishes, and the development of the Catholic community in this location. He aims to help share the history as well as the significance this all holds for his congregation. 

Now a year after its reconstruction process began, the Cross at Our Lady of Mount Carmel is ready to shine once again. Billy Don and Mary Jane hope the cross will serve to remind every visitor and viewer that “there’ll always be a Catholic presence here in Electra.”

A view of the 40-foot Our Lady of Mount Carmel cross from behind a nearby cotton field in Electra, Texas. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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