The exterior of the new St. Jude Parish in Mansfield.
Depicted in sacred hand-carved sculptures, marble statuary, stained-glass windows, and framed artwork, Jesus and the saints joined 2,000 parishioners of St. Jude in Mansfield in the 27,000-square-foot church during a special dedication Mass and consecration on April 12.
After Bishop Michael F. Olson handed over the keys to the front doors to pastor Father George Foley parishioners followed a Knights of Columbus honor guard procession into the church.
A seven-and-a-half foot tall replica of the Pietá, cast in Carrera marble, greeted the parishioners as they passed through the narthex. Once inside the church doors, a hand-carved, 10-foot wooden sculpture of Christ on the cross, rising high above the altar, captured people’s attention. The figure of Christ was carved in Mexico with direction from Fr. Foley, with the cross itself constructed on site by a local parishioner.
Along the walls, hand-carved statues of the saints, which had been housed for several months in parish hall storerooms, looked as if they had always stood in their specially-designed porticos.
They included Saints Kateri Tekakwitha and her garment relic, Padre Pio, Anthony of Padua, and of course, St. Jude. Others, like the traditional statuary depicting St. Thérèse of Lisieux, once inspired the faithful at Catholic churches recently closed in the Northern United States. Now, in their new home, they inspire the masses of North Texas.
|A statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha with a relic sit inside the parish.|
As if these saintly figures weren’t enough to open up the hearts and souls of the faithful, elaborate stained-glass windows throughout the church cast their brilliantly colored light on parishioners. Four round, antique, stained-glass windows are placed high above the altar in the church. They are among 14 antique stained-glass window creations that have found new life in St. Jude after gracing other churches in decades past. In fact, one of the window creations, depicting Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist, is 163 years old and was crafted by a stained-glass artist in England.
Parishioners received a special blessing from Bishop Olson and Fr. Foley with a sprinkling of holy water early in the service. The bishop explained that the action was a “sign of our repentance, a reminder of our baptism, and a symbol of the cleansing of these walls and this altar.”
He continued, “May the grace of God help us to remain faithful members of this Church, open to the Spirit we have received.”
The Gospel passage for the Mass was taken from Matthew, in which Jesus told Peter, “Blessed are you … You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church.” During his homily, Bishop Olson said the readings help the faithful understand the gift of gratitude. He said that this special day was a time to be thankful for “the gift of gratitude that the Lord gives us for what we can only see by grace and through the gift of faith.”
He explained the reasons why churches like St. Jude are built and consecrated. It is done, he said, “for our identity with the Church, which is inseparable from the celebration of the Eucharist.
“We thank God for the gift of our mission as the Church to bring about not only our own conversion, but the conversion of all in the world today,” the bishop added, “as the people of God present here at St. Jude’s in Mansfield have done now since 1898 [and] passed on and on as members of Christ’s Church.”
As part of the dedication prayer, Bishop Olson said, “The Church is favored, the dwelling place of God on earth, a temple built of living stones, founded on the apostles with Jesus Christ its cornerstone.”
Following the prayer and accompanied by Fr. Foley and several other priests and deacons, the bishop poured chrism oil on the church altars. The walls were also anointed.
|Bishop Olson consecrates the altar of the new church by pouring chrism oil on top of it.|
Following the rite of anointing, Bishop Olson incensed the altar and church, prayed, “Lord, may our prayer ascend as incense in your sight. As this building is filled with fragrance, so may your Church fill the world with the fragrance of Christ.”
Following Communion, Fr. Foley thanked the faithful for making the new St. Jude Church a reality. It marks the fifth major church building project since 1898 for the growing Catholic community.
“Thank you for the beautiful church that you’ve built,” Fr. Foley said. “We thank God, our Father, for this church, built from the goodness of the people of Mansfield and the surrounding areas. We give thanks to the Holy Spirit for the inspiration of the people who designed and built this church.”
Fr. Foley added, “May all who pass through this church, from the womb to the tomb, be enriched by its presence and be brought into eternal life.”
Before he finished speaking, the 2,000 parishioners who could no longer contain their expression of support for their pastor, rose to their feet and gave Fr. Foley a lengthy standing ovation.
The priest spearheaded the work for their new church that can now accommodate 2,317 people — more than triple the number that could be seated in the former worship space.
|The interior of the new parish includes statues and stained-glass windows that used to reside in closed parishes in other parts of the United States.|
Following the consecration of the new church building, parishioners said they felt a true sense of completion about their new church. Although Masses have been celebrated at the church for the past few months, the consecration — the first carried out by Bishop Olson as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth — was eagerly anticipated.
Parishioner Debbie Hathaway said of the bilingual Mass and consecration, “We came together as a universal Church today. We were one, not a Spanish Mass and an English Mass, but one.”
Music Director Steve Jacaruso saw it the same way. On this day, he directed choir members from each of the six weekend Masses offered at St. Jude. “It was a community experience,”he said.
“This is still a tightly-knit community,” he added. “People here still respond to the needs of the community. No matter how big it gets, it’s the people who make the church.”
Likewise, Deacon Jose Aragón enjoyed the active participation and coming together St. Jude of parishioners for the consecration. “This is a holy place here in Mansfield and it is for all people,” Dcn. Aragón said. “And, it’s not just for us, but for those who come behind us in later generations.”
The number of active participants at St. Jude made the project extra special for its architect, Raymond O’Connor. He said that the design of the church — from its Spanish marble floors to its red oak pillars, and from its Gothic arches to its quatrefoil decorative framework — catered to the traditional church character of its parishioners.
|Pastor Father George Foley tearfully accepts applause from his parishioners. Fr. Foley spearheaded the effort to build the new church.|
In the many church projects in which he has been involved, O’Connor said, this was among the most remarkable.
“This church is special in so many ways,” O’Connor said. “The congregation is so involved in it. You could tell during the ceremony just how involved they were. Almost every parishioner was doing something.
“It was that same way during the design,” O’Connor added. “To have that kind of commitment from the parish is special. They put a lot of energy into this. And it was just great to work with Father Foley.”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Olson added his own words of appreciation for Fr. Foley, who was ordained in Pretoria, South Africa, 55 years ago. “Thank you Father Foley for saying ‘yes’ to Christ in your vocation to serve as a priest and to come here, to cross the ocean, to serve in our diocese, to say ‘yes’ to come and lead God’s people here in Mansfield, and to oversee its growth.”
His words brought another standing ovation before the historic Mass concluded, as parishioners lived out the bishop’s earlier remarks about the gift of gratitude.
Depicted in sacred hand-carved sculptures, marble statuary, stained-glass windows, and framed artwork, Jesus and the saints joined 2,000 parishioners of St. Jude in Mansfield in the 27,000-square-foot church during a special dedication Mass and consecration on April 12. After Bishop Michael F. Olson handed over the keys to the front doors to pastor Father George Foley parishioners followed a Knights of Columbus honor guard procession into the church.