Bringing people together: St. Martin de Porres Parish dedicates new church

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

December 21, 2017

Bishop Michael Olson anoints the altar with holy chrism at St. Martin De Porres Parish in Prosper, Dec. 16. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres) Photo Gallery

PROSPER — Doug and Kristina Haeussler are looking forward to Midnight Mass with an added measure of anticipation and enthusiasm. For the first time since moving to Prosper six years ago, the couple and their three girls won’t have to view the Christmas liturgy from a packed school hallway.

Members of St. Martin de Porres Parish have a new worship space that can accommodate the rapidly growing parish in northeast Denton County. Bishop Michael Olson dedicated the altar and celebrated the first Mass inside the recently completed parish hall on the eve of Gaudete Sunday, Dec. 16. Elementary schools served as temporary locations for Mass since the parish was established in February 2015.

“The small chapel on King Road was quaint but the overflow rooms were always full,” Kristina Haeussler recalled. “This parish hall is significantly bigger. It’s great that we won’t have to sit in a hallway for Midnight Mass. We’re excited. It’s beautiful.”

Designed in a style reminiscent of Spanish Colonial architecture, the 18,000-square-foot building features large archways, a vaulted ceiling, and bell tower. Located at 4000 W. University Drive, it looks more like a church than a parish hall. The structure’s sanctuary-like appearance is intentional, according to Steve Knobbe.

“From the beginning, we told the architect we did not want a parish hall or multi-purpose building that would be used for worship,” explained the chairman of the building committee. “We wanted a church that could be converted for other things in the future.”

The flexibility of movable chairs and kneelers, as well as 18-foot arched pocket doors separating a smaller, 160-seat chapel area from the more spacious “great hall,” allows use for large social gatherings or a school cafeteria. With room for 550 people in the main worship area, “we can sit well over 700 parishioners for the first time.”

Technology permits liturgy services to reach even more people.

“We have video links to the school chapel and exercise room so we can actually seat 1,000 people for our big Masses at Christmas and Easter,” Knobbe added.

Father Richard Kirkham, pastor, celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist at St. Martin De Porres Parish's new church in Prosper. (NTC Photo/Ben Torres)

Many charter members of St. Martin de Porres, as well as newcomers, watched with interest as Bishop Michael Olson anointed the wooden altar with holy chrism. Altare significat Christum means “the altar signifies Christ” in Latin, he told the congregation during his homily.

“The altar signifies Christ because it’s the first place where Christ gathers His people and for that purpose it is anointed,” the bishop explained.

“Christ” comes from the Greek word Christos meaning “anointed one” or “chosen one.”

“He was sent for the salvation of the world,” Bishop Olson continued. “So this altar will be anointed today because it is the place of sacrifice — the sacrifice that allows our salvation.”

Many people are moving into North Texas in search of jobs and “other reasons that begin with survival.” They will need the Church and a sense of belonging, he added.

“They’re in need of the sacrifice of the anointed Christ. It is your mission to welcome them,” the bishop urged.

St. Martin de Porres, the parish’s patron saint, understood what it was like to be overlooked and isolated because of racial intolerance and structures in society that were unjust.

“The mission of this parish is to move from [being] a crowd to [becoming] the people of God,” he said. “Jesus unites, saves us from our sin, and brings us together for the purpose of salvation.”

Reminding worshippers of Christ’s sacrifice, a crucifix hangs over the altar in the great hall. Found in a warehouse, the crucified image was missing fingers, toes, and the crown of thorns. Made from red fir, the artifact is over 100 years old.

“We had it refurbished and the sculptor said it was made from a European wood,” Knobbe said. “It’s probably from Spain and came to Texas through Mexico.”

St. Martin de Porres pastor, Father Richard Kirkham, who concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Olson, Monsignor James Hart, Father Jonathan Wallis, and Father Walter Dworak, thanked parishioners for their dedication, patience, and generosity that made the parish hall a reality.

“You are the ones who got us here,” he insisted. “We started out with 100 families and now have 550. The new hall now lets us see the faces of families who sat in the overflow. We’re all in the same space.”

The pastor also thanked Bishop Olson for “his wisdom, knowledge, and leadership that brought us to Prosper, Texas.”

 Knobbe praised the bishop for recognizing the need for a parish in northeast Denton County and purchasing land before other investors saw the area’s potential. The parish encompasses 116 square miles and serves Catholics in Prosper, Little Elm, and Frisco.

Part of a $17-million master plan, the parish hall is adjacent to the new St. Martin de Porres Catholic School dedicated by Bishop Olson on Nov. 3. A church and gymnasium are future projects.

The new worship space will allow the growing parish to advance the ministry of the Catholic faith in the region, Knobbe said.

 “As parishioners, we now have a church to start our ministries, praise the Lord, and practice our faith,” the committee chairman added. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. My heart is full of joy for the presence of the Lord I feel here.”

The congregation responded to his comment with rousing applause.

PROSPER — Doug and Kristina Haeussler are looking forward to Midnight Mass with an added measure of anticipation and enthusiasm. For the first time since moving to Prosper six years ago, the couple and their three girls won’t have to view the Christmas liturgy from a packed school hallway.

Published (until 12/27/2035)