A Day Long Prayed For: Bishop Olson dedicates new St. John Paul II church and altar

by Susan McFarland

North Texas Catholic

February 18, 2020

Bishop Michael Olson anoints the new altar with sacred chrism at St. John Paul II Church in Denton during a Dedication Mass Feb. 15, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres)Bishop Michael Olson anoints the new altar with sacred chrism at St. John Paul II Church in Denton during a Dedication Mass Feb. 15, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres)
Bishop Michael Olson anoints the new altar with sacred chrism at St. John Paul II Church in Denton during a Dedication Mass Feb. 15, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres) Photo Gallery


DENTON — After years of attending Mass in classrooms and various locations around campus, students and parishioners at St. John Paul II have a place to call home.

Bishop Michael Olson on Feb. 15 consecrated the new altar and dedicated the church building located at 909 McCormick Street in Denton.

Rachel Zayas, team director of FOCUS, a national organization serving college campuses across the nation, said the new building will provide stability and give students a place to love and serve others.

“It’s been a long time coming but it has finally paid off,” Zayas told the North Texas Catholic. “The bones finally fit the heart.”

Zayas and her team of missionaries work to bring students at University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University to the love of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Catholic Church.  For the past seven years, Catholic students have been cramming themselves in the Catholic Campus Center for church activities.

“The spirit of the Church has always been here. But now we have the structure,” she said.

Zayas was one of at least 200 in attendance at the special Mass, which included a prayer of dedication followed by Bishop Olson anointing the altar and walls with sacred chrism.

Bishop Olson told parishioners, “This day has been long prayed for.”

“It is not easy to build a church. It is not easy to be the Church. Your patron St. John Paul II understood that very clearly,” the bishop said during the homily, while sharing the story of the parish’s dedication to constructing a church near a growing university that left no room for the structure. “Before they were able to lay brick, Eucharist was celebrated in a field, with hopes one day they would have a church.”

Bishop Michael Olson celebrates Mass using the new main altar at St. John Paul II Parish in Denton Feb. 16. (NTC/Ben Torres)Bishop Michael Olson celebrates Mass using the new main altar at St. John Paul II Parish in Denton Feb. 16. (NTC/Ben Torres)
Bishop Michael Olson celebrates Mass using the new main altar at St. John Paul II Parish in Denton Feb. 16. (NTC/Ben Torres)


The bishop told the crowd now that this church is in place, “The work is just beginning.” He said in a world of meanness and self-obsession, “We need to be faithful to the call God has given, speak the truth, and be of service to the poor.”

At the end of the Mass, Father Kyle Walterscheid, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish, thanked Bishop Olson and a host of other people for their hard work and dedication throughout the project.

“This celebration and dedication of this Church is a momentous occasion that shall be remembered for many years to come,” Fr. Walterscheid said. “Thank you, Bishop, for overseeing the construction and completion of St. John Paul II church and parish.”

Fr. Walterscheid also thanked Bishop Olson for acquiring from Rome a first-class relic of St. John Paul II which was embedded in the main altar.

“We will not disappoint you as we are now able to evangelize, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ onto our campuses in a much more direct and powerful way,” he said. “This church will serve as both a haven and a foundation of faith for all our students and for all who walk through these doors.”

Fr. Walterscheid thanked those who have “stayed with us all these years through pouring rain, snow and sleet, hot and cold weather, wind, and two tornadoes, to set up and assist at Mass on our campuses at UNT and TWU.

And drawing laughter, he said, “I want to especially thank parishioners who stayed with us even when they received a $35 parking ticket for attending Sunday Mass on campus.”

As Fr. Walterscheid continued, he became teary-eyed as he tried to get through the long list of those to thank, including alumni, staff, and “benefactors near and far who have heard about this most-worthy cause to bring and keep Christ and the Church in the life of college students who are prone to falling away from the faith.”

Bert Hesse and his family were among those thanked, for sacrificing six months of time and labor to refurbish the high altar and another three months to handcraft the main altar.

Father Kyle Walterscheid shows the blueprints of St. John Paul II Church as he thanks all those who help to build the church during a special Dedication Mass in Denton, Feb. 15, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres)Father Kyle Walterscheid shows the blueprints of St. John Paul II Church as he thanks all those who help to build the church during a special Dedication Mass in Denton, Feb. 15, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres)
Father Kyle Walterscheid shows the blueprints of St. John Paul II Church as he thanks all those who help to build the church during a special Dedication Mass in Denton, Feb. 15, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres)


Hesse said the altar, made from quarter sawn white oak, was in multiple pieces and resembled a puzzle to fit together. For missing pieces, Hesse found wood to match. Seeing the altars dressed and in use for the first time brought tears to his eyes.

“I just thank God,” Hesse said. “It’s not too often you get an opportunity to do this.”

In October, the first Masses were held at the church using a temporary altar. The Roman Pontifical states after a church is solemnly consecrated with sacred chrism by a bishop, the structure is elevated into a new state, one dedicated to the service of God.

Jenny Pelzel, the church’s campus minister, said about 250 students come to Mass at the church and about 150 are involved in Bible studies and other activities.

“The building will build us,” Pelzel said. “The students are very grateful for everything provided, to be recipients of such generosity, they really appreciate it.”

Anna Fernandez, another FOCUS missionary, said the new structure gives a sense of ownership. “This is where we belong. In this building we have the freedom to pray as we are called to pray.”

Enrique Alegria, a UNT student, appreciated the beauty of the church.

“It’s amazing,” Alegria said. “Before, everything was so temporary. Now we have a foundation. I’m excited to bring friends here to Bible studies.”

The church is home to many, not just students. Parish member Jewel Lively, a Denton resident, said she enjoys coming to a church close to her home.

“This has been a long time project for Father Kyle,” Lively said. “Now to see it all come together, it brought tears to my eyes.”

DENTON — After years of attending Mass in classrooms and various locations around campus, students and parishioners at St. John Paul II have a place to call home.

Published (until 12/5/2040)