Bishop Vásquez Dedicates First Church Built with Encountering Christ Gifts

St. Joseph Parish’s new church in Manor is an answer to 25 years of parishioners’ prayers and the result of the generosity and dedication of the entire Diocese of Austin.

“I am quite sure that Jesus Christ, present in the Blessed Sacrament, has always been and will be the source and summit of faith here at St. Joseph,” Bishop Vásquez said at the dedication Mass on Jan. 21.

The diocese reserved $10 million from the Encountering Christ campaign to build four new churches to meet the increased demand on physical and ministerial capacities that population growth has brought to the Interstate 35 corridor just east of Austin. More than 50,000 Catholics have settled in this area, and only about 1,400 seats were available at these parishes, which were not financially able to build the large worship spaces they required.

To ensure campaign gifts were stewarded wisely, the churches for St. Joseph and San Francisco Javier and Santa Barbara parishes in Austin have identical floor plans, and Sacred Heart Parish in Elgin’s will be similar. Each will have distinct front elevations, interior color schemes and artwork. 

St. Joseph’s former sanctuary was meant to be only temporary, according to Father Henry Cuellar Jr., pastor. So when parishioners walk in and see their dream of a new church realized, “there’s a sense of awe,” he said. “There’s a sense of deep sacredness and reverence that comes over them.”

Although the new church more than doubles the seating capacity, from 350 to 750, Masses were full the first weekend, he said.

St. Joseph will direct its share of Encountering Christ funds to paying for its portion of the project as well as furnishings for the new church. 

“Parishes receive their share of campaign gifts as parishioners fulfill their pledges and can then begin the projects they detailed in their case statements during the campaign,” said Scott Whitaker, diocesan director of Stewardship and Development. “The same is true for the diocese and the projects that it outlined, like the Eastern ring churches.”

Campaign funds are placed in a special account for each parish. Parishes are rebated 30% of pledges fulfilled up to their campaign goal. Parishes that raised more than their goal will receive 70% of those overage funds.

Of the $72.7 million in cash the diocese has received from fulfilled pledges, $21.3 million has now been returned to parishes. “It’s wonderful to see so many amazing things happening around the diocese because of Encountering Christ,” Whitaker said.

Darci Swisher is a freelance writer who has worked with the Catholic Spirit for the last three years. She and her husband live in Michigan.