Historical Background I
Historical Background of the Divine Mercy of our Lord Catholic Church
For many years Mesquite has held the image of being one of the biggest cities in the state of Texas, if not in the whole country, without a Catholic Church. Located east of the city of Dallas, Texas, Mesquite had the population of over 130,000 in 2001 and prided itself with about one hundred churches of different denominations spread all over the city. Despite its size, however, not one single Catholic Church was ever built inside the city boundaries. This led to rumors that the City of Mesquite did not want to have Catholics around. In fact many people even believed that this was a rule expressedly provided for by the City Original Foundation Charter. But this was not the case at all. So for these past many years, Catholic Residents of the city of Mesquite had been going to different Catholic Churches in Dallas and other surrounding cities such as Garland, Forney, Rockwall, and Rowlett for their sacramental and other spiritual needs. They were like a people without a country, a family without a home, a flock without a sheepfold.
All this changed four years ago. In May of 2001, while still Pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Dallas, Fr. Ernie Torres received a call from the Bishop’s office to look into the possibility of finally opening a parish in Mesquite. With this call and with the direction from the Bishop, he began the process by talking to Pastors of surrounding parishes seeking their support and recommendations for the project, especially in regards to the establishment of canonical boundaries for the future parish. He was able to gather the support of almost all of them. Bishop Grahmann was constantly briefed on the progress of the new mission.
Even as early as July of 2001, Fr Torres sought the help of Mr. Gus Eberhardt, a personal friend and long-time parishioner of St. Augustine to help him look for spaces around the city where masses could be celebrated and where Catholic Residents of Mesquite could gather. After trying several places with no luck, they were led by the Holy Spirit to a small congregation of Christians worshipping at the empty lobby and offices of a former bank building on Ebrite Street. This was the first powerful sign. And soon afterwards, in October of 2001, after the official presentation of Fr. Ernie, the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese endorsed the plans for the approval of the Bishop, who immediately gave his blessings for work to proceed.
After arranging the celebration of masses with Rev. Kevin Burke, the Pastor of the New Generation Church, the schedule of masses was then announced, first to the parishioners of St. Augustine and then to those of surrounding parishes. There was great excitement in the air over all this, especially from some Mesquite Catholic Residents, who had been waiting for something like this to happen for so long now. And finally on December 2, 2001, on the First Sunday of Advent, the first ever two Official Roman Catholic Masses in the city of Mesquite were celebrated. Parish record shows that on that Sunday, there were 55 persons in the Spanish Mass at 3 PM and 197 persons at the English Mass at 5 PM, for a total of 252 persons. Collection from both masses that day was $ 870.75. The very first Christmas Midnight mass and New Year’s Day at the same location were also celebrated that same year. Members of the Families for Christ Community and Parishioners from St. Augustine initially helped by providing all the liturgical ministers, in English and Spanish respectively, as Mesquite Catholics started to come to the new church.
As word got around, attendance at Sunday masses steadily grew so that by January of 2002, every little space available at the New Generation Church Building was being filled up. Foreseeing the continued flow of newcomers, the new community moved to its present location on North Galloway on Ash Wednesday in March of 2002. With their new worship space for their sole use, parishioners were able to celebrate masses during more convenient times for most of the people. Each family donated $40 dollars to buy the original chairs needed for worship. They started having three English masses, one on Saturday and two on Sunday. They also offered two Spanish Masses, one on Saturday and another one on Sunday. A full-time secretary, part-time book keeper and a volunteer Faith Formation Team to attend to the growing needs of our people were then put in place
Again the community gathered sometime during Easter of 2002 to vote for the name of the new parish. Several titles of our Lord, the Blessed Mother and names of favorite saints figured out prominently. But finally, on June 8, 2002, the Catholic Church of Mesquite was officially declared a parish by the same Bishop Charles Grahmann and given the name Divine Mercy of our Lord. The new church became finally a full pledged parish with all the rights and responsibilities according to Canon Law. That following year, the community rented another space which they now call St. Faustina Hall, for offices, more meeting spaces and for Religious Education classes which was started for the first time in the parish during that same Pastoral year. The rest is history.
While there was much excitement in the community, everyone knew even early on that, building the permanent church would eventually come into the picture. So the new parish began their Annual Fall Auction and Dinner Dance Event, took up our monthly Building fund Collection, and did other activities to build up their financial resources. But with the amount they were taking in, they soon realized that it would take them so many years before they would have enough just to buy their land. While the new community was determined to pursue its dreams, leaders also became overwhelmed by so huge a project. And they often wondered whether they could ever do it.
Their huge break came from our Bishop. Bishop Charles Grahmann offered the new parish the use of two diocesan properties located in the city of Mesquite towards the purchase of our land. When parishioners learned about this generous gesture from their Bishop, their spirits became alive and everyone became even more determined to double their efforts towards the fulfillment of their dreams. From the sales of these two properties and funds from previous church fundraisings, the parish was able to buy the 17 acre piece of property from the Lucas Family. The Contract of Sales became final after two years of negotiations in December of last year, 2004. The whole community was really excited over this.
The next issue was how we could build our first church building. Different committees were created to take care of the different areas of the project.
1. The Building Committee put a survey out to the people to get their ideas on the kind of building they wanted. They interviewed and hired the best Architectural Firm to help design and plan the building as proposed by the entire parish community. For many months they met and worked on the design of the best building possible for our people. They spent countless hours and days in order to put together in every little detail of the plan. The result was indeed a labor of love. And when they were through they submitted their plans to the Diocesan Building Commission, Liturgy Committee and Finance Officer for direction. These diocesan offices were really very helpful in guiding the committee through the whole process. They brought a whole lot of wisdom and expertise into the process. Their expertise from all the years of experience certainly made the building committee of the parish us feel safe and confident with their direction. By October of this year 2005, after several meetings with these commissions, we were able to obtain their endorsements and recommendations.
2. The Capital Fund Campaign committee put together an ambitious plan of raising the initial amount for the project through pledges from the people. They hired a Fund Raising Consultant to help come up with the best results. The campaign ran from January to June of 2005. Their initial goal, based on the first interviews and random surveys of family commitments, was only around $ 800,000, which was less than one million. But by the time they finished their campaign, they we were able to get over 1.6 million in total pledges from our families. The response of the people was truly overwhelming.
3. The Hospitality Committee maintains communications with new and existing members of the church to keep them informed about what is going on in the parish. They put together a very colorful packet of information to all those who needed to know more about the Divine mercy of our Lord Church. Their very first parish pictorial directory is presently in the final stages of its completion and pretty soon would be ready for printing and distribution. Hopefully by Fall next year, this directory should be completed in time for the Blessing of the New Church next year, 2006, God willing.
4. The parish council, the finance, the liturgy, the faith formation and the pastoral care committees are actively altogether working to maintain the present activities and services for the people. The parish maybe new but it has a lot of energy and spirit in it. And with their kind of people, everyone believes they can only grow stronger in the future.
Today, as they break open the ground for the first building of the Divine Mercy Catholic Church, the whole community parish feels that they are really sowing the seed for the future of all Catholic Residents in the city of Mesquite. They stand at the threshold of history for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, the city of Mesquite, and the Catholic Residents of this great city. The church also enjoys the fleeting title of being the youngest and the latest Catholic Parish in the whole Diocese of Dallas. When they finish their building they will always have a Catholic Church here that they can call home.
The community takes this time and opportunity to thank God for this great blessing upon His people. In His wisdom and love He put all the pieces of the puzzle together. He brought in all the right elements together to make something beautiful like this to happen. He called together the right leader, the right people, the right instruments, the right talents, and the right resources for He desires to have a special place among His Catholic People in this city.
The Divine Mercy of our Lord Catholic Community thanks Bishop Charles Grahmann for all his leadership in this project. It was his vision and desire to have a Catholic Church in Mesquite that set the whole process of work in motion from the beginning. And at every step of the way he generously made available all the resources of his office to provide the new parish with the wisdom and the guidance they needed. Former Bishops, priests and laity in the diocese of Dallas before him might have talked about, dreamt of and sincerely wished for a Catholic Church in Mesquite in the past. But it was Bishop Charles Grahmann who made it all a reality. Because of him the stigma was finally broken. Mesquite is no longer the biggest city in Texas without a Catholic Church. For on very solid grounds right in the middle of Mesquite, a Catholic Church Building shall rise. The Catholic Residents of Mesquite today and in the future shall always remember and thank Bishop Charles Grahmann for this.
The parish community also thanks the Lucas Family for opening a huge opportunity for them to purchase this prime parcel of land in Mesquite for their church. God has indeed chosen the best place to have His temple built by His people. All future Catholic members of this community will always thank this Mesquite Pioneering Family for its active cooperation and generous concessions through the long process of negotiation and for the speedy signing of the sales contract in December of 2004. It was the right time when the Catholic People really needed it.
The Community also thanks the City of Mesquite for providing them with all the many technical assistance during this whole process. Mesquite, which prides itself as a Christian city, is already home to many Christian Churches. But now, they will have their first ever Catholic Church as a new addition. From here on, the age-old historical rumors that said “Mesquite did not want Catholics around” shall have been proven wrong. The rise of a Catholic Church in the city will always prove this rumor unfounded and those who spread it grossly mis-informed.
Fr. Torres acknowledges the efforts of all parish volunteers. He thanks the whole Building Committee, for their tireless efforts to put together the ideas of the people into the design of this building. He thanks especially Larry Herzler, Chairman, who had embraced this project as a personal mission and responsibility. We thank Wayne Mershawn and associates, architects, for putting all the ideas into real numbers, measures and colors of this first church building. He also acknowledges all the efforts of the entire Parish Council, Finance Committee, Liturgy Committee, Pastoral Care Committee, Faith Formation committee, The Capital Fund Campaign Committee, for all their dedication and love for God and for the Parish Church of Divine Mercy. These committees all worked together as a team that glued the entire parish family together as one people bound together by one dream.
On this day, Saturday, December 3, 2005, Fr. Torres congratulates all the pioneering members of the Divine Mercy of our Lord Catholic Church on the occasion of the Official Ground Breaking Ceremony of the First Catholic Church Building in the city of Mesquite. He thanks them for their faith in God and their fidelity to His Church. They have responded to God’s call to build Him a Temple among them. It is the people of God who make up the real fabric, the texture, the color, and the whole tapestry of this Newest Church in the Diocese of Dallas. Their spirit will forever remain in the first and only Catholic Church in the city of Mesquite for many years to come.