St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church has completed a $6.2 million expansion project, doubling its seating capacity from 550 to 1,100 and advancing its goal to keep pace with its rapidly growing northeast Odessa parish.
Using an ancient ritual, Bishop Michael Sis of San Angelo dedicated the church in a 9 a.m. Sunday Mass, taking the last step for the 7601 N. Grandview Ave., building to be put into service.
Sis rubbed Chrism oil, or perfumed olive oil, which is also used in baptisms, confirmations and the ordinations of priests, into the altar and into 12 places around the walls. “Through careful master planning, the people of the church have built a beautiful plant that fits together well in form and function,” Sis said in an email.
“It is the most architecturally harmonious parish plant in our diocese. These buildings give glory to God, who is the source of all beauty.”
Crediting Pastor Mark Woodruff, who he said “has led this project with confidence and hope,” Sis added, “The parish and the neighborhood are growing, and this expansion will allow more people to join us in the most important thing we do as Catholics, celebrate the Holy Mass.
“In the rite of dedication, I consecrate the altar to the service of the one God. We believe the altar is the table both for a sacrifice and for a banquet. The one sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross is perpetuated in mystery through the ages until he returns in glory, and the members of the church gather to give thanks to God and to be nourished by receiving Christ in the spiritual banquet of Holy Communion.
“I trust that this beautiful building will be a place where thousands of souls come to know Jesus Christ and the power of his love.”
Father Woodruff, pastor since 1996, said the members weathered the 18 months of construction in good spirits. “It was 80 Sundays of meeting in the hall, but they seemed to be very friendly, visiting before and after,” said Woodruff, whose parochial vicar is the Rev. Innocent Eziefule.
“But it was a little uncomfortable at times. It’s a great relief.”
He noted that the 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday Masses are being combined into one at 9 a.m. while the 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. services are unchanged. Woodruff said average Sunday attendance is 1,500.
“The contributions were much higher than we expected,” he said, explaining that the 30-year note was financed by the diocese’s savings and loan company.
“We now owe $2.5 million. We’re very pleased. Words can’t describe it. We have eight housing developments and five or six apartment complexes in the parish.”
Woodruff said St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first church dedicated by Sis since he took office three years ago.
Its southeast side was extended by 80 feet, including a new front door, choir loft and bride’s room. The contractor and architect were J.C. Roberts Construction and David Vincent of Parkhill, Smith & Cooper of Midland.
Woodruff had said before the project’s July 9, 2016, groundbreaking that it had already been postponed since August 2015 while contractors and bids were reviewed.
Building Committee Chairman Dan Hollmann said the length of the construction tested the committee’s patience as bad weather, problems with sub-contractors and delays in the deliveries of major components combined to add six months to the job. “I think the finished product is really nice,” the Odessa attorney said.
“It stays with the same design in the master plan and is what we always envisioned. The idea wasn’t to remodel, it was just to expand.”
Hollmann’s fellow committee members are banker David Boutin and retired engineer Drew Crutcher. Finance Chairman Dewey Bryant, a banker, said in 2016 that they hoped to retire the note within 15 years.