New church is dedicated in Marble Falls

The altar and many other pieces throughout the new church at St. John the Evangelist Parish were completed by Father Jairo López and his family. (Photo by Enedelia J. Obregón)

By Enedelia J. Obregón
Senior Correspondent

After five years of planning, the families of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Marble Falls have a new church.
Bishop Joe Vásquez dedicated the new church, which doubles the capacity of the old church and sits on the same lot. The new church will serve the more than 1,000 families who call St. John their home parish.
In his homily, the bishop said that as he watched young and old filling the church, he was reminded that the church is home for many.
“This is God’s house and we have a place in it,” he said, noting the structure is a visible sign of the trust we have in God and the graces he has given us.
“By the Holy Spirit we received the day of our baptism we continue to be sustained members of his one church,” Bishop Vásquez said. We will continue to be sustained by the sacraments we receive as we come before the altar, he added.
The altar, which the bishop anointed with sacred oil, represents Christ, noting that the word “Christ” means anointed, the bishop said. 
He pointed to the mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which stands along a side wall.
“It is testimony that Mary is so close to us … all of us are her children,” Bishop Vásquez said. She is close to the altar in a place of honor.
After the homily, the bishop placed a relic of St. Therese of Lisieux under the altar. He also blessed the walls, windows and doors of the new church.
The mosaic of Our Lady of the Guadalupe as well as that of the crucifixion behind the altar, were designed and built by Father Jairo López, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish. He is a mosaic artist who also does oil paintings. He used colored glass and tile for the artwork, including the altar and two stained glass windows. He and his family spent a year working on the pieces.
“It’s made from recycled glass,” he said. “People would bring us their empty bottles.”
Working with glass and tile, he said, “we cut ourselves so many times.”
The first mosaic most people will notice is the footprints mosaic as they enter the church. There are others throughout the sanctuary.
Father López said it took several years to convince parishioners that a new facility was needed. When he became pastor 15 years ago, the parish had 600 families. Many were retired and had second homes in the area. With the influx of many Hispanic families, the need for a larger church became apparent. With the help of Paul and Barbara King, the community came together to address the need.
Father López said that because of continued growth in the area, the new church –– designed by architect Steve Gele –– was built so it can be easily expanded.
The old church will become a chapel for daily Mass and the annex used for meeting rooms. The parish activity center is used for religious education but is not big enough to meet the demand.
“We are getting more and more children,” Father López said. “Our next project will be a building for Sunday school.”
The parish, established in 1961, is one of several founded by the Holy Cross priests in the Hill Country. Father López is the first diocesan priest to serve as pastor.

In 1948 when the Diocese of Austin was established, Herbert Huber had moved from Ohio to the Marble Falls area and asked then-Bishop Louis J. Reicher for permission to hold Mass in people’s homes. Holy Cross Father Elmer Rupp traveled from Burnet to celebrate Mass.
In 1954, the faithful saw a need for a church building and asked the bishop for help. The bishop donated money for the purchase of land. The Alexander family, who operated Cold Spring Granite Company, donated the stone for the church. With $15,000 from the Catholic Church Extension Society, a temporary church was built and the first Mass was held on Christmas Day in 1957. Construction was completed in 1961 and the church was dedicated on the Dec. 27, the feast of St. John the Evangelist. An extension was built in 1982 and the Alexander family again donated the stone. The family also donated the stone for the new church.
John Clark contributed some of the historical information for this article.