Annunciation parish marks sesquicentennial year
September 11, 2018
Annunciation Catholic Church, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, is found across the street from Minute Maid Park. With Father Paul Felix, pastor, the parish welcomes visitors and serves the wider community as it continues its campaign to renovate and improve the church campus. File photo by James Ramos/Herald.
HOUSTON — Starting this month, Annunciation Catholic Church in downtown Houston begins a full year of celebrations recognizing its 150th anniversary as a “crown jewel” of Houston and the “mother” church of all Catholic parishes in Houston.
The church has experienced all the ebbs and flows of the city since 1869. Located at 1618 Texas Ave., it was at one time the center of the distinguished residential area of Quality Hill and at the crossroad of Union Station. It has also experienced the commercial decline of yesteryears, but now enjoys a healthy resurgence today. Despite these generational changes, Annunciation continues to be a beacon and respite to all.
Masses are offered in the Ordinary Form, Extraordinary Form and Latin Novus Ordo. The church continues to attract visitors who come to pray and to visit one of the most remarkable examples of late 19th century art and Nicholas Clayton’s architecture with Romanesque Revival interior of arches, pillars and vibrant stained glass.
The parish community is a “true monument of faith and service,” Father Paul Felix, Annunciation pastor, said. “So many people have their roots at Annunciation, being baptized, having been married or received their Sacraments here.”
Father Felix is working to continue to revitalize attendance through outreach projects and services such as Vespers, the Holy League Holy Hour for Men, along with choral performances by the resident choir directed by Catherine Schaefer.
The church was founded April 25, 1869 through the leadership of Father Joseph Querat. Today, Annunciation is the oldest church in continuous use in Houston. As a mother parish, it has many subsequent offspring parishes, including Sacred Heart and Blessed Sacrament communities. It has provided the leadership, support and finances to begin two of Houston’s ongoing institutions: San José Clinic and the Charity Guild of Catholic Women.
The hard work of Annunciation’s pastors through the years contributed to the establishment of the first parish church and Catholic school for African-Americans in Houston, and the expansion of the Catholic school system.
In 1873, Father Querat requested of the bishop that the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament open a school, who then established Incarnate Word Academy as the first all-girls school in Houston. Incarnate Word Academy, now newly renovated, continues to be an active high school campus for young women.
On Sept. 6 to 9, the parish played host to an Architectural Symposium highlighting the work of church architect Nicholas Clayton. The event included tours of downtown Houston, trips to Galveston to view other work by Clayton, as well as lectures led by local priests and architectural experts.
Annunciation builds on its community service past with recent service initiatives. The parish hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day for a 20-hour nonstop period to serve and pray for those who serve and protect citizens. The parish expressed this gratitude by cooking and delivering meals provided by area businesses to all law enforcement officers who serve in the downtown area. Accompanying the meals were St. Michael the Archangel prayer cards and medals.
During Lent, sack lunches and the St. Joseph the Carpenter Scholarship, which is funded by donations raised during the parish’s newly revived St. Joseph’s Altar, are signs of Annunciation’s commitment to the wider community.
The parish played an active role in the spiritual care for storm victims when the nearby convention center became an active shelter during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey last year.
Father Felix said the anniversary was important to him. His very own parents were married in the parish, and as a native Houstonian, he’s “committed to passing on that faith, service and goodness that has been so much at the heart of Annunciation all these years.”
Annunciation’s popularity grew as its beloved Astros-themed Rosaries, which are sold at the church’s entrance across the ball park during weekend home games, were featured in national and international media. One reached the hands of Pope Francis. Proceeds from the Rosary sales benefit the multi-million dollar building plan to expand and update the church’s campus and historic church to better serve the growing membership and downtown residents as well as visitors.
Father Felix said the church’s location is a prime place for evangelization, being at a “crossroads” for many visitors heading to the ballpark, soccer and basketball stadiums, or the nearby hotels and new apartment complexes springing up nearby.
“A lot of people know about Annunciation,” he said. “But many people don’t. They’ve maybe seen the steeple or the church’s exterior” or made their way inside to see the “stunningly beautiful” church, but he’s focused on having “an impactful evangelizing presence that proclaims the Good News and majestic beauty.”
“It’s a great privilege for me to be the pastor of Annunciation — there’s a great trust for the future,” he continued. “I’m on a mission to renew the parish and assure the parish is able to have that dynamic presence and effect ministry for generations to come.”
Part of the parish’s anniversary celebrations include a memorial brick wall.
For more information about Annunciation’s 150th anniversary special events or to learn how to support the memorial wall, visit annunciationcc.org or call 713-222-2289.
• Nov. 15 - Incarnate Word Academy Choir Concert: Singing God’s Praises Together Since 1871
• Dec. 31 - New Year’s Eve Mass and Celebration: Dawning of the Next 150 Years
• Feb. 9, 2019 - Oh Sacraments Most Holy Mass and reception
• Apr. 25, 2019 - Mass and reception, “Ave Maria” World Premiere: Laying the Cornerstone
• Apr. 27, 2019 - Sesquicentennial Processional reenactment, concert
• May 12, 2019 - Annunciation Reunion Mass and May crowning
• Aug. 15, 2019 - Mass honoring all weddings celebrated at Annunciation, bell consecration
• Sept. 7, 2019 - Sesquicentennial Grand Celebration: Gala and Auction
• Sept. 10, 2019 - Church dedication Mass and celebration