Cardinal DiNardo dedicates new building for Friendswood’s Mary Queen Catholic Church

May 8, 2012

FRIENDSWOOD — With tears in his eyes, Nelson Olavarria spoke of the pride he felt in his son Gerry's inclusion in the mural depicting the miracle of the loaves and the fishes hanging behind the altar of the new Mary Queen Catholic Church. Olavarria's pride was made sweeter, because his 32 year-old son, severely disabled with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair, looks normal.

"Looking at the picture I see Gerry as normal," Olavarria said. "I see that everything is possible."

Possibility became reality with the April 21 blessing and dedication Mass of the newly built church, a monument to one community's faith, commitment and vision.

Conducted by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the Mass was a joyous occasion for the hundreds of parishioners, guests and visitors who had come to celebrate the very first service in the glow of the new church.

"Congratulations on rising up a beautiful church that will be a long time presence in this community and beyond," Cardinal DiNardo said. 
In his dedication homily, Cardinal DiNardo referred to the meaning of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

"Jesus is saying, ‘Bring me what you have. Stop complaining. Give me what you have,'" Cardinal DiNardo said. "No one in Mary Queen parish should ever say, ‘It's impossible.'"

Pointing to the stained-glass windows, the inscriptions of the Beatitudes laid out on the marble center aisle, the paintings of the Stations of the Cross, altar and crucifix on top, Cardinal DiNardo challenged parents to bring their children to look around and learn about their faith through the imagery and signs. 

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo told parents they should bring their kids to the new Mary Queen Catholic Church to look around and learn about their faith through the imagery and signs, which include paintings of the Stations of the Cross and inscriptions of the Beatitudes laid out on the marble center aisle. (Photo courtesy of Charles Falk Photographer)

"You can do a lot contemplatively in this church building," Cardinal DiNardo said. "There is no aspect of this building and its decorations that lack some meaning."

Built to accommodate a growing congregation, now at 2,300 households, the 37,438 square-foot building houses a roomy nave and transepts with seating for 1,600, a 230-seat chapel with interior glass walls, meeting rooms and a music room. Featured in the design are marble floors, intricate stained-glass windows shedding abundant natural light, a Botticino and Carrera marble altar and what Cardinal DiNardo called a "mega font." 

"I guess you're expecting a lot of baptisms," he said of the large baptismal font. "If you get in that, you may not come out."

Established in 1965 by the La Salette Missionaries from St. Peter the Apostle Church in Houston, the fledgling parish acquired a permanent home a year later in the shape of a small white house on an eight-acre site. A new church facility was built in 1970 to accommodate the by now established parish, and there followed another church, which the congregation also outgrew. Planned for that building, situated behind the new church, is an auditorium and administrative offices.

Father Phil "Skip" Negley, pastor since 2004, said the new church will allow for a more centered and focused Mass and continued growth. Delighted with the way the new building has shaped up, Father Negley said the design reflects the spirit of the congregation.

"We wanted the church to be a place of welcome for all faiths," he said. "We wanted to emphasize the gift of hospitality and the gift of prayer."

No one was more heartened and perhaps surprised by the Mary Queen's new home than the church's first pastor, Father John Zabelskas.

"It's almost unreal to see something this magnificent happen after all these years," said Father Zabelskas, who left for another posting in 1975 and recently retired to the rectory on the church grounds. "I think it's timely. The population is here, and it's still growing. And there's a need. A lot of people had drifted away, and this will be a big draw."

Founding church members and later members alike were thrilled with the new building.

"I've been telling everyone I see I'm coming to this (service) to be sure I didn't imagine it," said Herbert Newell, also depicted in the mural. "I didn't think this would ever get off the ground. It's wonderful, and it's well built."

Neil Rancour, who was on the building committee, said they wanted their new church to be comfortable, traditional and inviting, and they got exactly that. 

"It's good to see it come from paper to a real building," he said.