Doing the ordinary with extraordinary love: St. Theresa’s in Sugar Land

July 10, 2018

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo visits parishioners at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land. The parish was established 90 years ago. Photo courtesy of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land. 

Editor's Note: This article is the first in a series on parishes that are adopting Pastoral Plans by responding to Galveston-Houston’s multiculturalism with active mercy through stewardship and service. These articles highlight parishes addressing demographic opportunities in their community and implementing spirituality of communion promoting the Archdiocese’s diverse cultural viewpoints, practices and contributions.

SUGAR LAND — For almost a century a sustained effort of clergy and lay community, with the intercession of their patron saint and under the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit, have created a space to reset the mind to the Lord, celebrated the abundant diversity of Catholic life and strived to be one heart and one soul. 

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “the little flower,” has been pronounced as one of the most popular, approachable saints because of her exceedingly effective model of sanctity in her very short life. She often spoke of “giving always” and to “not fail in our love towards our neighbor.” 

St. Theresa Catholic Church was established 90 years ago in Sugar Land. It has always been an energetic community whose mission is “to teach Christ’s saving doctrine and to practice charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.” 

One characteristic of the parish is its ethnic diversity. Due in part to the Imperial sugar mill, factories and farming, it is no surprise that the parishioner base at the church has always represented so many corners of the world — Anglos, African Americans, Vietnamese, Filipinos and Hispanics from Mexico, Central American and South America. St. Theresa may be a perfect reflection of the vibrant and multi-culturally diverse faith communities that make up the Archdiocese.

With such a blend of parishioners, the pastoral leadership and parishioners have always acknowledged the individual needs of its community and developed ministries and programs that shaped the church community and allowed it to blossom and thrive. 

Deacon Gilbert Rodriguez, coordinator of Hispanic Ministries, said, “St. Theresa’s has always strived to be a welcoming place — one that draws people to holiness, not just a meeting place.”

This effort started with the first pastor who celebrated Mass in Sugar Land, Father I.P. Tonson, OMI, of the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate and continues today with Father Eurel Manzano.

“When we remodeled and expanded the sanctuary, great care was taken to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony that preserves the reverence and sanctity of the church and allows those who enter to ‘reset’ their mind to celebrate the extraordinary authenticity of Mass,” he said.

Deacon Rodriguez spoke enthusiastically of the church’s Hispanic ministries. He is particularly proud of the opportunities the church offers to Hispanic parishioners, especially those whose English is not particularly strong.
The church offers two Masses in Spanish each weekend and provides missalettes in Spanish. There is also a Hispanic choir at Sunday’s 8 a.m. Mass. With so much emphasis on its faith formation objectives, St. Theresa’s offers CCE classes in English and Spanish.

Deacon Rodriguez said, “Faith is taught and lived out within the family, and it is important that we support parents and guardians with a catechesis that can either flow down or percolate up. Offering CCE classes in Spanish empowers the youth of our church to bring teachings into the home and share their enthusiasm for the Catholic faith.”

As the parish has grown to nearly 5,000 households, the pastoral council rekindled its hospitality committee to create a welcoming and loving environment where participants can feel the genuine warmth within its community and worship as one.

“It is always wonderful to see the Holy Spirit guiding our parish family to come together fully as witnesses and models of faith,” Deacon Rodriguez said.

In the words of its patron saint, “If we want to live a life of love of God, we must not fail in our love towards our neighbor,” the community of St. Theresa personifies Thérèse’s spirituality of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.