Catholic Churches in South Odessa Merging

By Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

The Catholic Churches in South Odessa may soon become one.

They are building a new church to deal with a shortage of priests, but a growing number of followers.

Soon, the Parishes of St. Anthony, St. Joseph and the Mission of St. Martin de Porres will be a thing of the past, but parishioners are in need of a bigger church.

"Our families have grown," Marcos Lopez said. "If you would come to some of these masses some of them just absolutely overflow."

The three churches offer 7 masses each week and many are standing room only.

So, it's no surprise why Father Mark Miller is excited.

"I guess just the fact that people will be able to have a seat," Fr. Miller said. "That people will be able to come and be comfortable listening to the word of God."

They plan to build the new church just outside of the Odessa city limits, and they expect it to hold anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 people. That's about three times as many folks as one of the old churches could house.

The new church will cost more than $5 million, and they have to raise half of that to start building.

"We're always looking for people to do charitable contributions and come up with fundraising events," Filiberto Gonzales said. "It's just not what they church wants to do. We're accepting any donations and fundraising (ideas) so we can raise money for the church."

While it'll be new, the church will maintain ties to its past by incorporating stained glass windows and statues from the other three churches.

"I'm not going to saying that switching over to the new church is going to be easy by any means it's not," Lopez said. "There's always going to be a split and concerns as far as everybody fired up to go to the new church and some will kind of hunker down and say 'no, our church right now is fine."

Parishioners say the struggle will strengthen the new parish for future generations.