In 1966, St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church was established by Bishop Thomas K. Gorman. Fifty years later, its church pews are filled with parishioners from diverse backgrounds who are strong in their faith and Catholic witness.
Before the church was built on the corner of 15th Street and Alma Drive, Plano Catholic residents attended mass at a nearby public elementary school. Bibi Phillips, one of St. Mark’s first parishioners, remembers the early days. “We were so excited to be a part of the formation of a new parish. It was such a unique experience.” Phillips adds, “As the new church was being built, Fr. Claude Smyth, the Pastor at the time, would visit parishioners who lived within the church boundaries to remind them that they belonged to St. Mark. It was like he was looking for his flock.”
In 1978, plans for a permanent church and rectory began and a new church building was dedicated on January 18, 1980. The former church was remodeled to provide classrooms for faith formation and a new Catholic elementary school.
Since then, St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Community has grown from 325 families in 1966 to over 10,100 households of faith. Its youth faith formation programs serve 1,300 children in preschool through fifth grade, and 560 middle school through high school students. St. Mark Catholic School (preschool through eighth grade) has grown from 113 students with a faculty of 8 members to its present size of over 570 students and 65 faculty members.
Fr. Clifford Smith celebrated his tenth anniversary as Pastor of St. Mark this past October. “When Bishop Grahmann told me he was sending me to St. Mark the Evangelist, I was more than a little overwhelmed by the prospect of serving such a large parish. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, I continue to be grateful for the Bishop’s confidence in me. We never cease to grow as a Faith community and in our Catholic faith. It has been a wonderful journey with wonderful people!”
Even though the church population has vastly increased over the years, St. Mark is a great place to meet others of the Catholic faith. And for some, it’s more like a home, a place of refuge in a fast-paced world. Veronica Juarez and her family recently joined the St. Mark parish family. “It is a large community but we feel connected. Once you get involved in the church activities, it doesn’t take long for the large parish to shrink into a family.”
Over its 50 years, St. Mark the Evangelist has welcomed parishioners of many diverse backgrounds and cultures all of whom enrich the Parish. It is blessed with a growing multicultural community and offers four of its weekend liturgies in Spanish. At any St. Mark mass, you will find a diverse Body of Christ, bringing many gifts to the whole community.
According to the Parish Manager, Melissa Humason, “We are a beautiful reflection of the current demographics of North Texas. Our parish includes people of all ages within the entire spectrum of education, income and national origin. This diversity of culture and experience brings richness to our celebrations and allows us to minister to each other and the community.”
St. Mark will commemorate its golden anniversary with a mass on January 29, 2016, which will include past clergy. The celebration will close with a mass officiated by Bishop Kevin Farrell on April 25, 2016, the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist. Both masses are open to the public.