Our Lady of Angels
In November 1999, the Diocese of Dallas decided that a "New Plano Parish" would be formed. Fr. Henry Petter, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish, was appointed priest-in-charge. Deacon Mike Picard was assigned to the new parish in September 2000 while Terry Wooliscroft began as Business Manager and Judy Huettner was Staff Assistant. The first meeting of people interested in the new parish was held October 18. Shortly thereafter, the Bishop assigned Msgr. John Bell as the sacramental priest until a pastor could be named. Skaggs Elementary School was selected as the temporary facility for Sunday Mass.
On November 28, 2000, one hundred twenty-four people interesed in liturgical ministries packed room 109 at Seton to prepare for the first Mass. Brad Meyer took charge of Lectors, Robin Phelan Tuggle became head of Extraordinary Ministers, John South volunteered to lead the Ushers, and Dan Eckelkamp led set-up and take-down, which would be a very important function for the next four years. The room was filled with excitement and anticipation, as everyone looked forward to meeting new friends and starting this journey together.
On December 3, 2000, three hundred eighty-nine people gathered in the Skaggs Elementary School gym to celebrate the first Mass of the New Plano Parish. Fr. Henry Petter was the presider, and Msgr. John Bell concelebrated. Throughout December, parishioners submitted suggestions for names for the parish. The ballot in early January included 55 names, inadvertently omitting “Our Lady of Angels” which had been suggested and was subsequently included as a write-in. The three top names, “St. Andrew,” “St. Nicholas,” and “Our Lady of Angels,” were submitted to the Bishop, who selected “Our Lady of Angels” as our name. By the end of 2000, we had 322 registered families in our parish.
By May 2001, the Finance Council was formed with the immediate task of buying land, which needed to be purchased within two years according to our rental agreement with the Plano Independent School District. The Parish Pastoral Council was named shortly thereafter. On August 15, 2001, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, the parish of Our Lady of Angels became a canonical entity.
In fact, 2001 was a year of many “firsts” for our parish. In February, Mia Marie Heber was the first person baptized at our parish. We gathered for our first parish picnic at Russell Creek Park on July 1. And in December we celebrated our first anniversary with Bishop Grahmann present. By the end of 2001, Our Lady of Angels had grown to 477 families.
2002 was also a very exciting time for our parish. The first Parish Pastoral Council meeting was held in January, and they soon created our Parish Mission Statement. During the coming year, we held our first Bible study, parish outreach projects, and First Communion. We held our first Easter Vigil Mass with 76 parishioners in attendance. In September he first small faith group meeting was held at the home of Ben and Margie Moore. And we began our first religious education program for grades K through 8th with families hosting classes in their own homes that first year.
On March 11, 2002, we received a letter from Bishop Grahmann naming Msgr. John Bell as our pastor. He was installed as the first pastor of Our Lady of Angels parish on June 2, 2002, followed by a huge reception in the Skaggs gym, which we still called home at the time. Later in the month, Deacon John O’Leary was assigned to our parish following his ordination.
Up to that point, the only property we owned was the storage shed behind Skaggs Elementary. Each week, a parade of volunteers, from the youngest to the oldest, brought in the altar, ambo, chairs, banners, vases, tables, cups and bowls, and everything we needed to celebrate Eucharist. The parade was reversed each week at that end of the last Mass. It is noteworthy that we were not rained on for the four years we made this journey of set-up and take-down! At first, our altar was a folding table on bricks, cleverly hidden by a long altar cloth. It was replaced one week by our beautiful wooden altar, crafted by Dan Eckelkamp, who seemed to show up every other week with a new wooden furnishing to help transform the school gym into a place of worship. In October 2002, we purchased a house to serve as a rectory, with parishioners gathering to paint, clean, landscape, and prepare the house for Msgr. Bell.
In the fall of 2002, the Finance Committee completed the purchase of a 21-acre site on Ridgeview Drive for our parish property. Though the location was one-half mile outside the parish boundaries, the Diocese encouraged us to purchase it and reset the eastern edge of our parish boundary to include the Ridgeview Drive site. By the end of 2002, we had over 500 families in our parish.
In February 2003, we moved into our own office space on Alma Drive in Plano, where we held our first daily Mass in the chapel on February 18th. A Building Committee was also formed in February, tasked with building our first permanent structure, our Worship Center. During the summers of 2003 and 2004, we celebrated a 5:30 p.m. Saturday Mass in the chapel. A formal groundbreaking and blessing of the land was celebrated with Bishop Galante, area pastors, the Mayor of Allen, civic leaders, and the parish community on December 4, 2003. Our first RCIA class was also held in 2003, with twenty adults and four children joining the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass. By the end 2003, our parish had 530 families.
Construction on our Worship Center began in February 2004. The parish celebrated an outdoor Mass to bless the construction site on February 21. The following day, construction trailers were moved in and the dirt began to move. Despite record rainfall during the summer of 2004, construction stayed on track and the building was completed in November. We celebrated our final Mass in Skaggs Elementary on November 14, 2004, and concluded the liturgy by solemnly processing out for the last time with everything we used in Mass. For one week we lived as people without a parish home. Then on November 21, 2004, we processed into the Worship Center with everything from altar to banners to dress the sanctuary for its first Mass. We finally had a place to call home! We ended 2004 with 560 families.
Our Worship Center was officially dedicated on September 30, 2005. Many finishing touches took place in 2005. The Catholic Foundation provided a grant for the stone marquee at the entrance to our parking lot. Brick pavers were placed to commemorate parishioners and their loved ones. And in August, our two stained glass windows created by Albuquerque artist, Linda Dabeau, were installed.
During 2005, our parish grew even more. We expanded to celebrate Mass on Saturday evenings on February 12th. We continued to set up and take down chairs in our Worship Center to accommodate our ever growing Religious Education program. Youth retreats were held, and we had a monthly faith formation program for the entire parish on Sunday afternoons called “La Mesa,” or “the table.” By the end of 2005, Our Lady of Angels parish had grown to 661 families.
We continued to have new faith formation opportunities and fun events throughout 2006. Our parish has always been noteworthy for it warm, welcoming spirit, and for the large proportion of parishioners who serve our community through a variety of volunteer activities. In September, volunteers were celebrated with a thank-you dinner at Twin Creeks club. We continued one of our earliest parish traditions, the annual family picnic, on October 15th. Our Lady of Angels, led by Knights of Columbus, took the prize for “Best Religious Entry” in the Allen Rotary Christmas Parade. We had 724 families by the end of 2006.
In July of 2007, our first Vacation Bible School, “Son Force,” was headed up by Angie Jakubik, who was assisted by a large group of adult and youth volunteers. A Welcome Dinner was held July 20th for the many new parishioners who joined us in the past year. We selected the Feast of the Guardian Angels in early October to reach out to those in our community who had suffered the loss of a child. And the Women’s Club, led by the enthusiasm of Sandy Chicoskie, worked tirelessly for many months to produce the first parish cookbook. We ended 2007 with 818 families.
In 2008, we began construction of our own office and classroom building, adjacent to our Worship Center. Msgr. Bell and the Building Committee agreed on a two-story Education and Formation building, with the ground floor built out with fixed and flexible classroom space, offices, cubicles and an open gathering and reception area. Our vibrant parish life continued throughout the construction. Under the creative guidance of our Music Director, Nina McKay, our first annual “OLA’s Got Talent” dinner and variety show was a huge success. We recognized our graduating high school seniors with a special Mass on May 24th. Also in 2008, our Religious Education program was restructured under the guidance of the newly-formed Parish Catechetical Council. After the opening of the Education and Formation Building, we moved out of our temporary offices on Alma Drive in Plano, celebrating our last daily Mass in the chapel on December 13, 2008. Now we had become a completely Allen parish with 886 families.
Now that we were finally home, we had a lot of fun in 2009! The Women’s Club held its first wine tasting event on October 16th with a silent auction and delicious meal. The “Big Kids” – a group of people over 50 formed for both fellowship and service - headed up by Annie McGraw, had its first overnight trip in the summer, to Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle. And we continued to beautify our property with the installation of our magnificent “Our Lady of Angels” statue, designed and created by the artist who made our two stained glass windows, Linda Dabeau of Albuquerque. The statue was blessed on October 11, and instantly became a favorite spot for children to gather. By the end of 2009, we had 975 families.
Many of our earliest traditions continue today. We still have coffee and donuts, children’s breakout, our parish picnic, Angel Tree, collection for Allen Food Pantry, pastor’s bridge night, our children’s pageant at Christmas, and volunteer appreciation dinners. Our newer traditions have also caught fire. Big Kids social events, collection for the troops, Vacation Bible School, our Mass of Remembering, and OLA’s Got Talent are just a few of these many activities. We continued to add events in 2010 that we hope will be held every year. Our first Parish Mission was held in May, with Gene Giuliani from the University of Dallas School of Ministry. As we celebrate ten years as a parish, we currently have over 1,000 registered families.
We began our celebrations on our 10th Anniversary by giving each family a decal for their car, and we celebrated the birthday of the Church itself on Pentecost by presenting to each family a commemorative 10th Anniversary Bible. The Women's Club helped us create a "sea of blue" at our annual parish picnic with our new blue parish T-shirts featuring our Marian stained glass window. Summer also saw the wildly successful Sonsurf Beach Bash for Vacation Bible School. Matt Decker, high school youth director, accompanied a group of teens to Memphis, TN for SHINE camp, enjoying prayer, fellowship, and service together. RCIA and adult faith formation blossomed under the guidance of Bernice Simmons, with an ever increasing array of Scripture study and education opportunities, and more than 25 volunteers helping lead 11 people into the Church at the Easter Vigil. In October, members of the Big Kids group took a bus tour to visit the painted churches of Texas. We also began to make plans to finish out the second floor of our Education and Formation Building to accommodate the ever-growing number of classes and other activities. By the end of the year we had nearly 1,100 families in our parish.
At Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, we are aware that the warmth and close sense of community that we enjoy can be challenging to maintain as we grow. Through many small and vibrant ministries along with inspired liturgies, we hope to touch the lives of everyone who walks through our doors. Together, let us continue to “Build the City of God” as we grow and embark on our second decade.
Happy 10th Anniversary, OLA!