LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – They've been a part of an East Texas church for three decades, but Sunday, some East Texas missionaries said goodbye.
The La Salette missionaries built the St. Patrick Church in Lufkin, but are now leaving the church in the hands of the Tyler diocese.
Eighty-two years ago, the La Salette missionaries of St. Patrick Church made it known they were in East Texas.
"At the time, it was easier to drop the notices by plane to tell people to gather where the church was and the missionaries were here," said Bishop Alvaro Corrada, who presides over the Tyler diocese.
Now, they're vacating the church they built of 1,000 people, leaving it to Bishop Corrada. He oversees the Tyler diocese comprised of 33 counties. He said the missionaries have done their job.
"When the missionaries came it was less than one percent of Catholics in this area," he said. "Now, there would be about an eight to ten percent increase of Catholics in this area. So, the growth by numbers is incredible."
A packed house of more than 1,000 people said their goodbyes. For church member Carl Wallace it was bittersweet.
"I'm sad to see those people go because they're been special friends of mine, but at the same time if nothing changes, nothing new, nothing good happens and we're looking forward to the changes in our community and looking to opportunity," said Wallace.
Under the diocese, La Salette missionary leader Joseph Bachand said the church will have more resources.
"A lot of them speak Spanish and so that's an important thing in the diocese in the state of the Catholic church here this area so I think people will be well served by having priests who speak their language," said Bachand.
It's a new beginning for East Texas Catholic churches.
"People are going to know in Tyler what's happening in Lufkin and vice versa and that's good news," said Bachand.
There's about 160 La Salette missionaries scattered across the United States. Some of the those leaving Lufkin will begin a new mission.