LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Dedication of the St. Andrew Catholic Church is a serious event with lots of room for joyful moments. Bishop Joseph Strickland, leader for the Diocese of Tyler showed his sense of humor.
"We give you the keys so you can open the church and we can get into that air conditioning," he said to Father Joe Kannampuzha. He gladly performed the task of opening the doors following a decade of growth.
"Our numbers, our members, have doubled or tripled over the years, said Father Kannampuzha. The church currently has over 700 families. When it was founded in 1997 there were 46 families.
Bishop Joseph Strickland well recognizes the growth in the Catholic faith throughout the Tyler Diocese.
"(The Catholic faith) is still the minority in East Texas, but growing among the Spanish speaking and the English speaking communities and people moving in," said the Bishop.
Some Catholics attribute Pope Francis for creating a renewed interest in the faith, particularly among young people. Religious education teacher Tracy Nichols thinks so.
"Yeah, he does keep everyone up to date on Twitter and posts things teenagers and college kids can relate to," expressed Nichols.
Early in his message the Bishop told the parishioners that not only is this building important to the city of Lufkin, but also to the entire region of East Texas. He told the packed sanctuary, "As we celebrate the dedication of this church it is a celebration for us all. For the whole community of the Diocese of Tyler."
The St. Andrew parish looks forward to increased opportunities to serve and testify. It's a blessing extending outside the brick and mortar of a new church.