The towering brick and stained class cathedral of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church has been a defining image of downtown Denison since it was built a century ago this year. But its age is starting to show. On Thursday, parishioners and community leaders gathered to bless the workers who will begin the meticulous process of carefully repairing the old building and restoring its historic grandeur.

The towering brick and stained class cathedral of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church has been a defining image of downtown Denison since it was built a century ago this year. But its age is starting to show. On Thursday, parishioners and community leaders gathered to bless the workers who will begin the meticulous process of carefully repairing the old building and restoring its historic grandeur.


"This is a big deal for the parishioners, and for the community," said Frank Ventura, chairman of the parish’s restoration campaign. "It’s just a very big deal."


Ventura said the parish has been dealing with water penetration in the old building for several years now, and piecemeal efforts to patch the leaks as they appeared weren’t working.


"We knew we needed to do something," Ventura said. "Something" ended up being a $1.4 million restoration project to waterproof the building. Of that money, Ventura said, $200,000 will go to interior repairs and $1.2 million will go to exterior restoration.


In 1911, the original St. Patrick’s Church in Denison burned to the ground. Parish leaders promised a new church would be built, bigger and more beautiful than the original. Parishioners raised $60,000 and, in 1914, dedicated the building that stands today.


Ventura compared the generosity and resilience of those churchgoers a century ago with those today. Within eight months, he said, the church had raised enough to begin the restoration.


"Quite frankly, we did not know how (the parishioners) were going to accept this challenge," Ventura said. "We were pleasantly surprised that immediately after the announcement, the funds, the donations and the pledges were coming in significantly … and it continues to come in."


But the restoration of the church takes into account less prosaic matters than leak repair. According to the Rev. Stephen Mocio, pastor at St. Patrick’s, the beauty of the building plays an important part in his congregation’s spiritual experience and must be preserved.


"I believe when we talk about art and beauty, that’s synonymous with the spiritual and the ethereal which elevates our thoughts to something beyond our worldly reality," said Mocio. "It has a point of helping us to transcend."


Mocio said he expects the renovation will be complete early next year, when a parish-wide celebration will mark the beginning of the building’s next hundred years.


Denison Mayor Jared Johnson was on hand to wish the parish well and offer thanks from the city for the church’s history of service. "That’s what the church is about: the people," Johnson said. "This body of believers has been resilient in the face of fire, resilient facing the loss of industry which hit many in our community, and most of all resilient in their faith and beliefs."


With the face of the building covered in metal scaffolding and the newly-blessed workers beginning their tasks, church leaders said they are excited with the response to the project.


"God has blessed us with the funds though our parishioners and others in our community to help us get to this point," Ventura said. "I couldn’t be more proud."