ODESSA – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Odessa will mark its 25th anniversary with three days of parish events. The anniversary celebration will begin with a family picnic beginning at 6 p.m. on the parish grounds on Fri., Aug. 17. On Sat., Aug. 18 a solemn Mass at 5 p.m. will be concelebrated, followed by a banquet in the parish hall. On Sun., Aug. 19, an organ concert will take place in the church at 3 p.m. The parish recently installed a new organ, which will be dedicated during the ceremony.
Joining Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer at the anniversary Mass, Aug. 18, will be Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, who was Bishop of San Angelo at the time St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was founded; St. Elizabeth’s founding pastor Father Bridges and Father Francis Frey along with Father Woodruff and other area priests will also celebrate the occasion. At the banquet following the anniversary Mass, a check will be given Bishop Pfeifer paying off the parish’s debt. It will be the first time in 25 years the parish will be debt free. However, a youth building is already in the planning stages. Father Woodruff says, ”Let’s enjoy these debt-free days while we can.”
Father Frey purchased land for a new northside parish while pastor of St. Mary’s Church during the late 1970s. In mid-1982, the Catholic community of Odessa had grown sufficiently for a new parish, Odessa’s fifth. On June 11, 1982, Bishop Fiorenza, then bishop of San Angelo, announced the boundaries of the new parish, named after the recently canonized St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Opening date for the new parish was August 1, 1982, and Father Bridges, then pastor of St. Mary’s in Odessa, was named the founding pastor.
The first Masses for the new parish were held at Blanton Elementary School on Tanglewood Drive in Odessa. In a stunningly generous ecumenical gesture, the congregation of Odessa’s St. Barnabas Episcopal Church made their church available for the young congregation. “St. Elizabeth’s” worshipped at “St. Barnabas” until its church building was ready at the end of 1985.
Not long after the new parish was established, a dynamic Building Committee began planning the parish facilities. Instead of concentrating on just one building, a master plan encompassing the major parish structures was agreed on. The church, in Spanish mission style, was the first building to be constructed. It was available for use on Christmas 1985. Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI dedicated the church in mid-1986 by, the first such structure he dedicated since becoming bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo in 1985.
In 1990 a million dollar parish hall as completed, and in 1999, another million dollar structure, this time the parish office & education building, was completed. Along with the education building, the courtyard with its cloister look was finished. The courtyard has been the site of many parish gatherings including festivals and wedding receptions since then.
Father Bridges served as founding pastor of St. Elizabeth’s. He was transferred to St. Stephen’s in Midland in July 1996 and Father Mark Woodruff, formerly of Sacred Heart in Abilene, replaced him. Since 1996, Our Lady of San Juan Mission (the North Rancho) has been under St. Elizabeth’s care.
Outside the parish, St. Elizabeth’s has been an ardent supporter of Catholic Charities of Odessa and also St. Mary’s Central Catholic School. In fact, for the last seven years, St. Elizabeth’s pastor has served as administrator of the school. All Odessa parishes make contributions of two vital elements of Catholic education – students and cash – with St. Elizabeth’s a close second to the official school sponsor, St. Mary’s Parish.