Parish & School History
June 20th & 21st
Our Lady of Memorial Parkway
Epiphany's first Masses were held on June 20th and 21st in the Memorial Parkway Elementary School gymnasium. Approximately 100-150 families attended those 'standing room only' services. The following week many of the standees at the first Masses brought their own lawn chairs! As yet, the new parish did not have a name, so Father Ralph dubbed it "Our Lady of Memorial Parkway."
Coming Together as a Church
On August 16, 1981, the parish had a name "Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Community". A house was purchased in the Nottingham Country subdivision, to serve as Father Ralph's residence as well as office space for his staff. Its garage was transformed into a chapel for daily Mass. Ministry groups soon began forming. Ladies Club provided the bread and wine for Masses. Crafters donated their time and talents to raise money for the church with a bazaar that November. CCE classes were taught in the hallways of the elementary school while Mass was being celebrated in the gym. Singers formed a choir and there was music for our first Midnight Mass. Even without a building, Epiphany was growing as a church.
Six months after its establishment, Epiphany began a building program to raise funds for the construction of a church and parish center. While waiting for the funds to be raised and building plans finished, ministries continued to grow and flourish. Epiphany's newly formed Men's Club had its own primary goal - the establishment of friendships and camaraderie among parishioners. The tradition of an annual Parish Family Picnic was begun in the fall of 1982 as one means of achieving that goal. The Ladies Club was called upon to fulfill many diverse needs. From altar care to baptismal bibs to bereavement support and meals for families, the Ladies performed many jobs that would eventually be taken over by Outreach Ministries. St. Vincent de Paul volunteers initially worked with their counterparts at St. Bartholomew's Parish to provide food for the needy. Quarterly wine and cheese socials welcomed newcomers to the parish and introduced them to parish organizations.
Church Facilities Razed
While parishioners were celebrating mass at Memorial Parkway Elementary School in the morning of March 4, 1984, a Molotov cocktail was tossed into the church building under construction nearby. The beepers of volunteer firemen in the congregation began to go off and they ran out to battle a fire that eventually consumed the church. A massive effort by the firemen saved the parish center, but all that remained intact of the church was its slab. The arsonist was never caught.
Determined to Rebuild
It would take more than a fire to quench the spirit of the Epiphany community. All were thankful that no lives had been lost in the fire and that the parish center was not damaged. Church construction began again on the original slab, and the parish center was soon completed. Determined to begin meeting on their new site, masses were moved to the parish center, now called the Family Center, on May 11, 1984 while construction continued on the church, Parish offices were also moved to the Family Center, and Father Ralph would soon take up residence in a new rectory on the site. That September, the third annual Parish Family Picnic was held, this time on church grounds. Epiphany now had a central meeting place, a place it could call its home.
On October 27, 1984, Epiphany of the Lord celebrated its first liturgy in the completed church. Altar furnishings were made possible by generous donations from parishioners. An artist had been commissioned to create several pieces, including Stations of the Cross for the outdoor garden, a statue of the Holy Family for the Chapel, and a papier mache figure depicting Christ's ascension into heaven for behind the altar. Bishop Morkovsky dedicated the church that November.
No longer necessary as a meeting place for Masses, the Family Center could now be used for its original purposes. It was designed as a large multi-purpose room with classrooms along either side. There was a small kitchen at one end of the hall and two offices at the other end. In the fall of 1984, the classrooms were used during the day by a new Christian preschool program, called Child's Play, started by some parishioners with small children who were looking for an alternative to secular preschool programs. At other times, the classrooms were available for Epiphany's CCE program. The kitchen and multi-purpose room made the Family Center perfect for social functions, including an annual New Year's Eve Dance sponsored by the Men's Club.
Our Second Pastor - "Renewal"
In October of 1985, change was in the air. The Diocese of Galveston-Houston had a new Bishop, Joseph A. Fiorenza, Father Schmidt was assigned to another parish, and Father T. Weyer became Epiphany's second pastor. Father Joseph Flanagan was named the assistant pastor. One of Father Weyer's first acts was to preside over a prayer service that began a five-semester Renew Program. From this program would eventually spring some of Epiphany's current ministries, including the Welcome Table, and one of the first Outreach programs, the Breadbasket Ministry. The parish office was beginning to get calls for assistance from its neighbors in the community. One need was for meals to be provided for shut-ins, the sick, and victims of severe accidents who were not necessarily Epiphany Parishioners. A few women in a Renew group began to respond to these calls when it became apparent there were no local agencies available to help. This group, now called the Breadbasket Ministry, grew into an organization that now includes 100 women who provide meals for many families in need throughout the year, as well as food for funeral receptions held in the Family Center.
Our Third Pastor - An Explosion of Growth
Monsignor Jack M. Dinkins became Epiphany's third pastor in August of 1990. The community had grown by leaps and bounds due to the explosion of homebuilding in the area. The Family Center was now bursting at the seams during CCE sessions. With classrooms full to capacity, the multi-purpose room was being used for the overflow. Additional space was desperately needed. Within two years, construction began on extensive additions to the Family Center, leaving it as it stands today. In the spring of 1993, looking ahead to future growth, Epiphany purchased the seven and one-half acres south of the church bordering Norwalk and Highland Knolls.
By the fall of 1997, Epiphany had grown to 3000 registered families. Masses were "standing room only" once again, and it was apparent that the church itself now needed to be enlarged. In the spring of 1999, renovations began. As walls came down, sheets of plastic went up. Masses continued to be celebrated in the sanctuary. For several months, parishioners shared their worship space with construction equipment and drop cloths. They learned to maneuver with care through tight spaces created by temporary walls. It only became necessary to move Masses into the Family Center when the pews and carpeting needed to be replaced in the final two months of the project. By the time the dust had settled, the church had been expanded south to enlarge seating capacity in the main worship area from 900 to 1600, and north to form a new large chapel, with a beautifully renovated baptismal area in between.