Frisco was a watering hole along the old Preston Road cattle drive trail during the late nineteenth century, a waystation between the ranches of the plains and the markets of DFW. Permanent settlers were few and far between until the massive growth of Dallas in the twentieth century supported the growth of outlying rural towns. Even so, Catholics in Frisco were scarce until Spanish-speaking ranchhands and farmworkers began settling in the area in the 1950’s. At that time, the closest Catholic churches were in Denton, Plano and McKinney. The long-time members of this community remember when there was no Catholic Mass in Frisco.
In the early 1960’s, more Catholics settled in Frisco and wanted to celebrate Mass as a community. They sought out a priest willing to make the trek to the small farm town and, in 1964, Fr. Wilfred Defevere, pastor of St. Michael in McKinney, celebrated the first Mass for what was to become the community of San Francisco de Asís (St. Francis of Assisi). That first Mass was celebrated by about 30 people in Spanish in the home of Juan Garza on Eldorado at Preston Road. Garza’s white farmhouse still stands today at the crossroads. Like so much of the old in Frisco making way for the new, it is slated for demolition.
|Exterior of Third and Elm church|
|Interior of Third and Elm church|
Once a month, different priests traveled to Frisco to celebrate Mass for the devout, Spanish-speaking community in their homes. Sometimes, when priests were unable to make it to Frisco, nuns from Dallas would minister to the community. As Frisco grew, signatures were collected and presented to the Diocese asking that a permanent presence be established in the town. In 1966, St. Michael parish in McKinney sponsored the creation of the Misión de San Francisco de Asís – the Mission of St. Francis of Assisi – in Frisco. The newly recognized community rented space at the corner of Third and Pecan in downtown Frisco until construction could be completed on their excitingly modern modular building at Third and Elm, a property purchased for them by Fr. Defevere. The small, metal-sided building was blessed and inaugurated by Bishop Tschoeppe on December 5, 1971. Priests continued to travel back and forth between McKinney and Frisco to serve the small community. The community cherished its religious life through annual Mexican Dinners, mini-carnivals, posadas, devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and sunrise Easter services.
|Fr. Ramon Torres|
|Fr. Joseph Mitchell|
The first resident priest to serve the mission was Fr. Ramon Torres in 1979 (from the Philippines), but he soon retired due to illness. Fr. Joseph Mitchell arrived in June 1983 and served until 1998, eventually becoming the first pastor. Other priests who served St. Francis include Fr. Jenaro de la Cruz, Msgr. Richard Johnson, the late Fr. Francis Becker, Fr. Michael Sheehan (now Archbishop of Santa Fe), Fr. John Libone, Fr. Thomas Cloherty, Fr. Alfonso and Fr. Infante, Fr. Ramon Alvarez (from the Cathedral), Fr. Armando Beltran, Fr. Ernesto Villarolla, and the late Fr. John Matzner. Great changes occurred during Fr. Mitchell’s tenure – most significantly, the huge influx of English-speaking, Anglo Catholics into the area and the development of Frisco as a bedroom suburb to Dallas, skyrocketing its population ten-fold in less than ten years. The small mission of 100 families soon found itself bursting at the seams, trying to accommodate a congregation of 300 families in a church that could only seat 150 people comfortably – and 220 uncomfortably!
On February 24, 1997, the Most Reverend Charles V. Grahmann, Bishop of Dallas, officially designated St. Francis a parish. In July 1998, Msgr. Leon Duesman was assigned as pastor. Msgr. Duesman was born and raised in neighboring Pilot Point and was the founding pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano in 1976. A few months after Msgr. Duesman’s arrival, St. Francis began celebrating Sunday Mass at Curtsinger Elementary School on Jereme Trail to accommodate the growing number of parishioners. A new facility was desperately needed. On March 23, 1999, the parish purchased 28 acres at Eldorado and Rogers Road and, on Christmas Day 2001, the first Mass was celebrated in the 40,000 square foot multi-purpose building on acreage that is now the permanent home of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (la Iglesia Cathólica de San Francisco de Asís). The community had come quite a long way in 45 years from a ranchhand’s living room…and yet, appropriately enough, just next door to that very property.
|Msgr. Duesman & Fr. Ortiz|
In 2003, Rev. Antonio Ortiz joined the parish as Parochial Vicar to continue ministry with the Spanish community. He had visited the parish as a seminarian in Mexico back in the 1970’s. In 2004, Msgr. Duesmann was transferred to St. Ann in Coppell and Bishop Grahmann named Rev. Timothy Heines, a native Dallasite
and young pastor in Duncanville, as the third pastor of St. Francis. He was
joined by a growing number of gifted deacons and lay ministers.
|Fr. Timothy Heines|
In June 2008, Fr. Heines departed as pastor and is pursuing a doctorate at
Catholic University in Washington DC. During his tenure, Fr. Heines oversaw our
growth into our new facilities, a renaissance of our celebration of the liturgy,
and the expansion of staff and organization to accommodate a growing suburban
parish of over 5500 families.
In July 2008, Father Joe Lee was assigned as parochial vicar until he became
pastor of Holy Sprit parish in Duncanville in July 2009. In November 2008,
Msgr. Larry Pichard was assigned as pastor. Msgr. Pichard came to us as pastor
from St. Pius X parish in Dallas. In June 2009, newly ordained Fr. Vincent
Anyama became our parochial vicar.
Msgr. Larry Pichard
& Fr. Vincent Anyama
Under the leadership of Msgr. Pichard and Fr. Anyama, and with a growing
parish that continues to mirror the growth of Frisco, our 90-plus ministries and
faith formation programs continue to thrive. Our Hispanic heritage also remains
alive in the vibrant Hispanic community that is very much a part of the daily
life of the parish. More than anything, parishioners long for a traditional
church in which to worship our Lord and celebrate the Eucharist. We are
determined to honor the rich traditions of Franciscan spirituality and the
devotions of our forebears who founded this little church out on the Texas
prairie! We keep this tradition in our hearts as we make the plans for building
a new 1500-seat church.