From simple beginnings, through tremendous growth, with a focus on educating the minds and hearts of Catholics and with a passion for serving, St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Parish has been through quite a bit in its 75 years as a Catholic faith community. A parish founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross parish in 1937, St. Ignatius Martyr continues to be served by the wonderful and faithfully dedicated priests, brothers and sisters of Holy Cross.
In 1937, St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church south of the river in Austin, celebrated its first Mass on Christmas day in a funeral home on S. Congress with founder Fr. Patrick Duffy, C.S.C. Initially part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, St. Ignatius Martyr Parish eventually moved to an old house on W. Johanna Street, where a new building was built and the parish served approximately 250 families. In 1940, Holy Cross Sisters opened a school with eight grades in the basement of the new church. The Sisters new convent was Fr. Duffy’s old rectory, and Fr. Duffy lived in a storage room of the church basement. Later on, a house across the street from the church became his home.
In November of 1947, the Diocese of Austin was founded as the seventh Diocese in Texas by Pope Pius XII. Fr. Eugene Dore, C.S.C. became pastor at St.Ignatius Martyr in 1949 and the parish grew at an astonishing rate, though it was no longer the only parish in South Austin.
In 1953, 5.5 acres of land were purchased for a new church, near the intersection of Congress and Oltorf, which is the current location of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish. In 1955 a new school and new convent were built, with parishioners building the convent themselves for the Sisters.
A new church building was completed in 1965, with the first Mass being celebrated in September of 1965. Bishop Louis J. Reicher, D.D., the first Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, dedicated the parish on February 6, 1966. The original St. Ignatius Martyr Parish building on Johanna Street, which one can still tell from the outside was once a Catholic Church, is now part of the Austin Boys and Girls Club organization.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish, the Family Center Building, which is connected to the St. Ignatius Martyr School, was constructed in the mid-1980’s, and formerly dedicated in October of 1987.
In 2002, Fr. Joe Tomei, C.S.C. became pastor of St.Ignatius Martyr and during his seven years, the parish continued to grow. Fr. Joe implemented many things at St. Ignatius Martyr, among them was creating a Stewardship Committee, creating a Parish Social Ministry Committee and establishing a Spanish Mass. Current pastor, Fr. Bill Wack, C.S.C. succeeded Fr. Joe, who was re-assigned to Santiago, Chile, in 2009.
St. Ignatius Martyr Parish continues to grow and serve the people of the Austin area, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. With close to 3000 families, nearly 250 school children in grades Pre-K 3 thru 8th grade, active participation in Austin Interfaith, providing food from its SVdP food pantry to the point that it runs out of food mid-week every week and more, St. Ignatius Martyr has been, and continues to be, a staple of the South Austin community.
On the weekend of October 20-21, 2012 former and current Holy Cross pastors, brothers and sisters, employees, and parishioners will be celebrating and remembering the past 75 years as a Catholic faith community and look towards the next 75 years. Festivities that weekend include a procession to our former church building on Johanna street, tours of the current church building and school, story sharing, meals after all Sunday Masses and a Sunday evening Mass celebrated by Bishop Vasquez and concelebrated by current and former pastors of St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church. This Celebration Weekend is the last of quarterly events that have occurred throughout 2012. These events have been focused on prayer, family, service, and celebration and included 75 straight hours of Adoration, an outdoor Mass and parish picnic and a parish-wide Day of Service.
Pope Benedict XVI has declared October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013 a Year of Faith in the world-wide church, asking that Catholics take this time to celebrate, deepen and share the spiritual richness of our Catholic faith. St. Ignatius Martyr’s Celebration Weekend is just one great way to see and be a part of the sharing and celebration of our Catholic faith this year. In the Diocese of Austin there will be many opportunities throughout this upcoming Year of Faith.
For more on the St. Ignatius, Martyr Celebration Weekend, visit their parish website. And for more on the Year of Faith in the Diocese of Austin and around the world, visit the Diocese of Austin website.
We pray that through the intercession of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Andre Bessette, Blessed Basil Moreau and all your saints, we may be united in prayer, dedicated to our family, and committed to service as we celebrate our first 75 years as a faith community and look forward to our next 75 as we wait for your return in glory. Amen.
-From the St. Ignatius Martyr 75th Anniversary Prayer