Note: This story has been updated to note that the church is located in Sixth Ward, not First.
In April, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — the highest judicial body in the Catholic Church — issued a ruling direct from Rome to the corner of Silver and Center streets, reports the Chronicle’s Lisa Gray: St. Stephen Church, across from Platypus Brewing, would be required to reopen. (It wasn’t until the fall that members of the church found out, though, seeing as “the Vatican doesn’t just post its rulings on the web. Its documents are in Latin, and are not made public,” Gray writes.) The church’s 1941 brick building had been boarded up since closing in 2016, around which time Lovett Commercial — the owner of the strip housing Platypus and neighboring retail — announced plans to redevelop some of St. Stephen’s parking and expressed interest in buying the church itself, according to congregants.
But its 900 members — most of them low-income Latino immigrants and their relatives — didn’t quite mesh with those of nearby St. Joseph Church that Houston’s archdiocese arranged for them to join. Back in the day, “St. Joseph, with its German congregation, was clearly a white church,” writes Gray, “Latinos weren’t welcome at either its Mass or its school.”
After a few rounds of fundraising, appeals, and — for one die-hard parishioner — 2 trips to Rome helped prompt the Vatican’s verdict, the archdiocese is now mulling “how to untangle the finances, how to staff both churches, how to get St. Stephen’s boarded-up building ready for the public.” But it hasn’t given any timeline for those to-dos yet, reports Gray.
Congregants however, “note that canon law requires a church to be open to the public on the feast day of the saint it’s named for.” Too bad though: St. Stephen’s Day is today, December 26, and the building’s main entrance remains blocked off by fencing.
It’s been decked out recently by those looking to get back inside:
- In Houston’s gentrifying First Ward, immigrants fight to reopen their church [Houston Chronicle ($)]
Photos: Avi Schwarzschild