Two major questions faced the Catholic Diocese of Dallas after the August 2007 fire that ravaged St. Cecilia’s Church: Could the structure be saved, and should it be saved?
“The first one answered the second question — it really could not,” says the diocese’s Monsignor Milam Joseph. “It was structurally damaged, and to repair it would have been imprudent, not a good use of funds.”
Plus, Joseph adds, the St. Cecilia’s community has grown considerably in the 75 years since the church was born, so the diocese made the decision to start over with a new church structure on the 11-acre site at Davis and Mary Cliff. “It’s going to be a dramatic change for the entire complex,” Joseph says of the $4.1 million design, with capacity for 1,000 seats — 2.5 times bigger than the former sanctuary — plus ample parking. The second phase will include a new office building and rectory structure adjacent to the church building.
“We’ll be landscaping and saving trees and making sure the area is not just a barren parking lot,” Joseph says, “so it will not only blend into the community of Oak Cliff but enhance the community of Oak Cliff.”
Much of the stonework built into the church was lost in the fire because it was part of the walls, and the walls could not be saved, Joseph says, but the St. Cecilia’s community saved everything it could, including 17 stained glass windows that will be reused in the new structure. For the time being, St. Cecilia’s parishioners will continue meeting in its school’s gymnasium. The diocese hopes to break ground sometime late this summer to begin the process of creating a church building that will serve the community “for the next 75 years,” Joseph says.