St. Martin breaks ground on St. Dymphna Center

St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday for the St. Dympha Center to be constructed on the parish grounds. From left, Amy Rosilier, Father Charlie Garza, Bishop Daniel Garcia, Deacon Edward Rositas, and David Boone. CENTURY NEWS PHOTO BY SUZANNE PACHECO

John Pacheco


St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church (SMP) broke ground on its new St. Dymphna Center on Saturday January 20, on its existing church property at 26160 Ranch Road 12. The new building will house expansion needs for the church as well as its St. Dymphna Center, which will provide mental health services to the community. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental illness.

“I’d like to express my gratitude towards Michael Monaghan who chaired the building committee, and all of the members of the building committee—Stacy James, David Boone, Flint Callaway, Walt Graner, Dawn Hans, Carrol Kelly, and Marty Murphy,” SMP Pastor Fr. Charlie Garza said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “And I’d also like to express my gratitude towards all of our parish staff and deacons…”

Also present was Auxiliary Bishop of Austin Daniel Garcia. “This project would not have been possible without the work and effort of your pastor, and his willingness to pour himself out for you. I think we all need to show a sense of gratitude towards your pastor Father Charlie Garza,” Garcia said.

The event’s program said the new St. Dymphna Center was “Dedicated in memory of all deceased members of St. Martin de Porres, especially Christopher.”

In an interview with the Century News, Father Garza answered questions about the St. Dymphna Center.

Please tell us what is the St. Dymphna Center (SDC) going to be, how do you envision it? The groundbreaking program says, “Vision: To become a healing parish.”

Part of our vision here at St. Martin de Porres is to become a healing parish, and that means having 3 dimensions- the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual- so the SDC is especially focusing on healing in the emotional sense, so part of the vision of SDC is that we’re looking to partner with NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness-- and how NAMI offers various education on mental illness to the community as a whole as well as support to families that might have a family member struggling with mental illness-- as well as offering resources for those personally struggling with mental illness. So that would be one partnership.

We’re also looking at some other partnerships that will kind of help to offer group therapy, by partnering with licensed professional counselors that have the proper training to offer group counseling. We’re also looking at getting a group of counselors that wouldn’t necessarily reside at the SDC itself but might reside on our campus in another building as part of this partnership, and we’re also looking at other ways of offering group therapy for grief counseling, or group building support structures to help people with loss.

What about marriage counseling?

Marriage counseling would also be part of this as well. Some of the retreats would be for those that are struggling with separation, or near the point of divorce. We will also offer resources to help couples process through problems, so that hopefully things don’t get the point where they would be at separation or near divorce.

Why focus on mental health, as oppose to other medical needs in the Dripping Springs Community?

It’s not so much a choice of either/or it’s just the timing. Part of our plan is [to eventually get to] the physical aspect of healing. We are planning on having a medical clinic on campus [with a partner] – there are some other churches, especially one in North-Austin that have been very successful in offering a medical clinic, as well as a dental clinic, and partnering with local physicians—So that’s part of our long term plan. We are definitely looking at that. We also already have a very successful food pantry in our St. Vincent De Paul Ministry that helps people with utilities and some of those challenges that they face. So that’s definitely part of our vision. The reason that we’re targeting mental health is because it’s really not something that anyone else in the area is making a concerted effort. A lot churches will have a food pantry, will help those in need of assistance, but very few offer a lot of options for mental health. For example, in 2017 I had to do 4 funerals within 4 months for young adults between the ages of twenty and thirty-nine—all that committed suicide due to mental health reasons. In my opinion, it’s become a crisis in our local community. That’s why I consider it to be the priority.

So this mental health resource will be housed in the new building?

Yes. The new building will enable us to have the space to be able to offer these types of outreach. We’ve already been talking with different organizations that we will be partnering with, and we will be bringing these groups into our campus. They have the professional experience. There’s a lot of groups out there that people aren’t aware of, that have a desire to give outreach and help with mental illness. It’s just a matter that we really haven’t had anyone invite these groups to the local area. There’s nothing on the west side of Austin. We’re hoping to be kind of that hub for the future.

For someone who is not familiar with St. Martin, can you explain the new building and the other uses that you have planned for it?

In addition to SDC, part of the idea of this building is that it’s to serve St. Martin de Porres and some of the needs we have right now. We have need for office space, a transitional worship space, and meeting rooms—so part of it is to serve the need to continue with the spiritual formation and growth of [our parishioners]. As Dripping Springs has grown, so has our parish. We’ve been blessed with a lot of growth, and so we needed to expand our facility. We see both needs. The spiritual need of our individual members, and the need for outreach outside our borders.

Will the present church be used for services, versus the new building?

We will continue to use the present church as needed. It depends on whether a particular mass exceeds the capacity of the present church. That’s something that we will have to evaluate. We know from the get-go that Sunday 11 a.m. mass will probably be transitioned to the SDC.

How did you choose this name for the new building/center?

The name came about in discussions among the parish leadership…we were looking at which saint would especially be able to represent emotional healing and St. Dymphna was a saint that I’ve had personal experience with. I submitted her name to some of our leadership organizations for feedback, and they agreed that it sounded like she would be a good patroness.

Let’s talk about raising money. Is there something the community should know about you raising money?

One of the things that I’m hoping to provide in the future is to provide counseling for those that would not be able to afford it. We’re still in the preliminary stages as far as that aspect, but it is something that I hope to be able to generate funds-- have funds for. Most people aren’t aware that the majority of medical plans are usually very limited for mental health. So it’s a type of health care that many people don’t have access to right now. It’s my personal desire that we are able to provide that type of healthcare to those that need it.

And many times people don’t realize the connection [between mental illness and other things]—At least thirty to forty percent of those that are homeless on the street, etc., have some type diagnosable mental illness, and many times they haven’t been receiving the treatment that they need. So it does lead into other areas. Like when couples have marital challenges, that’s a big factor with children. The National Alliance of Mental Illness, if I remember correctly, said that about fifty to sixty percent of people with mental illness are left un-diagnosed. That’s a big portion of the general population that could struggling, unaware that their difficulties are originating from mental illness.

What about the building itself? What is going to be the cost of the building?

The total cost of the building is 4.8 million dollars. We have pledges of 3.3 million dollars, and we have received funds of almost 2.3 million dollars.

Where there cost overruns from the original estimates?

There have been some overruns based on a difference in costs from when we originally priced things out— about a quarter-million dollars more. That’s a combination of some local regulations that we need to be in compliance with, as well as a combination of increased building material costs—from all the natural disasters.

When do you estimate completion of this building, and when do you estimate beginning operations of SDC mental health center to begin?

For the building completion we’re hoping for December of this year. That depends on whether we are able to get the permits that we need in time.

We expect to be operational with by January of 2019. That’s when I’m hoping we will be able to initiate the outreach to the community with the counseling center, and the counseling resources of NAMI.

What would you like the community to know about this center?

The first thing is our desire to raise awareness of mental illness in the community, and how there are a lot of people that are struggling with it. From my experience, I find that a lot of people don’t really understand it. They haven’t encountered it personally.

I’m also hoping that the community will help people know that we’ll be offering these resources, and send people who need help our way, so that we can become a hub for mental health outreach in our community.

Part of the reason that we’re seeking this outreach is that when you look at the life of Jesus, something that he did almost all the time is that he brought healing to people. And so to me it’s very important that as we seek to spread the good news of the Gospel, it’s meant to be a message of healing.

And while we consider the ultimate healing to be an eternal life, that in the here and now, that we (as a community here in St. Martin de Porres) are seeking for people to be able to experience healing in different ways—so that they can be able to have more peace and wholeness at this point in their lives as well.

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