CV NEWS FEED // The Catholic community of St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University dedicated a new church on July 29.
Texas A&M is the largest university in the United States, with nearly 75,000 students. Its thriving Catholic student ministry is one of the largest among public universities.
Fr. Chris Smith, the former assistant pastor at St. Mary’s, told CatholicVote that Texas A&M is home to almost 17,000 Catholic students. Smith said that on weekends, 4,000 students regularly attend Sunday Mass.
Before the new church’s completion, two smaller churches served Texas A&M Catholics’ spiritual needs. According to the St. Mary’s Catholic Center Tour Guide, the first church was constructed in 1927, and the second was built in 1956.
With the growing number of worshippers in recent years, however, both churches were not big enough to hold the thousands of students who wanted to attend mass each Sunday.
Smith said the new church seats 1,600 people, double the seating of the previous church. The expanded space will allow St. Mary’s to minister to more Catholic students.
CatholicVote spoke to Isaiah Bocock, a sophomore at Texas A&M studying political science on the pre-law track.
Bocock attended the church’s dedication ceremony on July 29. He said he had never experienced anything like it.
“There was a solemn procession with 20 priests, 80 seminarians, and eight bishops,” he said. “Everything felt so solemn and once I got in the church, I immediately started crying like I’ve never experienced. I felt something different in there.”
Bocock said that the dedication ceremony was fascinating because what used to be just a building was suddenly transformed into a church.
“It felt like the church was alive,” Bocock said:
Like it was alive and breathing in the literal sense, like the stars on the walls were twinkling and the sun painted on the inside of the dome was literally shining; like the statues of saints and angels lining the walls and on the altar were living and breathing and worshipping Jesus.
The altar contains relics of Pope St. John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and St. José Sánchez del Río.
Smith told CatholicVote that the project began ten years ago simply as a vision. The fundraising for the church began five years ago, and the construction began in 2021.
“Connecting [the students] with their faith, and a community that can help form them for life after graduation is of paramount importance,” St. Mary’s stated during the fundraising and building process, describing its vision for the church. “A new church is needed at St. Mary’s to not only handle the huge volume of Aggie Catholics, but also to inspire them and bring them to know God through the beauty and message of its design.”
The new church is built in a Romanesque style with Spanish and Byzantine influences that reflect Texas history as well as the Eastern and Western branches of the universal Church. It features large amounts of artwork, such as murals, stained glass, and statues, including a gold-colored Our Lady of Victory statue on top of the dome and the letters “AM” found throughout the church. The letters stand for Auspice Maria (“under the protection of Mary”) as well as the school’s name, A&M (“A&M” stands for Agricultural and Mechanical).
Bocock said the dedication of the new church has important historical significance because there will be millions of souls affected by the community and church in the coming years. He said the magnificent church reminds the faithful of the call to evangelization, and its beauty impacts everyone who enters it.
“This church is Mary calling out to us, saying that we’re part of the army and here’s home base,” he said. “It’s going to bring so many people into the Church. I can’t see myself falling away from the Church while I go there.”
“The feeling I got from the church was a reflection of the love that pours forth from Calvary,” he concluded. “I’ve gone back since the dedication and it’s felt the same way each time. It feels like home.”