StPatrickDallas[1]This St. Patrick’s Day is an especially big deal for a neighborhood institution, St. Patrick’s Church, which this year celebrates 50 years running.

Last St. Patrick’s Day was one of the most trying days of my life.

In the wee hours of March 17, the staff cardiologist at Doctors Hospital told my dad, brother and I that my mom, who had suffered an aortic dissection, had less than a 10-percent chance of survival.

While I wept and my brother lost his dinner in the hospital washroom, my father, a no-nonsense military man, spent the next few hours on the phone — seeking a second opinion, a surgeon who could fix a problematic aortic tear, a solution.

And when all of his resources were exhausted, he called his parish priest, Father Josef from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. By then, it was daylight and Father was undoubtedly preparing for the morning’s celebratory mass and the workload that accompanies St. Patrick’s Day at St. Patrick’s church.

urlI never will forget that relenting crack in my dad’s voice (I had never heard him cry before) when he said, “Father Josef is on his way to administer Last Rites.”

The priest didn’t dally. He got over to the ICU, delivered the sacrament, and hurried back to his duties. I will never forget that generosity. I’m not a practicing Catholic, but Father Josef’s actions exemplify what religion and/or spirituality should be about: spreading some semblance of beauty, love and peace, even in — especially in — a wretched situation.

My mom made it, by the way.

It was St. Patrick’s Day in 1963 when Catholic church officials signed the decree to form the St. Patrick Roman Catholic parish in (what at the time was known as) the White Rock area of Dallas.

St. Pat’s first parishioners met in an abandoned Top Value Stamp store inside the First Federal Savings and Loan building.

The first phase of construction at Audelia and Walnut Hill, including the school, wrapped up in 1964.

More than 500 students now attend that school and the church serves more than 2,500 familes.

And, there’s Father Josef Vollmer-Konig, religion aside, the kind of man who practices what he preaches. The type of guy you want in your community.

March 16, the church begins its 50-year anniversary celebration with a 10 a.m. mass presided over by the Bishop of Dallas. Festivities featuring Irish food and drink and entertainment will follow — starting at 11:15 a.m. — in the auditorium. Between now and the end of the year, the church plans to hold multiple events commemorating the milestone. We will keep you posted.