The Basilica, dedicated in 1931, is showing its age, with structural cracks and other deterioration. According to an engineer’s assessment, structural repairs amounting to approximately $14 million are necessary to adequately address the problems of water infiltration, to be followed by restoration and interior remodeling estimated at an additional $5.6 million.
Immediate objectives are to resolve the causes of the damages: infrastructure problems, particularly water infiltration and inadequate site drainage, and to prevent further damage. Phases of work will be completed as funds are available. Careful preparation will be essential to success in this undertaking.
Recent Work Completed
Renovations were completed this year on the convent across the street to prepare it to house the friars during work on the Basilica and attached monastery. We are also awaiting assessment results on hail damages to the roof tiles.
The most recently completed phase of repairs, done in 2015, is the replacement of the monastery’s main plumbing and sewer lines and the installation of a new sump pump, to help with water extraction. This work made the monastery inhabitable once again for the community of Discalced Carmelite friars.
Between 2005 and 2007, the undercroft of the 11,000 square foot church floor plan was remodeled and refinished, with the addition of the St. Elias Adoration Chapel. The chapel, dedicated to silent prayer, opened for prayer and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi in 2007.
An elevator was also installed with service to the basement, the main floor, and the choir loft, along with a marble stairwell leading down from the narthex to the basement, and new restrooms. Along the hallway, in the north side interior of the undercroft, the “Celine painting” of St. Thérèse is displayed in a niche. A new entrance to the undercroft from the north the side of the Basilica includes a small plaza area, terraced on each side. A chapel foyer leads into the St. Elias Adoration Chapel, located under the tomb chapel.
The costs of the basement renovations came to $1.6 million, of which $800,000 was provided by the Abdo Family Trust. The other $800,000 came from private donations.
Portions of these later projects have been funded by the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, the Kenedy Memorial Foundation, the Scanlan Foundation, and the Stuart-Griffin-Perlitz Foundation, along with many generous individual donors.
Funds are needed now to plan and conduct a fundraising campaign and to design the entire project, from the repairs for water infiltration to the final remodeling. We are actively looking for individual contributors locally and around the country who can provide the first major donations to build our campaign.
We ask for your prayers, your contributions and your help in identifying individuals who could be blessed by taking part in this restoration. The same way the Basilica was built, we can restore it.
The plaques lining the walls of the Basilica bear the names of many of some 6,000 donors from all around the country who came together in their devotion to the newly canonized St. Thérèse and built the Basilica.
The cost of construction for the Basilica was just under $300,000. It was as daunting a sum in those days—at the start of the Great Depression in 1929—as the amount we are facing today to restore it. Raising that amount then was a miracle. Raising the sums needed now will only be accomplished through prayer, God’s power and the intercession of our patroness.
Many joining together for this cause can be the miracle we need: we need your help and that of so many who are devoted to St. Thérèse around the country.
Discalced Carmelite ShrineFoundational to the restoration will be strengthening the Shrine in its function in Carmelite spirituality. This restoration project is part of a mission-driven reorganization in the Province of St. Thérèse, the Discalced Carmelite friars who administer the Basilica.
The 17 friars serve the church through a life of contemplative prayer and fostering friendship with God through Carmelite spirituality in their five communities in San Antonio, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and Dallas.
The friars’ apostolate includes retreats, conferences, and writings. They serve as chaplains, confessors, and spiritual directors to numerous groups and individuals. Under their care also are 880 members of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in 37 communities and 100 cloistered Discalced Carmelite nuns in four states.
The 2017-2020 Provincial Superior, Fr. Stephen Sanchez, OCD, is a San Antonio native. He attended St. Agnes and Christ the King Elementary Schools and Holy Cross High School.
He earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and Oblate School of Theology and was ordained as a priest at the Basilica in 1992.
“We have a great deal of important work to accomplish in these next several years that will help our Province thrive and continue its mission to the Church well into the future,” Fr. Stephen said.
In recent years, lay staff is increasingly assisting the Province in carrying out its mission. A central business office was established in San Antonio in 2011. Susana Cantú stepped into the position of executive director in 2016. She directs the administration of the Province, including the Basilica and the school, with a small leadership team in development, business management, and facilities project management.
“My task is to work with the Carmelite friars to provide the means for them to continue their apostolic work,” Mrs. Cantú said. “I look to the transformational leadership style of their foundress, Teresa of Avila, and her ‘Teresian’ spirit of vision, innovation, and courage.”