Parish History & Patron Saint
Our Parish History
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Grapevine, TX, was established as a parish in 1949. We are a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, which is home to over 700,000 Catholics. Our pastor is Rev. Sojan George.
The mission of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church is to build a church of missionary disciples by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and reaching the poor.
The Church and administration facility, which is situated on 9.6 acres of land near Lake Grapevine, is a 39,000 sq. feet building with church seating for over 1,100, 10 classrooms, meeting room, conference room, office space, and a Parish Hall. Stained glass windows from the original mission church were used in the parish hall to bring forward our past.
Fr. Baltasar Szarka, a native of Hungary affectionately called Fr. B, served as pastor of St. Francis from 1961-1997. He was ordained in France in 1949. In 1952, Fr. B joined other Cistercians from Hungary who settled in Wisconsin. The group moved to Irving in 1956, and Fr. B began his ministry at St. Francis in 1961.
He was a wonderful listener and loved children. He was a loving pastor to the growing community at St. Francis. Fr. B retired as pastor in July of 1997 due to failing health and was honored with a special mass and reception. Fr. B died on April 1, 2000. Fr. B left us with a legacy of love of the Eucharist and sense of community.
Fr. Ken Robinson, our next pastor, was born in Austria, the second of four children in an Air Force family. His father served several assignments in Europe before returning to the Texas.
Fr. Ken was raised in a Protestant tradition, but as a teenager entered the Catholic Church. Fr. Ken has a rich educational and work background. He has a B.A. in secondary education with specialization in history, English, and microbiology and a master’s degree in history. Before entering the seminary, he worked as a teacher and as a medical technologist. He completed his Master of Divinity degree at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. He was ordained a priest on May 16, 1992 at his home parish of St. Rita in Fort Worth.
Fr. Ken served as associate pastor at St. Michael’s Church in Bedford and later as pastor of St. George’s Church in Fort Worth, before being named pastor of St. Francis in August 1997. Fr. Ken was assigned pastor of Sacred Heart in Muenster, TX, effective January 1, 2007.
Fr. Anh Tran, who followed Fr. Ken, was born and baptized in Saigon, Viet Nam in 1963. As a teenager he moved with his parents and siblings to Fort Worth, Texas in 1975. He became a citizen of the United States of America in 1992.
He attended St. Rita Catholic School and Eastern Hills High School in East Fort Worth. He received a B.A. from Conception seminary College in Missouri in 1985, a Master of Divinity from St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston in 1990, and Licentiate in Canon Law from Catholic University of America in 1996.
Fr. Anh was ordained by Bishop Joseph Delaney at St. Matthew Church in Arlington on May 26, 1990. His first assignment was at St. Michael’s Church in Bedford. In 1996, Fr. Anh was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Breckenridge, Texas with its four mission churches in Shackelford, Throckmorton and Palo Pinot counties. In 1999, Fr. Anh was appointed Diocesan Director for Vocations and served in that position until December 2006. Bishop Kevin Vann appointed Fr. Anh pastor of St Francis of Assisi church on May 1, 2007.
Fr. James Flynn was assigned pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish on August 1, 2013, and served the community until February 2019. Fr. Flynn was raised in Arlington, Texas and graduated from Granbury High School in Granbury, Texas. He spent 4 years on active duty the U.S. Army and was stationed in Kentucky, Germany, California and North Carolina.
After his service in the Army, he went to Texas A&M and received a degree in Engineering and played Rugby for Texas A&M. Upon graduation he worked in the commodities for Cargill Incorporated for three years and at the age of 29 started his seminary formation with the Dominican Friars in Denver and St. Louis.
In 2000, he was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Ft. Worth and finished his theology studies at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. Fr Flynn was ordained to the priesthood on May 13, 2006. He served as an associate pastor at Immaculate Conception in Denton and St. John the Apostle in North Richland Hills before becoming the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in Pilot Point and eventually the pastor at St. Francis of Assisi.
Fr. Sojan George became pastor of St. Francis parish on February 14, 2019. Fr. Sojan (pronounced Soh-JUH-n) was born on May 20, 1975 in Kerala, India as the 4th of 5 children, with two brothers and two sisters. One of his brothers is a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He joined the seminary in 1990 and was ordained a priest on Jan 01, 2000. Fr. Sojan has been serving in the diocese of Fort Worth since 2002. He served as the Parochial Vicar in three parishes from 2002 -2006. From 2006 -2011, he served as the pastor of the parishes in Decatur, Bridgeport and Jacksboro. In 2011, he was appointed as the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Wichita Falls, then as the Rector of St. Patrick Cathedral in 2016, and eventually as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in 2019.
Our Patron Saint
Francis of Assisi lived more than eight centuries ago, but remains one of the world’s most popular saints. The son of a wealthy merchant, he renounced the carefree life afforded him to embrace extreme poverty and champion the message of Christ. His transformation has inspired books, movies, the names of cities, the writings of Dante and even a painting by Rembrandt.
But the greater legacy of St. Francis is the religious order he founded in the early 1200s. Known as the Friars Minor, and eventually the Franciscans, its offshoots include the Poor Clares and Capuchins. As for Francis, he “became the means of renewing the youth of the Church, and of imitating the most potent and popular religious movement since the beginnings of Christianity,” according to The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Francis Bernardone was born about 1181 in the region of Umbria, a remote area of Central Italy located near Tuscany. The landscape is a stretch of green hills and blue rivers and “on the plain are the famous Umbrian grapevines,” according to Fodor’s account of the region that appears in The Francis Book. Francis lived a life of privilege in the region’s town of Assisi, but that changed when he became a prisoner of war at the age of 20.
He is said to have reflected on his purpose during his confinement, and when released a year later heard God’s call to restore his Church. At first Francis literally heeded it by using some of his father’s resources to rebuild the bricks and mortar of the area’s parishes. But when his father objected to his projects, Francis came to realize the greater message from God.
He gave up his inheritance, moved into a cave and spent his days evangelizing, tending to lepers, assisting the poor in their daily tasks and cleaning churches out of respect for the Eucharist. Francis was described as “a mystic whose overpowering faith compelled other men to follow him,” by writer Joseph Roddy, and soon, 11 men joined him in his work. The group sought to become a religious order, and in 1210 it was granted that status by Pope Innocent III.
Francis was ordained a deacon in order to be able teach the Gospels, but in his humility he never sought the priesthood. Through his homilies, he enlightened the people of Central Italy and other places in Europe, as well as those in Egypt, where he preached during the Crusades.
Francis was also a writer, and one of his best known works is ‘The Canticle of Brother Sun,’ a poem that praises God. Francis’s other endeavors included constructing what is believed to have been the first Nativity Scene, in 1223. He also was a lover of animals. Francis was known to preach to flocks of birds, and once talked a ferocious wolf out of terrorizing a village, according to accounts of his life in the popular book, “The Little Flowers of St. Francis.”
It was Francis’s character to respect all of God’s creatures, and the statues of him often seen dotting today’s neighborhoods reflect that aspect of his personality. Francis was also “serene of mind, sweet of disposition, and zealous in prayer,” according to his biographer, Thomas of Celano, who worked alongside the future saint as a Friars Minor.
Francis lost much of his sight in his later years, and was imprinted with the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, in 1224. He died in 1226, at about the age of 45, and just two years later was canonized. St. Francis’s feast day is Oct. 4, and he is the first of a number of saints to have been members of the Friars Minor or its branches, among them Anthony of Padua and Padre Pio.
Today, the order and its many divisions are represented around the globe. By some accounts, there are more than one million people serving God under the banner of the Franciscans. Their work is varied, be it preaching, tending to the needs of the poor and sick, or overseeing the care of certain shrines in the Holy Land. But collectively, they are men and women whose service is no doubt inspired by the words of their founder:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.”
Written by Mary Rampellini