By Mary Lou Egan
Father Félix Zermeño Martín grew up in Encarnación de Díaz, Jalisco, Mexico, surrounded by colonial-style churches with bell towers, exquisite stained glass, and sacred art.
Those holy images inspired and nurtured his Catholic faith. When Father Félix arrived as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Grace Church in 2008, he was struck with its understated architecture and plain interior. He began imagining how the stained glass of his childhood might look in this simple building and how it might enrich the faith of the congregation.
In 2018, Father Félix was named pastor. He shared his vision with his parishioners who were excited about and committed to this goal. But during that year Father Félix suffered a serious health crisis and the project came to a halt.
Bishop Jorge Rodríguez, vicar for the clergy, visited Father Félix and urged him to fight for his dream, and then collaborated with him on images that illustrated the Marian theme of the parish. They decided to include the mysteries of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Wedding at Cana, and the Assumption. The Holy Trinity and the Baptism of the Lord were also selected.
Father Félix already knew who he would choose for this monumental assignment: Vitrales y Emplomados Ortiz, the nationally recognized company from his hometown. He would be working with people he trusted and it would allow him to do something extraordinary at an affordable price.
The congregation began raising funds and a private donor generously helped out. Parishioners were rewarded for their perseverance when the installation of 21 windows began in July 2021. The results have been impressive.
The requests for quinceañeras and weddings have increased, and people who live in the neighborhood have shown a new interest in the church. The spectacular windows also reward the dedication of those who have been parishioners for many years.
When the lights are on at night, people ask to come in to see the windows, a confirmation that art and beauty can be an effective means for evangelization.
“People feel valued, respected; they feel that their faith matters,” Father Felix said.
And as Father Felix knows, faith and persistence matter.
Our Lady of Grace Church is at 2645 E. 48th Ave. in Swansea.