Although Wellspring, Fransalian Center for Spirituality opened 16 years ago, it has seen much growth this year.
The center dedicated a shrine, opened 13 guest rooms, which are used during retreats, and continues to develop landscaping features on site — all with the purpose of making a place for spiritual growth to occur.
“The mustard seed has grown into a tree,” Father Abraham Vettuvelil said, adding that Father Gus Tharappel started the center in a trailer, “a mustard seed,” and today they have a huge campus.
He said Father Gus planted it and the Lord made it grow.
“I also thank Father Gus for his unwavering commitment to this center, for his mission, for his vision …” Vettuvelil said. “What we see today is the fruit of his hard work. I am sure this will be a blessing to many people who come here.”
Vettuvelil and Tharappel were among those on site for the dedication of the Mother of Compassion Shrine in Whitehouse on Monday.
The shrine is the culmination of years of work and commitment by those who love and support the center. It is the latest in several steps of expansion on the 12-acre Wellspring property.
“All this has grown because of the faith and the interest people have in growing in their relationship with God …,” Tharappel said before the dedication. “None of this would be possible if people didn’t generously give.”
Bishop Joseph Strickland, of the Diocese of Tyler, led the dedication, which also involved Vettuvelil, Tharappel and about 40 Fransalian priests, along with other clergy and Catholic Church members.
A PLACE TO BE STILL
Founded in 1998 by Tharappel, Wellspring exists to help people grow spiritually and in their relationship to God and community, Tharappel said.
It is a place where people can learn about the contemplative way, how to be still in the presence of God and listen to Him. The center is a place for spiritual retreats, spiritual counseling and a ministry of compassion.
Although it is a center of prayer, worship and devotion, it is not a parish. People go to the center in addition to celebrating Mass at their home parish, Tharappel said. It is open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
“People come here because they want to grow more,” Tharappel said.
The center sits off of Rhones Quarter Road in Whitehouse and features trails and gardens where people can engage in prayer or enjoy the silence.
Wellspring is the only Fransalian Center for Spirituality in the U.S. A second one is in the works in Atlanta, Georgia, Tharappel said.
The Fransalian Missionaries is an international, missionary religious order within the Roman Catholic Church.
There are 53 Fransalian priests serving in 13 U.S. states. Forty of those priests were on hand for the dedication of the shrine on Monday and all of them were expected to be in attendance later in the week for the priests’ annual retreat.
Tharappel is the provincial, or head, of the Fransalians in the U.S. The international headquarters is in Rome where Vettuvelil, the superior general of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, is based.
DEDICATING THE SHRINE
The dedication of the shrine, which can comfortably seat 60 people, involved setting apart all aspects of the building for the purposes of God.
Strickland blessed the water “as a sign of repentance, a reminder of baptism and a symbol of purification.” He then sprinkled it throughout the church on the altar, the walls and the people. Several Catholic Church members read scripture from the Old and New Testaments before Strickland led the Rite for the Dedication.
Strickland anointed the altar and the church with sacred oil. The anointing of the altar makes it a symbol of Christ, who is the Anointed One, and the anointing of the walls “permanently sets the building aside as a house of worship,” according to a program explaining the dedication.
“It is very much like a baptism that treats this building as we have been treated as children of God,” Strickland said during the dedication.
Incense was placed on the altar to burn, symbolizing the sacrificial prayer of Christ.
Behind the altar, a mosaic forms the centerpiece on the back wall with a crucifix on its left and an empty cross on its right.
Tharappel said the purpose is to allow people to contemplate the whole of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The mosaic in particular “captures the love of a mother, the sacrifice of a son, that beautiful image of compassion,” Strickland said.
“At the end of this liturgy, this will be a different place, a sacred place, a place where the Lord will dwell …,” he said. “With this beautiful shrine, I think the very best days of Wellspring are certainly ahead of us.”