LADERA RANCH – “Who would have thought from our Mass on the grass we’d be here today?” Father Reynold Furrell said to roughly 400 of his congregants Sunday on a 7-acre plot of land in Ladera Ranch.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange broke ground Sunday on its newest parish, Holy Trinity Catholic Church. It’s tucked next to a strip mall and a residential community just off Antonio Parkway.

It will be the first parish the local diocese will build in at least five years and is part of an expansion the church is undergoing in the Southwest, with Southern California one of the leading regions in the country, Diocese of Orange spokesman Ryan Lilyengren said.

“It’s not that common outside of Southern California,” Lilyengren said of opening new parishes. “The Catholic Church is a pretty old institution.”

He said much of the church’s growth in recent years is a result of the popularity of Pope Francis, who has preached the importance of mercy and raised awareness of migrants’ plight, such as his plea for Europe and the U.S. to accept Syrian refugees.

The building of the church is more than a decade in the making, with its first Mass held in a Ladera Ranch park in 2005 with only five families, Furrell said. The congregation is now 2,000 families strong and meets in temporary buildings on the diocese-owned land.

But not for much longer.

The 18,328-square-foot church, being built with community fundraising of roughly $7 million, plans to open in about a year. It will be in Spanish mission style, with a 19th century Mexican tabernacle and vintage stained glass.