Leo M.J. Dielmann
Origins: Settlers from Germany arriving in Fredericksburg in May of 1846 were largely Catholic or Lutheran. With no priest available families gathered in homes for worship. First, John Leyendecker, a school teacher, opened his home for worship and later, in 1847, both Catholics and Protestants worshiped in the Vereins Kirche (Society’s Church).
First Structure Plans for the first Catholic church were laid out almost immediately and a lot purchased where the Marienkirche now stands. However, famine and disease delayed the building which was eventually completed sometime around 1850. Until then services were held in the small parish rectory.
Dedication of St. Mary's High School Building The first Catholic school was opened by parishioners in 1856 utilizing a number of buildings. In the early years classes were taught by lay teachers but in 1870 the Sisters of Divine Providence took over the teaching responsibility and continued to do so for over 100 years. The existing St. Mary’s High School building, costing $60,000, was dedicated in 1924.
Cross Mountain A wooden cross, probably abandoned by Spanish missionaries on their way to the San Saba missions, was found on a hill just northwest of the city. An early Catholic priest, Father Menzel, erected a large wooden cross on the hill as a remembrance. The hill became the Kreuzberg or Cross Mountain. The cross was replaced several times and eventually was illuminated in 1940.
St. Mary’s Parish now has over 2,000 families with a large campus to minister to its people and a school to provide a Catholic education. Because of its tremendous growth and the need for additional space a capital campaign resulted in a new parish center, dedicated to the Holy Family, opening in the fall of 2011.
The altars are made of wood with an inset of the Last Supper in the center of the main altar. It was in 1936, under the guidance of Monsignor Alfons Heckmann, that the elaborate stenciling and art work was done.
Old St. Mary's: A log house built in 1848. Fredericksburg grew and with it St. Mary’s Parish. The parish decided to build a new, larger church which was started in 1861 and consecrated in 1863 by Bishop Dubuis, the same missionary priest who ministered to the early settlers in 1847. An Indian was asked to ring its bell when it was dedicated in 1863. After the Civil War additional streams of German Catholics came to Fredericksburg. Now called Old St. Mary's, this building has served several purposes, including as a schoolhouse. Its place in the history of German immigration to Texas lead it to be listed as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1994.
St. Mary’s continued to grow adding a new rectory for the priests and began a parochial school. And a new, larger church again had to be built. The cornerstone for the stunning architecture was blessed in 1905, dedicated in 1906 and consecrated in 1908. The church, built of native stone quarried near the city, cost $40,000.
Since then, St. Mary's has continually grown into a spiritual family. The famous twin towers of the two churches, the Marienkirche (1861) and the new St. Mary’s (1908), have long been beacons of faith, hope and love here in Fredericksburg and throughout the Hill Country.
The beautiful stained glass windows were added around 1914 and 1915. However, the windows in the sanctuary were put in sooner. The two windows (not shown), depicting a boy and girl in their first communion outfits with their guardian angels, were made in Germany from actual photographs of two children who died at an early age. The boy is James, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Blum, and the girl is Erma Wagner, daughter of the contractor Jacob Wagner and his wife. 2,3
A Legend of the Stones of St. Mary's
On good days in Texas it is usually very hot. It was hard work gathering and shaping the beautiful native sandstone used at the turn of the century to build St. Mary's Church. A stranger happened upon the men as they were working. The story goes that this visitor might even have been Christ Himself. The visitor asked one of the men: "Was tuest Du?" (What are you doing?) The man answered, "Oh I have to haul these darn rocks!"
"Was tuest Du?" he asked another... "I don't think I'll ever get finished cutting these rocks for this huge building!"
"Was tuest Du?" he asked a third man who was whistling a nice tune as he worked, and answered: "I'm building a cathedral for the glory of God!"
The visitor blessed the third man and disappeared. 1
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