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Parish of Assumption of the BVM, Praha, and Rev. Julius Petru

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  • Matt Cross
    PARISH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE B.V.M. Praha, Texas The first known Catholics in the Praha community were Czech and Moravian families who settled on Mulberry
    Message 1 of 9 , Jul 2 5:58 PM
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      PARISH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE B.V.M.
      Praha, Texas

      The first known Catholics in the Praha community were Czech and Moravian
      families who settled on Mulberry Creek about 1854, and for thirty years or
      more the place was known as Mulberry, except for the now long forgotten
      incidental nickname of Hottentot due to a pioneer outlaw element which
      eventually became extinct. The name of Praha originated about 1876, appears
      on church records first in 1884, and has survived its post office
      designation as New Prague dating from that year.

      Matthias Novak settled here in 1855. Father Victor Gury from Frelsburg
      attended periodically to the spiritual needs of the settlers and in 1864 and
      1865 Father Joseph J. Martiniere from Hallettsville offered Mass
      occasionally in the Novak home. In 1865 a small frame hut was built in which
      Mass was first offered at midnight on Christmas Day by Father Joseph
      Bitkowski, a Bernardine Father laboring here under the jurisdiction of the
      Resurrectionist Missionaries who had come to Texas to minister especially to
      the Polish missions. He was the first resident priest and he remained a year
      and a half, serving also the missions of Bluff (Hostyn), Navidad (Dubina),
      High Hill, Ross Prairie and elsewhere, as was done by his successors at
      Praha until 1878. Already in 1866 he directed the building of a new church
      at Praha measuring 30 by 16 feet, and using lumber hauled by ox-wagon some
      150 miles, from Spring Branch about 20 miles beyond Houston. Matthias Novak
      donated the church site, about 20 acres of the present parish property. The
      parish cemetery was also started in 1866.

      Father Bitkowski was succeeded in April 1868 by Father Felix Orzechowski, a
      Resurrectionist Missionary Father, who stayed only until September when he
      was followed by another priest of his Order, Father John Nep. von
      Frydrychowicz, who was pastor until June 1871. Then Father Paul Krauss, a
      German secular priest served the parish briefly until Nov. 1871. A young
      Moravian secular priest, Father Francis J. Antl, came in the meantime to try
      the Texas missions, but the July and August heat was too much for him. He
      returned to the Chicago archdiocese where he spent over fifty years in
      distinguished missionary and pastoral service.

      From Nov. 1871 to the end of 1875 Father Clement Rogdzinski was pastor at
      Praha. Father Felix Dombrowski, who had been his assistant since Jan. 1873,
      succeeded him as pastor and served until March 1879. In 1876 a new and
      larger frame church measuring 66 by 36 feet, was dedicated under the title
      of the Assumption of the B.V.M. The old church became the sacristy and
      rectory. Father Francis A. Deuermeyer was next pastor until Feb. 1880.

      For about a year after this Praha was left without a resident priest and
      was served monthly from Hallettsville by Father Francis C. Zak (Shea) who
      became in 1881 the first resident Czech pastor and served until Oct. 1894.
      In this time he administered nearly two thousand baptisms, since, though its
      former missions were severed from Praha since 1878, the faithful still came
      there from a wide radius including Moulton, Cistern, Flatonia, Engle,
      Moravia, and other smaller centers. The parish is estimated to have embraced
      some 700 families at one time. After leaving Texas in 1894, Father Zak
      (Shea) saw many years of service in Wisconsin and among the Slovaks of
      Pennsylvania until his death in retirement at La Cross, Wis., Nov. 6, 1924.
      Under Fr. Zak the construction of the present rock church was begun about
      1890. It was completed under his successor, Father Julius V. Vrana,
      beautifully furnished by generous gifts from parishioners, and dedicated
      Nov. 20, 1895.

      Father Vrana came to Praha after five years of service at Hostyn (Bluff)
      and remained as pastor until the end of 1901 when he exchanged pastorates
      with Father Louis P. Netardus, pastor of Hallettsville. In 1904 Father Vrana
      left Texas and at the present writing is living in retirement in
      Pennsylvania. Under his administration, the first Catholic school was built
      in 1896, mostly from the lumber of the old church. Sisters of Divine
      Providence taught there from that year until 1913 and since that date the
      Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament have been in charge. In
      the summer of 1897 Father Vrana began attending to Cistern monthly as a
      mission of Praha and later directed the building of the first church at
      Barton�s Creek. He now alternated monthly Masses between the two missions,
      which was continued for the next five years by Father Netardus. During
      Father Vrana�s absence in Europe in 1898, Father Stanislaus Niedbalski
      administered the parish for four months, immediately after his first solemn
      Mass here. In 1901 Fathers Prokop Neuzil, O.S.B., and Bartholomew Kvitek,
      O.S.B., of Lisle, Ill., gave a mission in the parish.

      Father Netardus was pastor at Praha from the beginning of 1902 until Nov.
      1919 and baptized nearly 1,500 souls. When deaneries were first designated
      in the diocese he was made dean of the district. Once again in 1912 Praha
      became a mother parish when Fr. Netardus had a church built at Flatonia and
      served it as a mission as long as he was pastor. Soon afterwards it became a
      separate parish and Praha has been without a mission since that time. Under
      his administration a brick rectory was built in 1906. In 1911 two acres of
      land were bought at the rear of the church, the cemetery was enlarged by
      more than three acres donated by Jos. Bily, and an ornamental iron fence was
      erected around the cemetery. Father F. X. Lepsa, C.Ss.R., gave a mission in
      1912.

      After a short vacancy Father Bedrich (Fred) Neubert was appointed pastor in
      January 1920. Under his charge the present two-story parish hall was built
      in 1922, and the present frame rectory replaced the older brick building in
      1927. In 1926 the four acre corner site of the State school adjacent to the
      church property was bought for the parish.

      Father Neubert became seriously ill in 1929 and lingered for several
      months, but death came on April 7, 1930 and he lies buried at Praha. During
      his illness the parish was served by neighboring priest except that in Feb.
      1930 Father Anthony Rehor, C.Ss.R., from Czechoslovakia gave a mission and
      then took care of the parish intermittently until Easter Monday. During the
      ensuing vacancy of six weeks Father Alois J. Morkovsky served the parish on
      the last four Sundays from St. John�s Seminary, while Father Matthew J.
      Gilbert similarly attended Weimar from the Seminary during the illness of
      Fr. Szymanski.

      Father John A. Anders was appointed resident pastor of Praha in June 1930
      and served until the end of 1944. Under his charge in 1930 the old rock
      church was stuccoed and some 500 feet of sidewalk was laid on the church
      grounds. In 1934 the cemetery was again enlarged and in that year also the
      Sisters began to teach in the State school as well as in the parish school.
      Father Anders was elected State school trustee for several terms. In 1926
      the old two-story parish school was torn down and a modern one-story
      building 80 by 64 feet was erected, and about 1938 a large pavilion replaced
      an open platform dating from 1927.

      Father Alfons Raska succeeding Fr. Anders, was pastor from Feb. 1945 until
      his death in December 1948. He was buried at Praha on the same day as the
      mother of Father Edmund Bily. Under his administration a Butane heating
      system was installed in the church and rectory, and four chapels were
      erected on the grounds in honor of the war dead of the parish and for use in
      the Corpus Christi procession which, according to long-standing tradition,
      is observed with great solemnity, as is also the annual parish feast on
      August 15, a giant home-coming without parallel.

      Father Leo E. Pesek was assistant at Praha from June 1945 to October 10,
      1946 and Father Benedict Pruski briefly in 1948 on account of Father Raska�s
      failing health. Immediately upon Father Raska�s death Father Francis Kolar,
      S.V.D., was appointed administrator and served until June 1949. He was a
      Moravian missionary from British India on leave after 14 years of labor
      there. He was succeeded by the present pastor, Father Julius A. Petru June
      15, 1949, who has since remodeled the rectory.

      Praha community has had many religious, benevolent, and cultural
      organizations. It is almost entirely Catholic and comprises about 250
      families. The parish still includes a number of old centers: Engle dating
      from 1885; Kaznic(h)ov from 1870, Grieve school district from 1882, known as
      Pesek school previous to 1892; and Novohrad from 1876. Novohrad school,
      about four miles south of Praha, dates from 1882 and has had Czech Catholic
      teachers for almost 65 years, among them F. A. Parma who was choir director
      at Praha for a long period and was supreme president of the K.J.T. for 25
      years, and W. J. Janecek who was supreme secretary of the K.J.T. for many
      years until his death.

      Vocations have been numerous in this parish. There are Father Edmund Bily
      (ord. Mar. 19, 1936), Father Vaclav J. Bily (ord. Mar. 20, 1939), Fathers
      Jerome Stryk and Francis Kalina (ord. Dec. 21, 1944), and besides these
      several other natives of the parish entered the seminary from other
      parishes. Praha also has 32 Sisters to its credit.

      This rural parish is almost exclusively Czech and Moravian. The deep faith
      of the people has completely crowded out freethinkers and other godless
      elements, and has produced the positive fruit of solid Catholic families and
      vocations.

      Rev. Julius A. Petru

      Fr. Petru was born in Cameron, Texas. Entered St. John�s Seminary in 1925
      and was ordained by Archbishop Drossaerts, April 5, 1937.

      Served briefly as chaplain at St. Peter�s-St. Joseph�s Home, San Antonio;
      Assistant, St. Patrick�s, San Antonio (1937-1941); Pastor, Our Lady of
      Sorrows, Victoria (1941-1943); Pastor, St. John�s and Moravia (1943-1949)
      and was appointed Pastor at Praha, June 15, 1949.

      [Source: Gilbert, M.J. (ed.) & Archdiocese of San Antonio, Archdiocese of
      San Antonio, 1874-1949: an illustrated record of the foundation and growth
      of parishes, missions, and religious institutions in that part of Texas
      under the spiritual jurisdiction of the See of San Antonio, pages 67-70.]

      _________________________________________________________________
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    • Janecek
      In Matt Cross post noted below: For about a year after this Praha was left without a resident priest and was served monthly from Hallettsville by Father
      Message 2 of 9 , Jul 2 8:24 PM
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        In Matt Cross' post noted below:
        "For about a year after this Praha was left without a resident priest and
        was served monthly from Hallettsville by Father Francis C. Zak (Shea) who
        became in 1881 the first resident Czech pastor and served until Oct. 1894."

        On January 17, 1881 Father Francis C. Zak (Shea)officiated at the marriage
        of my grand parents, Henry [Jindrich], Sr. and Mary (Berkenhoff) Janecek at
        Praha, Texas.

        Father Zak (Shea)later was the pastor of St. John's Church in Muscada,
        Wisconsin - a Czech community. He studied at St. Francis Seminary in
        Milwaukee. He died in Wisconsin. I have a brief bio on Fr. Zak in one of my
        clutter boxes. I found the bio in an annivesary of St. John's Church.

        An interesting note on Fr. Francis was that his Czech name was Zak and he
        used the name of Shea. In an early period of US Catholic church the Irish
        American clergy convinced Rome that they were the only ones who could govern
        the US church. Consequently. the Irish American priests, bishops, and
        cardinals were in the major positions and controled the US church. Bishop
        Emmanuel Ledvina, a Czech, was the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas
        (1921-1941). He was one of the first Czech bishops in the US. Years ago I
        remember that most of the bishops in the US including Texas were Irish
        descendents as well as the cardinals in the US (Spellman in New York,
        Cushing in Boston, McIntire in Los Angeles, etc.). It appears that Fr. Zak
        changed his name to Shea to blend in with the Irish American clergy.

        In peace,
        Otec Bedrich Janecek

        -----Original Message-----
        From: TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com [mailto:TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com]On
        Behalf Of Matt Cross
        Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 7:58 PM
        To: texasczechs@yahoogroups.com
        Cc: albrecht@...; roxannjohnson@...
        Subject: [TexasCzechs] Parish of Assumption of the BVM, Praha, and Rev.
        Julius Petru


        PARISH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE B.V.M.
        Praha, Texas
      • granny pat
        I ve read with interest the articles on the Parish of Assumption. I m attaching an unidentified picture of a priest and two young girls. This picture is in my
        Message 3 of 9 , Jul 2 9:51 PM
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          I've read with interest the articles on the Parish of Assumption. I'm attaching an unidentified picture of a priest and two young girls. This picture is in my gr-grandmother Filomena Marek's photo album. I'm wondering if anyone has seen this same picture, and if this priest could possibly be one of the priests mentioned in the articles.
           
          Pat Marek Hejl
           
        • Janecek
          This may be a priest with two altar boys in cassocks. It could also be a first or solemn communion picture. The hair is too short for girls at that time. P.
          Message 4 of 9 , Jul 2 10:29 PM
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            This may be a priest with two altar boys in cassocks. It could also be a first or solemn communion picture.  The hair is too short for girls at that time.   P. Fred
            -----Original Message-----
            From: TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com [mailto:TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of granny pat
            Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 11:52 PM
            To: TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Parish of Assumption of the BVM, Praha, & Rev. Francis C. Zak (Shea)

            I've read with interest the articles on the Parish of Assumption. I'm attaching an unidentified picture of a priest and two young girls. This picture is in my gr-grandmother Filomena Marek's photo album. I'm wondering if anyone has seen this same picture, and if this priest could possibly be one of the priests mentioned in the articles.
             
            Pat Marek Hejl
             

          • paulasmaggie
            ... 1925.paulasmaggie ... also be a ... girls at that ... [mailto:TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com]On ... Praha, & Rev. ... Assumption. I m ... This ... wondering
            Message 5 of 9 , Jul 3 6:47 AM
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              --- In TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com, "Janecek" <janecekwi@...> wrote:
              >My Grandmamma had short hair. I have a school picture of her in
              1925.paulasmaggie
              > This may be a priest with two altar boys in cassocks. It could
              also be a
              > first or solemn communion picture. The hair is too short for
              girls at that
              > time. P. Fred
              > -----Original Message-----
              > From: TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com
              [mailto:TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com]On
              > Behalf Of granny pat
              > Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 11:52 PM
              > To: TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com
              > Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Parish of Assumption of the BVM,
              Praha, & Rev.
              > Francis C. Zak (Shea)
              >
              >
              >
              > I've read with interest the articles on the Parish of
              Assumption. I'm
              > attaching an unidentified picture of a priest and two young girls.
              This
              > picture is in my gr-grandmother Filomena Marek's photo album. I'm
              wondering
              > if anyone has seen this same picture, and if this priest could
              possibly be
              > one of the priests mentioned in the articles.
              >
              > Pat Marek Hejl
              >
            • Diane Baldwin
              I thought they looked like girls with the hair pulled back and braided. ... 1925.paulasmaggie ... also be a ... girls at that ...
              Message 6 of 9 , Jul 3 7:24 AM
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                I thought they looked like girls with the hair pulled back and braided.

                paulasmaggie <pfosterbmt@...> wrote:
                --- In TexasCzechs@ yahoogroups. com, "Janecek" <janecekwi@. ..> wrote:
                >My Grandmamma had short hair. I have a school picture of her in
                1925.paulasmaggie
                > This may be a priest with two altar boys in cassocks. It could
                also be a
                > first or solemn communion picture. The hair is too short for
                girls at that
                > time. P. Fred
                > -----Original Message-----
                > From: TexasCzechs@ yahoogroups. com
                [mailto:TexasCzechs@ yahoogroups. com]On
                > Behalf Of granny pat
                > Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 11:52 PM
                > To: TexasCzechs@ yahoogroups. com
                > Subject: Re: [TexasCzechs] Parish of Assumption of the BVM,
                Praha, & Rev.
                > Francis C. Zak (Shea)
                >
                >
                >
                > I've read with interest the articles on the Parish of
                Assumption. I'm
                > attaching an unidentified picture of a priest and two young girls.
                This
                > picture is in my gr-grandmother Filomena Marek's photo album. I'm
                wondering
                > if anyone has seen this same picture, and if this priest could
                possibly be
                > one of the priests mentioned in the articles.
                >
                > Pat Marek Hejl
                >


              • granny pat
                I think they are girls with their hair pulled back. I just assumed it was a confirmation picture, but isn t the usual confirmation attire white rather than
                Message 7 of 9 , Jul 3 7:38 AM
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                  I think they are girls with their hair pulled back. I just assumed it was a confirmation picture, but isn't the usual confirmation attire white rather than black? So, maybe it's something else.
                   
                  Pat
                   
                • paulasmaggie
                  ... it was a confirmation picture, but isn t the usual confirmation attire white rather than black? So, maybe it s something else. ... they be young ladies
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jul 3 9:15 AM
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                    --- In TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com, "granny pat" <phejl@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > I think they are girls with their hair pulled back. I just assumed
                    it was a confirmation picture, but isn't the usual confirmation attire
                    white rather than black? So, maybe it's something else.
                    >
                    > Pat
                    >Just a few thoughts: maybe they are orphans living there or yet could
                    they be young ladies studying to be nuns or could they be in mourning
                    or yet could it be a school uniform?paulasmaggie
                  • Lois Petter Pereira
                    I think it is boys. See how the hair is parted on the side. Girls were never allowed past the railing (except at marriage and 1 other time i forget) so they
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jul 3 1:38 PM
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                      I think it is boys. See how the hair is parted on the side. Girls were never allowed past the railing (except at marriage and 1 other time i forget) so they could never be altar servers. This just happened in the past 20 or so years...lois petter pereira

                      granny pat <phejl@...> wrote:
                      I've read with interest the articles on the Parish of Assumption. I'm attaching an unidentified picture of a priest and two young girls. This picture is in my gr-grandmother Filomena Marek's photo album. I'm wondering if anyone has seen this same picture, and if this priest could possibly be one of the priests mentioned in the articles.
                       
                      Pat Marek Hejl
                       



                      Lois Petter Pereira
                      Researching Petter, Vitek, Bartos, Papez, Polasek, Kostelnik, Rada, Hlavica, Orsak, Urban, Susil, Manak, Rosenzwieg, Brdusikova, Halla, Psencikove, Slovakove, Susila, Susily
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