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History of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, Chappell Hill, Texas

St. Stanislaus had an active Altar Rosary Society. The Finance Council and C.C.D. Committee were in place when Fr. Greg came to St. Stanislaus. To broaden the people's involvement in the parish life, Fr Greg organized a Parish Council, Ushers' Committee, Cemetery Committee and Building and Grounds Committee.

Many changes occurred after Fr. Greg's arrival. C.C.D. classes, held in the old parochial school. were moved to the Sisters' home, after some renovation. A chapel was set up in this home where daily masses were celebrated. In late 1986 an office and work room with all necessary equipment, were added to the rectory. That same year the parking lot, between the rectory and community center was paved.

In 1987/88, a complete renovation of the church, including restoration of the altars, stations of the cross and statues was undertaken and completed. The Altar Rosary Sciety deserves special recognition for their hard work in raising $7,400 over a period of six months, to pay for the renovation of the Blessed Mother's altar and statue.

A Reconciliation Room, bathroom, new lighting system and sound system were installed. Among many new items purchased for the church were vestments and an organ. A vast majority of the parishioners were actively involved in the material and spiritual renovation of their parish.

They have given not only of their time and talents but their "treasures." All these things were done in preparation for the centennial celebration to be held on November 12, 1989.

Fr. Greg returned to his homeland, Warsaw, Poland in May 1993 and was replaced by a Jesuit, Fr. O'Shea, who remained in the parish until December 1994.

Fr. Richard Goluch, came to Chappell Hill on a temporary assignment on January 1, 1995 and returned to Poland on April 15, 1995. Although he was here a short time, he helped the parish in transition during a very difficult time.

Fr. Eugene Shepard, the twelfth pastor came to Chappell Hill in april 1995. Fr. Shepard was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and entered the Dominican Order of Religious men as a brother in 1950. After assignments of Chicago, Madison and Minneapolis, he was sent to Dallas, where he learned that he loved Texas and couldn't be paid to leave.

Fr. Shepard earned a bachelor's degree at St. Edward's University in Austin. He had a desire to become a prison chaplain. He worked at the Travis County Jail and the Wall's and Fergusio's units of the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville. Dealing with the violence and abuses of man against man and against the system, Fr. Shepard realized that he was not made for that type of work.

Fr. Shepard served as pastor for St. Anne's Catholic Church in Somervillle, Texas for nine years prior to arriving in Chappell Hill. The old rectory has been restored and is now used for CCD classes and meetings. It has been renamed, Family Center.

There is a feeling of togetherness since Fr. Shepard arrived. He enjoys serving the elderly and brags o the choir as being the best choir in the Catholic Church. All of the members are over 70 years of age and the oldest is 96.

Some Statistics: When St. Stanislaus was still a mission, the first child baptized was John Kmiec, sone of Peter and Anna nee Brandt Kmiec, born June 18, 1889 and baptized June 23, 1889 (recorded at St. Mary's, Brenham by Fr. James Grabinger).

Records at St. Mary's Brenham indicate that the first confirmation for Chappell Hill, totaling 86 members of St. Stanislaus was dated October 19, 1891. Walenty Gutowski and Petronela Rosinski were the sponsors.

The first baptism in the newly built church of St. Stanislaus was that of Theodore Kotyras, son of Valentin and Francisca nee Hoffman Kotryas on November 11, 1894, by Fr. Theodore Jaron.

The first marriage was that of Albertus Gutowski, son of Walenty and Katherine nee Cieslewicz Gutowski and Victoria Bednarek, daughter of Andrzej and Maria Bednarek on November 12, 1984, by Fr. Jaron.

The first baptism in the present church was that of Edmond Nowak, son of Stanley and Martha nee Cegielski Nowak, on October 26, 1924.

The first couple to exchange wedding vows in the present church was Stanley and Martha Springer Lewandowski, on November 5, 1924. They are still members of the parish.

It is interesting to note that between 1895 and 1934, 74% to 84% of all marriages occurred in October and November. The area was an agricultural community, and crops were harvested by this time of the year.

Bue to the strong Polish influence on the community, by the early 1890s other people, including blacks and hispanics, learned to speak broken Polish.

Thirteen baby girls were adopted by Polish families through the efforts of St. Stanislaus Church and a New York orphanage in early 1900.

After World War II more and more young adults sold their farms and moved to houston and other cities searching for better economic opportunities. Many of these people, now retired, have moved back to Chappell Hill. Some of the younger generations return to Chappell Hill for weddings, baptism and reunions.

Registers of the parish show that as of May 1996 there were 3,168 baptisms, 903 marriages, and 1,182 funerals. In 1989, there were 150 families registered in the parish and 185 families in 1996. Some families living elsewhere, still cultivate their ties with the "home parish".

"Come, Follow Me…" St. Stanislaus parish was blessed with several priestly and religious vocations. Nine young ladies entered the convent of the Sisters of Divine Providence in San Antonio, Texas and Sophia Bartkowiak entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Cleveland, Ohio.

 
Baptism Name
 
Order Name
  Petronella Tomcza   Sister Mary
  Janie Bilski   Sister Eustella
  Hedwig Tomczak   Sister Lillian

Deceased Sisters

 
Baptism Name
 
Order Name
  Anna Zientek   Sister Chrysostom
  Apolinia Tomcxzk   Sister Simplicius
  Bernice Bilsk   Sister Concordia
  Martha Pawlak   Sister Jeanett
  Annie Gutowski   Sister Walter
  Sophia Bartkowiak   Sister Mary Nicephora

Sister Stanislaus Kmiec withdrew from the convent.

Three young men who received their early years of education at St. Stanislaus parochial School became priests. Vincent Gurka withdrew after several years.

Fr. Benjamin J. Kaminski
Msgr. John C. Malinowski
Vincent Gurka

Parochial School: Fr. Francis Nona built the first school in 1910. It was staffed by lay teachers who taught in Polish and in English from 1910 until 1918, under the direction of Mr. Ossowski.

Fr. Tabor submitted a request in 1917 and the Sisters of Divine Providence Arrived in October 1918. They taught 220 students that year. From 1911 to 1962 a total of 55 Sisters taught at the school.

With the shortage of nuns in other cities with large enrollments, Mother A. Amata, Superior General, requested the removal of the nuns. There were only 80 students in eight grades being taught by three sisters of Divine Providence. The parish school closed in May 1962. The children then attended public schools in Chappell Hill and Brenham.

Since the time of closing, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes are held weekly from September through May. Lay teachers have taught religion since the Sisters left in 1962.

Dedicated Service: Among many parishioners who have served the church in an exemplary way for many years, is one who deserves special recognition and gratitude.

Mrs. Lucille Dekowski Pawlak who served as organist at St. Stanislaus for 62 years. She was a substitute organist from 1923-1930. In 1930 she started playing full-time and served until her retirement in 1985. She also taught choir and assisted with musical programs for St. Stanislaus Parochial School and the C.C.D. "Miss Lucy," as she is affectionately called, is a deeply dedicated person who would close the door of her business for a few hours to assist at funerals, weddings or just daily mass.

Grotto: In 1957 a grotto was constructed on the foundation of the bell tower that burned in 1921. The grotto was donated by Mrs. Mike Pawlowski and Mrs John Dekowski, in memory of the Pawlowski and Dekowski families.

The Immaculate Conception Grotto is constructed of honeycomb rock from Georgetown, Texas and was built by R. A. Watson of Houston. Louis Kronenburger of Houston donated the cross inside the grotto, while the statue in the grotto was a gift of Louis Pawlowski in memory of the Pawlowski family. The cross and the statue were imported form Italy. The late Bishop Harris was present for the dedication on August 11, 1957.

Cemetery: The Parish Cemetery is located 1-3/4 miles west southwest of Chappell Hill. Over the years land for the present cemetery was donated by several families: William H. Langhorne Jr., Jacob and Konstancya nee Nowak Cegielski, and Mike and Sophie nee Derkowski Jezierski.

The first interment in the cemetery was that of John Kmieczyszewski on December 1, 1894. Shaded by old cedars and crepe myrtles, many of the early grave markers are in Polish with the inscription "Tu Spoczya Swietej Pamieci…", meaning "Here rest in sacred memory…"

In 1934 John Kmiec donated an imported Italian Marble cross as a religious centerpiece in the cemetery. In 1985 a mausoleum was built and the cross was placed on this structure. Burial rites are conducted at the mausoleum site now rather than the gravesite.

 

This article originally appeared in the July 1996 Wahington County special edition issue of
Polish Footprints, published by the Polish Genealogical Society of
Texas
.

 

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