On the plains, east of San Antonio are small, beautiful churches built in the mid- to late- 19th Century and early 20th Century by immigrants. Mostly Czech and German, these immigrants were farmers without a lot of room in their budget for church building; however, they were also deeply committed to the religious heart of their communities. Almost all are Latin Rite Catholic churches with names like St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption or Saints Cyril and Methodius Church. Altar rails are still present with altars of ornately carved wood. My friends and I toured many of these churches a couple of summers ago, and I’m ready to go again.
Almost all these churches are made of wood, but there are churches with stone or brick exteriors. One of the churches was built by German immigrants and is the birthplace of Catholic Life Insurance a fraternal organization which is still going strong 116 years later.
Most are painted on the inside with light blue colors (for Mary) with delicate floral and celestial designs even on the apex of the high vaulted ceilings. In one of the churches, my friend Kathy pointed out that the columns in the church were painted to look like marble. I had to touch one before I could see she was right. There is a quaintness about most of the designs, but the community that built the churches also found the money for statues and other religious art. Some of the statuary is magnificent—the kind that usually comes from Italy—and the Stations in one church were probably 3 feet tall. It charmed me to see the title of each Station in Czech.
Each church inspired me to respect the quiet and imparted a sense of reverence.
Schulenburg, Texas is the starting point. There are guided tours available, or you can pick up a map from the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce and make the circuit at your own pace. The churches are still in use but available to tour Monday through Saturday.