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St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church

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The city of La Feria is celebrating its 100th year anniversary and to commemorate the occasion we are digging deep into our archives each week to bring you images and stories from La Feria’s colorful past.

BiCentennialHistoryCover The following story is a chapter from a manuscript entitled The Bicentennial History of La Feria, Texas written by Eddie Gathings McNail in 1975. Throughout the coming year we’ll be reprinting sections of her research into the history of La Feria as the city celebrates its 100 year anniversary.

In 1848, the Oblate Fathers’ trail in the Valley extended from Roma to Brownsville. These Oblates were called “the mounted Cavalry of Christ.” Bishop John Marie Odin of the diocese of Galveston, sent two priests to Roma: Father J. M. Gaye and Peter Keralum. They set to work to build a church to replace the one that had been built many years before by priests from Mier, Mexico. They erected the Roma Church which was recently renovated.

Father Keralum served as a missionary or circuit priest and planned and built the Immaculate Conception Church and St. Joseph’s College in Brownsville.

The second site for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in La Feria. This building was erected in 1930 after the original frame building, along with all the recrods archived there, was destroyed in a fire in July 1929. The building now houses the Food Bank and capilla. Photo: Cayetano Garza Jr./LFN.

The second site for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in La Feria. This building was erected in 1930 after the original frame building, along with all the recrods archived there, was destroyed in a fire in July 1929. The building now houses the Food Bank and capilla. Photo: Cayetano Garza Jr./LFN.

On a mission in 1874 he disappeared completely. He was expected at La Piedra by nightfall, but he did not arrive. An intensive search was organized from ranch to ranch and house to house. His horse was found wandering in the mesquite a few miles north of the present city of Mercedes.

A rancher, Manuel Aleman, pursuing an animal into the thick chaparral in 1882 found the skeleton, rosary and a crucifix.

Near the body was a warped saddle.

The relics and the remains were carried to Brownsville and later were removed to the Oblate cemetery in San Antonio. Thus ended the life and work of a dedicated man of God.

The La Feria Townsite Company, Inc., with S. F. Schnorenberg as president, donated lots 5 and 6 in Block 14 to the Catholic Church.

The old frame church of St. Francis Xavier was built early and dedicated in 1912 with the Rev. Claudio Jaullet, administrator of the Vicarate Apostolic of Brownsville, sede vacante, on April 9, 1912, ministering to the few families who attended, according to A Parish Remembers by Rev. Edward Kennedy, O.M.I., our Lady of Mercy Church, Mercedes, Texas, 1959.

In 1928, a parish was established by the Bishop of Corpus Christi, and the Rev. Father J. S. Schmidtner was appointed as the first pastor.

The frame building with all the records was destroyed by fire in July, 1929, and a new structure and rectory of Spanish architecture were built in 1930 under the direction of Father Schmidtner.

Some of the early members of the La Feria Parish were: Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Schnorenberg, Mr. and Mrs. William Allen, Ludwig Zimmerer, Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Zimmerer, Mrs. Helen Zimmerer, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Zimmerer, Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Bauer, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Phillipp, Mr. and Mrs. John Schuckenbrock, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Grotzinger, Mr. and Mrs. Nick Lauer, Mr. and Mrs. Jules Lievens, Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Wolf, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph La Fond, Carl Zeitler, Mr. and Mrs. Steve Habec, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Till, V. A. Peters, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Stopak and Mrs. Henry Sepp.

Recent pastors have been: H. J. Schmidtner, 1930-1931; E. N. De Bruin, 1931-1935; Frank Gronotte, 1935-1939; Bernard Dougherty, 1939-1952; Hobert H. Buckholt, 1952-1967; Leo Ferreira, 1967-1969; Joseph Murray, 1969-1974; James J. Brown, 1974-1975; and Frank Aguirre, 1975-.

The Ladies Altar Society, founded in 1923, has been diligent in the work of the church. The charter members were Mesdames A. L. Bauer, Sr. , Al Zimmerer, A. J. Phillips and Walter Grotzinger Some 700 families belong to the St. Francis Xavier Church with a total membership as of November 1, 1974 of 3,250 members.

The La Feria Parish has donated time, gifts and attendance to the furtherance of God’s Kingdom on earth.


Do YOU have any photos, books, or stories that might help us piece together La Feria’s storied history? If so please email us or call our office at 956-797-9920 and let us know!

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