Archbishop Gustavo encourages parishioners to keep a prayerful attitude and faithful disposition
August 10, 2021 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper
Archbishop Gustavo encourages parishioners to keep a prayerful attitude and faithful disposition of heart and mind at New Braunfels church anniversary Mass
Following a year of COVID-19 restricted activities, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in New Braunfels marked its 176th church anniversary and 100th grotto anniversary and rededication with a Mass featuring three bishops and numerous priests from the archdiocese at a June 29 feast day Mass.
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” St. Paul wrote those words as he awaited his execution and 43 year ago, and a month before his passing, Pope St. Paul VI made a public balance of his pontificate, famously adopting those same words.
Two months later, Pope John Paul I recalled that homily of his predecessor in a catechesis about the faith, where he pronounced them too. He passed away two weeks later.
“What a beautiful witness of the Apostle and the two popes! That sentence summarizes lives of tremendous missionary struggles to which we should aspire. That’s right!” exclaimed Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, in his homily. “We must joyfully desire and carry the cross of keeping and expanding the faith in our own hearts, our families and our communities. The Lord stands by us and he gives us the strength. He will rescue us from every evil threat and will bring us safe to his heavenly Kingdom.”
According to Archbishop Gustavo, St. Paul attributed his fruitfulness proclaiming the Word -- even among the Gentiles -- to his faith. “His secret was to trust in the Lord. And he feels happy, confident even to face martyrdom because he knows that he is fulfilling the will of God. The important thing was not how or when, but to always trust that the Lord stands by him and gives him strength. That is why he is neither hopeless nor afraid.”
The archbishop acknowledged that fear is a natural feeling, but if faith is humble, sincere and constant, we will be happy, or at least positive and at peace. “If we keep our faith, we will always be able to help others through active service or inspiring them to follow the Lord,” he explained. “We must be aware of that duty we have as followers of Christ: to enlighten others, to be ‘the salt of the earth.’”
The prelate of San Antonio requested that listeners pray for Pope Francis, for him, for all the bishops – including Auxiliary Bishop Michael Boulette and Auxiliary Bishop Gary Janak, who were present at the liturgy -- and for unity in the Church.
A pioneer parish in Texas
According to a history of the parish on the church’s website, the seeds for Sts. Peter and Paul began when 85 immigrants stepped onto the Republic of Texas soil in 1844. Under German leadership, they were seeking to create a new life in the western part of the young Republic.
Naïveté among their leaders forced a change in plans and they settled (temporally, they thought) on the banks of the Guadalupe River near the crossing of the Nacogdoches Road.
Prince Solms was under orders to establish two churches in the new settlement … a Protestant Church and a Catholic Church. While on the coast, he found a preacher, Rev. Ervendberg, whom he enlisted for his Protestant component. Finding a Catholic priest was much more difficult. Solms had already visited the Redemptorist priests in Baltimore and the Jesuits in Louisiana seeking help, but none were available.
When he had arrived in Galveston, he immediately sought out Bishop Jean Odin of the newly formed Vicariate Apostolic of Texas (it had not yet been elevated to a diocese). Bishop Odin tried, against all odds, to locate a priest for his “German Catholics.” There were less than a dozen priests in all of the Republic and several newly arrived priests died in the cholera or fell to other tragedies in the area.
After Solms had settled his Germans in what became known as New Braunfels, Odin arranged for “saddle-bag priests” to attend to our needs here. In 1849, the first pastor, Gottfried Menzel, arrived and our parish was officially incorporated. The three parishes in central Texas at the time were San Fernando in San Antonio, St. Louis in Castroville and our St. Peter in New Braunfels. Father Menzel wrote to a friend in 1850 that he was the “only priest” in all of West Texas as he lived in New Braunfels.
In the 1850s, Bishop Odin worked hard to get the Conventual Franciscans to come to Texas from Europe to take over his “German parishes.” At the end of the decade, he traveled to Latrobe, Penn., to seek the help of the Benedictines for the same parishes.
From 1869 to today, the parish has been blessed with archdiocesan clergy who have brought the parish to a modern, multi-cultural Christ-centered entity. The cornerstone of the current stone church was laid in 1871. From the small beginning the church has grown to more than 4,500 registered families today.
As to the grotto, in 1918 and 1919, a major influenza pandemic spread across the globe, killing between 50 and 100 million people. An estimated half a billion people, one-third of the world’s population at the time, was infected. In Comal County and New Braunfels, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish was hit equally hard. Between Sept. 24, 1918 and May 10, 1919, parish records directly attribute 45 deaths to the pandemic. In an effort to reduce the likelihood of cases of influenza during the pandemic, the parish and school both closed for a few weeks, as was the case during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
The pastor at the time of the pandemic was Father J.M.J. Wack from Lorraine, France. He served at the parish from 1889 to 1923. Father Wack led the parishioners in making a solemn vow in which they promised the Blessed Mother to build a grotto, a replica of the one in Lourdes, France, if there would be no more deaths in the parish during the pandemic. Not another parishioner died from the disease after the vow was made. In fulfillment of the vow, Father Wack traveled to Lourdes in 1920 to obtain the exact specifications of the grotto. A stonemason came from Nebraska to lead the stone work. The honeycomb rock that was used came from the ranches of parishioners. Flint rock came from around the parish grounds in what is now the parking lot for the school and thrift store. Parishioners worked on the grotto through June 1921 under the guidance of the stonemason. The names of those who helped were sealed in a can which was secured below the grotto’s stone altar. On June 29, 1921, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, there was a double celebration in the parish. Bishop Arthur Droessarts from San Antonio and many other dignitaries celebrated the dedication of the grotto, as was the case this year.