St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha, Texas, one of the Texas Painted Churches photographed Wednesday August 3, 2016.
More images available in a gallery HERE.
The present stone church was completed November 20, 1895. Since then it has undergone many phases of renovations and restorations. The latest changes took place in 1965 with the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council. A new altar was put in front of the reredos (the present main back altar) so that the presider would face the worshipping assembly. The wooden floor in the sanctuary was covered with green shag carpet. The rest of the church floor was covered with green and white vinyl tile. The Ambo (pulpit) was removed and replaced with a simple wooden structure. The walls of the church were painted an off white color. Ceiling fans with light kits replaced the old light fixtures installed in the 1930s with the advent of electricity.
The present Renovation/Restoration Project began in 2011 with the replacement of the leaking shingle roof with a copper roof by Tejas Roofing, Fredericksburg. A new drainage system on the west side of the church was installed to divert the rain water from flooding the basement of the church as it had done for years.
In January 2015, the church was closed to worshippers and the interior restoration work began. A part of the St. Mary’s School was converted into a worshipping space for the Sunday liturgy.
In 1865, the settlers, though having little or no money and barely enough food for their own survival, did build a small chapel.
This chapel, measuring 17-feet by 15-feet, was made of stones. The walls were 18 inches thick. Considering the thickness of the walls, the chapel inside measured only 15 1/2 feet by 13 1/2 feet – not much larger than many a room in a modern home.
The stones used in the chapel are much smaller than the ones used to build the present church, and appear to be slabs of stone ranging from one to five inches in thickness.
About 90 feet slight northwest of the chapel, the people also built a small stone hut measuring 14-feet by 14-feet wherein the visiting priests could stay while in this area. He could also robe for Mass here as the chapel was too small to accommodate a sacristy. The walls of this hut were also 18 inches thick. There was one 14-inch by 14-inch window in the north side with four criss-crossed iron bars imbedded in the windowsill, apparently to keep out large predators. The large door on the south side was made of 1 by 6 inch planks, complete with a hard-carved 1-1/2 inch peg three inches long still in place in the door frame wich appears to have been used to latch the door.
These structures still sand on Knezek Road, about 1/2 mile east of the present church, on property now owned by Elton and Henrietta Moeller. Mr. Moeller stated that the sandstone, or rock stone as they are commonly known in the area, still turned up when his pond was shaped and the land was worked. These stones are like the ones used to build the chapel and the hut.
The first Mass was offered in the chapel at midnight on Christmas Eve in 1865. The celebrant was Father Joseph Bittkowski, a Benedictine missionary priest who was serving in this area of Texas under the jurisdiction of the Resurrectionist Missionaries. These missionaries had come to Texas to minister to the Polish People.