St. Patrick's Weekly Bulletin
St. Patrick Parish in Bloomington embraces an area that includes the southern part of Victoria County and the northwestern section of Calhoun County.
The beginnings – 1908 to 1912
W.P. (Jim) Skarda wrote in his parish history in August of 1985: “On September 3, 1908, I arrived in Bloomington with my father, mother, and seven brothers and sisters. We got off the train at the stockyards [used to load cattle], as there was no depot. The stockyards were located just northeast of the present depot. We walked south down the railroad tracks for about a half mile, to the combination post office, general store, and hotel. The only other structure in sight was an old abandoned ‘bunk house’ about a half mile away.”
The Reverend Peter M. Baque, a Frenchman born in Spain, founder of the Missionary Servants of St. Anthony, was the first priest to come to Bloomington, beginning in 1915. He was assigned to St. Agnes in Edna, Texas. It is said that he spoken seven languages, was a talented pianist and played the piano after Masses. Baque Lane in San Antonio is named after him. He would visit Bloomington every other Saturday in the Sleckta home. The room held about fifteen people standing up. The altar was a common bedroom dresser.
The Earliest years – 1912 - 1920
When attendance increased beyond capacity the faithful moved to the local funeral parlor in 1916, In a short time the funeral parlor also became too small, so the faithful moved into a former two-room schoolhouse. The school was later torn down, and the faithful began to meet in an abandoned pool hall, behind Angerstein’s store. The pool hall also stored hay. Bales of hay were arranged to support the altar. The confessional was an open door which separated the priest from the confessor.
When the pool hall was torn down, the faithful went back to the funeral parlor.
In 1919, the funeral parlor was bought from J.E. Ryan of Victoria with help from the Catholic Church Extension Society and remodeled into a church by the Warburton and Skarda families. The pews were purchased from the Christian church which had disbanded in town. Even after the remodeling, some of the caskets in the original containers were used for the Altar and in various other ways. When Bishop Arthur J. Drossaerts dedicated the Church in honor of the Sacred Heart on January 13, 1920 he pointed to the caskets as a poignant reminder of death. Father Baque donated the statue of the Sacred Heart.
For the first time, the parish had owned her worship space. Attendance had grown to fifteen families.
In the early 1920’s the Ku Klux Klan became very active in Bloomington. Several prominent citizens were members. The Klan was anti-Catholic, anti-Jews, and anti-African Americans. There were few Jews and African Americans, so their animosity was directed primarily toward Catholics. The Klan would patrol the town at night on horseback, dressed in white sheets and hoods. There was speculation that they were armed. The town was divided, and anyone who opposed the Klan was known as ‘anti.’ The post office was neutral territory, although the postmaster was an alleged Klan member who reportedly distributed anti-Vatican literature and bogus Knights of Columbus oaths. When his term of office was up, an ‘anti’ candidate won. It was not until the 1930’s that a Catholic was employed as a school teacher, and one was elected to the school board.
Sacred Heart Mission 1920 to 1942
The building was used until 1942 when it had to be abandoned after being severely damaged by a hurricane. During that year Bloomington was officially attached as a mission of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Victoria. In 1943 the Trinitarian Fathers took over the administration of Sacred Heart Church. Carpenters were instructed to tear down an old abandoned church in Mission Valley. There was some sort of misunderstanding, and the men removed the roof and walls of the abandoned Sacred Heart Church in Bloomington. When Fr. Daniel Giorgio was notified, he ordered them to stop, because they were tearing down the wrong church.
Sacred Heart Mission 1943 to 1959
A new building was erected at the corner of Third and Rail streets. The new twenty-four by fifty foot structure, considered “much too large for the congregation” at the time, was soon crowded beyond capacity and was built for $2900, collected in full prior to the build. The church was painted white with a red shingle roof.
The statue of Sacred Heart was brought from the old church. St. Mary’s Church in Victoria gave two angel statues. Msgr. Beck gave the choice of two kneeling or two standing; the parish opted for the two standing. Our Lady of Sorrows Church gave the Statue of the Infant of Prague. The bell came from Mission Valley.
On September 15, 1959, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the original Sacred Heart Mission was established as St. Patrick’s Parish.
St. Patrick’s Church 1960 to present
Patrick Welder donated the building of a new church complex located on a five acre tract of land located on Highway 185 in honor of his parents. The church dedication stone reads: “Dedicated to God: erected in loving memory of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick H. Welder by their son, Patrick 1960.” The church was solemnly dedicated by Archbishop Robert E. Lucey, May 1, 1960. The first pastor was the Reverend Gino Bernasconi (d. 2006).
The church is of contemporary Spanish mission-style, designed by architect Harvey P. Smith of San Antonio. The entry of the church, facing the highway contains a complete mosaic stained glass of St. Patrick of Ireland, the patron saint. The furnishings for the Church came from the people of the parish.
In 1975 a multi-purpose parish hall was added to the parish complex under the pastorate of the Reverend Michael Harrold (1971-1978). This new building offered classroom space, kitchen facilities, and meeting areas. In the following years the kitchen would be upgraded, the interior of the hall remodeled, a large storage facility added adjacent to the hall, and large barbecue pits and an adjoining workroom would be built behind the hall.
On May 29, 1982 the Diocese of Victoria was established and St. Patrick’s became part of the new diocesan territory.
In 1990 the St. Patrick’s Knights of Columbus Council 10751 was established.
In 1994 through the generosity of James Skarda, the old Sacred Heart Mission was renovated at its former site into a meeting hall. It still stands today, but not in Bloomington, rather, in Port Lavaca, at our Lady of the Gulf Catholic School. It has been converted into a schoolroom. The parish gave the structure to Our Lady of the Gulf in 2003.
In 2000 a new office building was added to the parish complex, under the pastorate of the Reverend Jacinto Olguin (1986-2000). Following the original master plan of the property, the large space compliments the mission-styled exterior and contains the pastor’s office, a conference room, and a large “Heritage Room” for meetings and small banquets and is equipped with restrooms and kitchen facilities.
In November of 2001 Court St. Patrick’s #2494 of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas was established.
Each year a Spring Barbecue is held, normally the last Sunday of April to celebrate the dedication of the church (May 1, 1960), after which on that day barbecue was served. There is also an annual Turkey Dinner which takes place the last Sunday in September, which celebrates the date of her founding. In 2003, the Turkey Dinner was postponed for several weeks due to Hurricane Claudette, which due to extensive hurricane damage, the church roof was replaced under the pastorate of the Reverend Matthew Huehlefeld (2000-2006).
Other pastors who have served the parish include: the Reverend Lawrence Steubben (1969-1970), the Reverend Roy Rihn (1970-1971), the Reverend William McNamara (1978-1981), and the Reverend Ricardo Garcia (1981-1982) deceased. During the pastorate of the Reverend Gerard Cernoch (1982-1986) the parish celebrated her twenty-fifth anniversary.
In preparation for the 50th anniversary of dedication, under the pastorate of the Reverend Ty Bazar, the parish buildings were painted in 2008, the parish hall kitchen and restrooms were renovated and the hall received new wireless light controls in 2009, the barbecue shed and pits were painted and a new roof was installed in 2010. On the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the parish, September 15, 2009, the parish celebrated with a potluck supper in the parish hall, with food items collected for Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry in Victoria. The parish celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the church with a Mass presided by Bishop David E. Fellhauer on Saturday, May 1, 2010. A catered lunch was served in the parish hall and a slide show of photos from the past fifty years was shown. Reverend Bazar presented Bishop Fellhauer with a gift on behalf of the parish, opening the St. Patrick’s Seminary Burse in the amount of $1000.
July 14, 2010, the Reverend Samuel Appiasi became the eleventh pastor.
The year 2010 marked the 98th year of Catholicism in Bloomington. The parish numbers over 330 registered families. One vocation to the permanent diaconate has come from the parish. Fred Soto was ordained a deacon August 15, 1987. Parish organizations also include the Guadalupañas. The religious education program educates over 200 students. Parishioners come from Bloomington, Placedo, Dacosta, Crescent Valley, and even Victoria.
(updated, June 20, 2010)
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