Saints Peter and Paul – Pioneer Parish in Texas
The seeds of our parish 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 Odin of the newly formed Vicariate Apostolic of Texas (it had not yet been elevated to a diocese). 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, our 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. Fr. 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 Diocesan Clergy who have brought the parish to a modern, multi-cultural Christ-centered entity with ministries that serve the area with full Vatican II spirit. Little did those immigrants in 1844, who stepped off the ships with names as Arnold, Fey, Klein, Lux, Mergele, Reininger, Riedel, Schertz, Schneider, Schwab, Syring and Wenzel, realize what they would help start in Texas. The cornerstone of our current stone church was laid in 1871 and has gone through two expansions, 1963 and 2000. From the small beginning our church has grown to over 2750 registered families today.
May the impetuousness of Peter and the fiery drive of Paul, under the guidance of the Divine Providence, continue to lead our parish for our third century of witnessing to God’s Word!