Sacred Heart Church, Palestine
Sacred Heart Church
Sacred Heart Church. From Mrs. Roy F. Abell's beautiful "History of the Sacred Heart Parish," published in the Palestine Herald, the main information contained in this account is derived.
The first priest to minister to Palestine came from Nacogdoches in 1873. He was Father Louis Granger and he traveled one hundred miles from Nacogdoches, once or twice a month, to serve the small band of Catholics in Palestine. The trip, made horseback, required two days—the schedule being, generally, to spend the first night at Rusk then, on the second day, to travel as far as the old Mergenthal place about six miles east of Palestine, there to spend the night. This made it convenient to reach Palestine the third morning in time to celebrate mass. It is interesting to note that, at this time, there was no church ,and, amongst his other multitudinous duties, it devolved upon the visiting prelate to keep up with the ever changing place of worship. The difficulties arising from this uncertainty may be better understood, when one is reminded of the fact that the celebrant of mass must have been fasting from midnight. Certain properties used in the ordinance must be piously guarded and handled according to strict rule—the vestments, the consecrated altar stone, the sacred vessels. All this constituted the precious pack which was a part of every traveling priest's paraphernalia. To consider the time and effort necessary to making ready the temporary altar, then, the necessity of notifying the parishioners as to its whereabouts, one's sympathies go out to the fasting man, who already had such a perfect right to be wearied from that hard horseback journey.
Truly, the missionary priest is entitled to all the veneration his devout parishioners no doubt bestow upon him. Sometimes, Father Granger celebrated mass in the old Masonic ball which became the Fullinwider home, but doubtless the first and more frequent places available were in the homes of the various Catholic families residing in' the community. Several notable ones had come with the railroad in 1872. The growth of the little congregation was such that, in 1874, a resident priest was assigned to Palestine. In May, 1890, the loss of the Catholic church by fire destroyed all the church records so just the extent of this growth can not be known. But Father Badelon; the new priest had come and the parish had reached some state of organization by September 12, 1874, because it is known that on that date the I&GN Railroad deeded two lots 52 x 100 feet to the Roman Catholic Church of Palestine. These are lots 9" and 10 of the block on which the Catholic Church stands today. Lot 8 was bought by Father Badelon and later deeded to Bishop Dubuis of this diocese of Galveston. The first church, a frame building 30 x 60 feet was erected on these lots. It was dedicated in 1875 under the name "St. Joseph's Church." Materials for the church, largely donated by Rucker's saw mill and various individuals, were hauled by mule team; crude benches were constructed; a small organ purchased, altars and their equipment installed and the little group were happy at last in the possession of a house of their own in which to worship God. Mrs. Abell earnestly extolls the "patience, perseverence and industry" of the early workers who toiled so faithfully to accomplish their goal. Then she enumerates the most probable members of the first congregation of 1873 and 1874. Thos. Cronin, Wm. Branagan, Martin Hinzie, Jno. Merganthal, Tom and Philip Anglin, Jno. Koler, Thos. Rickard and their wives and children are all mentioned. The families of Jno. Burg and Philip Gunning are named as having come into the church in 1876, while John and Dan Meagher and the Cossettes followed soon after. By 1880 no less than fifteen Catholic families were in the community. This number, as Mrs. Abell adds, was "a very few in a land where one of the first requirements for settlement had been the confession of . Catholicism." As is customary with all Catholic churches, the first thought upon establishment of a church turns to the training of the young. "Give me a child till he is five years of age and he is mine forever," is the commonly accredited Catholic sentiment. True to this feeling, one of Father Badelon's first acts was to invite the Sisters of St. Agnes, whose Mother House is at Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, to open a school here. Before this, however, two secular teachers had instructed the children of the parish.