Pfeifer Residents Look Forward to Celebration
Zorn, Phyllis. "Pfeifer Residents Look Forward to Celebration." Hays Daily News, 24 July 2000.
Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration
PFEIFER Residents with ties to Holy Cross Catholic Church
are looking forward to Wednesday's Volga-German 125th anniversary
Carol Billinger is one of the planners of the event. She's a life-long
Pfeifer resident and has been affiliated with Holy Cross since her
baptism as an infant.
Her family's connection to the church spans several generations.
Billinger's children are great-great-grandchildren of Joseph Stramel,
Pfeifer was founded 10 miles south of Victoria along the Smoky
Hill River. Its founders were among the first ethnic Germans to
leave Russia's Volga River region. They arrived in August 1876,
with additional immigrants coming in late 1877.
Holy Cross is no longer is an active parish. There are no weekly
Masses, but weddings, family reunions, funerals and Masses for other
occasions sometimes take place here.
"The church was closed for lack of people and lack of priests
in 1993," Billinger said.
The 40 or so members who remained have gone to other churches in
the area, but only a handful of them have registered as members
elsewhere, Billinger said.
Because Holy Cross no longer is an active congregation, and the
town's population has dwindled, the celebration of Pfeifer's founding
is being carried off with a modest outlay of funds, Billinger said.
"We're not an active parish, and we depend on donations to
our charity for the upkeep of our church and the cemetery,"
Billinger said. "We don't have the same circumstances (as the
other churches) to deal with. We cannot spend a lot of money. It's
not ours to spend."
Plans for Wednesday's celebration include socializing and cold
drinks in the afternoon, then ringing of the church bells at 4:30
p.m. and blessing grave sites in the church cemetery. A German choir
will perform traditional music. The church bells will be rung again
as participants go from the cemetery to the church.
Mass will be at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner and music throughout
Commemorative ceramic bells will be sold for $12, with the funds
raised going to the Holy Cross Charities Inc.
"The one thing we're hoping for is to fill our church. It
seats about 250 people," Billinger said.
After the parish was closed, the diocese told members they could
do what they wanted with the church, Billinger said. They formed
Holy Cross Charities to preserve and maintain the church building.
"We all banded together and sat down at our resident priest's
house and wrote letters to everyone we could think of. We asked
what we could do to preserve the church," Billinger said.
They spent weeks hunting up addresses of parish members, descendants
of parish members and people with ancestors buried in the church
"Then with the donations that came in, they began making repairs
to the church. The building had deteriorated in the last years of
its life as an active parish," Billinger said.
Sidewalks have been replaced. Landscaping has been added. The concrete
surrounding the front steps was replaced. New carpeting was laid.
The big project for this year is painting the exterior wooden portions
of the church.
"We send a letter every year to our donors letting them know
what we have accomplished in the last year, what we still need to
accomplish and how much money we have," Billinger said.
The donation-to-the-cause spirit that keeps Holy Cross in good
shape is evident in the Volga-German celebration plans. Community
members are providing cakes and relishes for the dinner. Volunteers
will perform all the jobs that need doing.
Billinger said the job list isn't even being written out in advance.
"We're not making out a job list ... just waiting for the
day," Billinger said
Reprinted with permission of The
Hays Daily News.