On Mission: Frenstat church has strong Czech roots
By Father Tom Frank
Roughly 90 percent of Czech families who originally settled in Central Texas were Catholic. In the early1880s, there were 40 Czech families living between Caldwell and Somerville. They found available land to their liking which was good for farming and ranching and raising a family. They named the area Frenstat (friendly town) in honor of their native Frenstat in Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic).
Twenty acres of land was donated to build first a school, then the first Catholic Church in Burleson County, then a cemetery. The parish was named Holy Rosary. Frenstat first had a resident priest and had missions in Caldwell and Dime Box and later was served by parishes in Bryan and Somerville. The community is now a mission-parish served by St. Mary Parish in Caldwell, which is about 12 miles north of Frenstat.
A second church was built in 1917 and the current church was dedicated on the Diamond Jubilee of the parish in 1964. From then until today, the altar servers lead the rosary before every Sunday Mass.
Many priests have served Frenstat, some newly ordained, some for only a short time. In January 1976, excitement and wonder came to the parish when the new pastor, wearing cowboy boots, drove up on a Honda motorcycle. Thus, emphasis on youth activities began and construction on a gymnasium started. In all, two religious sisters and three priests have their roots in Frenstat.
Some 700 people are buried at Holy Rosary Cemetery –– 47 military veterans of five different conflicts and peacetime. The cemetery received a Texas Historical Marker in 2005.
An outdoor grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes was built of sandstone in 1919. In 1939 as the sandstone was deteriorating, the pastor asked parishioners to help rebuild the grotto –– this time with petrified wood, which was found nearby. Lights and a fountain plus a statue of St. Bernadette were added, making it now a lovely meditation focus.
Among the parish treasures are an antique painting of St. Dominic receiving the rosary from the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary; and the original table that was built to be the altar for home Masses before the church was built.
I recently celebrated two Sunday Masses at Holy Rosary and was very interested in their retreat ministry. With plenty of land, ample buildings and a remote and quiet location, Frenstat is ideal for retreats. One pastor named it “the Jewel in the Woods.” Youth groups, parish groups and diocesan groups have used Frenstat for retreats. The campus ministry program at Texas A&M University uses it two to three times per year for Aggie Awakening Retreat, with up 200 students participating. The last time I was at Holy Rosary, construction on a bath house had begun so that retreatants could shower during their stay. A meditation area, a fire pit and outdoor Stations of the Cross with statues and benches will also enhance the Retreat Ministry.
About 100 families make up this mission-parish. All arrive early for Mass and stay after Mass to discuss activities and events. A maintenance committee oversees upkeep and many turn out for beautification days. They recently completed a pictorial directory. Each year the parish gives scholarships to graduating seniors and a Festival/Reunion is held on the first Sunday of October. For more information visit www.holyrosaryfrenstat.com.
The Eucharist is celebrated at 8 a.m. every Sunday.