On Mission: Small town works together to continue traditions of faith
By Msgr. Tom Frank
Frank and Rosalie Marak, with their three sons, George, Stephen and Thomas, came to Central Texas, Milam County in 1882. They found fertile black soil fit for cultivation, especially for cotton. Other families, also of Czech background, came to the area and this new settlement acquired the name “Marak” and so it has remained.
For many years, a priest would ride in once a month to celebrate Mass in a home, but in 1903, 43 Catholic families in the area decided it was time to begin a church and parish. The settlement of Marak supplied the lumber and other materials and the contractor received $485 to build and paint the church and to build 24 pews. The first Mass in the church was celebrated April 18, 1904. The parish was named Sts. Cyril and Methodius after the two apostles of the Slavic nations. Father Kasper Kacer was assigned by the bishop to be the first pastor. A rectory was built for him, and he stayed until his death 38 years later.
From 1925 to 1953, a Catholic school was operational in Marak and run by the Sisters of Incarnate Word.
In 1948, as the parish was growing, an Army Surplus Chapel in Brownwood was purchased for $1,000. Parishioners drove over to Brownwood early each morning, disassembled part of the chapel, and drove that piece back to Marak where it was re-assembled. That chapel was later expanded, refurbished inside and outside, stained glass was added to make a fine building, visible today from several miles away. The parish hall was renovated and is available for parish activities and rentals. The state of Texas installed a historical marker in 1994.
A parish cemetery was begun in 1909 on three acres of donated land. The cemetery, along with all the grounds, are kept tidy by parishioners. The first pastor of Marak is buried in that cemetery, “Right under the big cross,” according to one parishioner. A small pavilion was built in the cemetery in 2005 to be used during inclement weather.
In 1967, the Marak parish became a mission of St. Joseph in Cyclone (12 miles away); in 1982 it became a mission of St. Monica in Cameron (9 miles away) and since 1988, it is back to Cyclone. Sts. Cyril and Methodius has about 130 families and is currently stable. During their history, one priest and five religious sisters have emerged from Marak.
October is Czech Heritage Month and the church hosts a “Homecoming” every year. This year, they served 2,100 plates and the Vrazel Polka Band played for the 55th year in a row.
Religious education classes are on Sunday mornings before Mass. An Altar Society keeps the church and all the liturgical items fresh and clean. There is an active KJT and KJZT and as well as a Knights of Columbus Council with Cyclone. A Domino Social is on the second Monday of each month with a pot-luck lunch. A quilt club, “The Stitches Witches,” began in 2005 –– their hand-made quilts have brought almost $35,000 to the parish through auctions and sales.
In 2014, a large pavilion was in construction behind the parish hall, when the pastor Father Walter Matus died suddenly. By unanimous vote, the pavilion now carries his name.
The current parishioners in Marak speak fondly of belonging in a small parish where all work together and where it takes everyone for it to work well. There is no debt and all buildings are in good shape. Their next building project would be a rectory for a permanent priest.
Sunday Mass is celebrated at 10:15 a.m. and a Czech hymn is still sung each week during the distribution of Communion. To visit during the week, call (254) 697-1247 –– it’s worth the trip!