Faith at Heart of Victoria
McDonald, Liz. "Faith at Heart of Victoria." Hays Daily News, 26 July 2001.
Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration
VICTORIA For 125 years, a commitment to the strong faith
of their Volga-German ancestors has been at the heart of this small
Victoria often is associated with its impressive Cathedral of the
Plains, the St. Fidelis Catholic Church built with little money,
skilled labor or supplies. Instead, unwavering religious conviction
fueled the construction of the church, now nationally recognized
in the National Register of Historic Places as a building of "architectural
Celebrations on Friday will mark the 125th anniversary of Herzog,
the village that Volga-German immigrants established next to the
English colony of Victoria.
Residents of today´s Victoria hope their town will be known
for the meaning behind the prestigious religious structure.
"When our ancestors came over 125 years ago, they had the
greatest faith you can imagine," Ethel Younger, lifetime resident,
said. "We are continuing how they carried on."
Organizers of the celebration in Victoria said having activities
centered around the church reflects the values of their ancestors.
From the early days of its settlement, the history of the Herzog
community further demonstrates its dedication to religion.
Twenty-three German families from the Volga River region of Russia
founded the town of Herzog on April 8, 1876, located just northwest
of Victoria, established three years earlier.
The first form of worship in Herzog was a wooden cross in the center
of town. When German Capuchin friars arrived in 1878, they directed
the construction of the community´s first church.
Known as Sorrowful Mother Church, the building was made entirely
of wood and located just north of the present-day cemetery. Residents
constructed a second church within the interior of today´s
St. Fidelis in 1880.
At the turn of the century, an influx of Catholic immigrants to
the Herzog and Victoria communities finally prompted the planning
and construction of St. Fidelis, also known as the Cathedral of
the Plains. Because of the enormous proportions of the church, its
completion required assistance from all of the community´s
According to Francis Schippers, a Victoria resident and secretary/treasurer
of the Volga German Society, each communicant had to donate six
loads of rock and three loads of sand.
"It was truly a family affair," Schippers said. "Mom,
Dad and the kids all had a hand in the construction of the church."
After the church´s dedication on Aug. 27, 1911, a handful
of St. Fidelis´ priests began to minister to "spin-off"
churches in Gorham, Emmeram and Vincent.
The Cathedral of the Plains now welcomes more than 16,000 tourists
each year. Daily Mass still is celebrated, and St. Fidelis continues
to serve as the mother church to mission parishes in Walker and
Due to disappointing farming seasons and harsh climate, most of
the English and Scottish settlers who founded Victoria left Kansas
by the 1900s. In 1913, Herzog and Victoria consolidated and incorporated,
and the new town took the better-known name of Victoria.
Since 1900, Victoria has grown from a population of 507 to a 2000
population of 1,208.
Additionally, Victoria has been recognized nationally for its Catholic
friary and seminary, where many young men studied theology and philosophy
under the direction of local Capuchin priests. The Capuchin School
of Philosophy opened in 1903. The building where the seminary was
located closed during the 1980s and is now the home of Victoria
Originally operated by the Sisters of St. Agnes, the Victoria school
system was established in the 1950s. Victoria USD 423 still operates
a grade school, middle school and high school and serves students
from Walker and Pfeifer as well as Victoria.
Victoria marks its anniversary celebration with the release of
a new cookbook, "Sharing Our Best: 125 Years of Recipes and
Remembrances." The book contains more than 1,300 recipes, German
proverbs and prayers. With five weeks of sales, the cookbook already
has generated more than $21,000. The cookbook can be purchased from
the parish office for $18.
The celebration will begin Friday with a 10 a.m. Mass at St. Fidelis
with Bishop George Fitzsimons. At noon, there will be an old-fashioned
wedding dinner, prepared by Betty Froelich, along with live entertainment
from Eddie Basgall. A parade will be at 2 p.m. in downtown Victoria,
followed by live entertainment from the Country Dutchman and an
auction at 3 p.m. There will be bingo, a cake walk and children's
activities at 5:30 p.m. Galen Schmidtberger will perform at 7 p.m.,
and a cash prize drawing will follow. The festivities will close
out with a dance at 8:30 p.m. with music from the Heartland Band.
Reprinted with permission of The
Hays Daily News.