Pfeifer Church Rings in 125th Anniversary
Sherard, Judy. "Pfeifer Church Rings in 125th Anniversary." Hays Daily News, 26 July 2001.
Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration
Allen Roth (left), Hays, and Merle Jacobs
(right), Pfeifer, ring the bells of Holy Cross Shrine 125
times Wednesday afternoon for the Jubilee Celebration. Both
grew up in the parish and served as alter servers. They used
to ring the bells for Mass on the weekends. (Photo by Karen
PFEIFER Just as it has been since it was built, Holy Cross
Shrine was the hub of activity for a community celebration.
Wednesday it was the site of the 125th anniversary of the Volga-Germans
settling the area.
"We´re not an active parish. All the work is done by
donations to Holy Cross Charities. Our only source of money is donations.
We've been working ever since the church closed," said Larry
Urban, who lives just a few yards from the church and currently
serves as president of the Volga German Society, which organized
The charity group is responsible for the church´s restoration
and maintenance, which is an ongoing project.
"We took the forms off the sidewalks on the Fourth of July.
The landscaping´s not done yet," he said.
Inside the building, workers have painted, carpeted the aisles
and had the communion altar restored.
Construction of the present building, which cost $56,000, began
in 1916, and the building was dedicated May 3, 1918. Father Peter
Burkard was the parish priest at the dedication.
However, the church wasn´t painted and decorated until the
It´s sometimes referred to as the 2-cent church because every
family was asked to give 2 cents from each bushel of wheat sold,
The ornate building was patterned after churches in Germany, which
explains the side balconies, accessible only by ladder. In their
German counterparts, they were used for musicians playing instruments.
However, Urban said he could remember those in the Pfeifer church
being used only once when the Fort Hays State University choir performed
The present building is the third church built on the site. The
first was a frame building, and the second one was rock, around
which this one was built.
The three white altars, a large one in the center and two smaller
ones on each side, don´t match the rest of the wood in the
church because they came from the former church, Urban said.
The altars were a large part of why Marie Antinette Novack, 71,
who now lives in Hutchinson, returned for the reunion with her daughter
and granddaughter from Ogden. Her grandfather, John Schlitter, built
Novak lived in Pfeifer for "quite a while" as a child.
She remembers when the town was alive with activity and included
two grocery stores, one of them right across the street from the
church, and a filling station.
The church and grounds figure prominently in her childhood memories,
which include celebrating Corpus Christi by going house to house
for the feast and families placing food they had prepared for Easter
on the altar to be blessed by the priest.
As youngsters, Novak and her neighbors attended picnics and played
baseball in the lot behind the church and whirled many summer days
into night on the merry-go-round next to the church. The merry-go-round
is still there but is in disrepair and no longer can spin laughing
"There´s not very many houses left, compared to then,"
Novak said of the town.
A post office is the only remaining service in the town that now
has 50 to 60 residents.
"How much time do you have? It won´t take me long to
count them," Urban joked.
Though the church no longer is used for regular Masses, it´s
still used for weddings, funerals and family reunions.
"I think my twin granddaughters´ baptism was the last
one. They´re 3 years old," Urban said.
Just after 4 p.m. the church bells rang out commemorating the 125
years and calling those attending to Mass and the blessing of the
cemetery. Pfeifer native Father Reginald (Ivan) Sanders was one
of the celebrants.
Pulling the heavy ropes in the vestibule to ring the church bells
has long been a tradition for Mass servers.
"One was called the big bell. I remember as a kid you would
grab hold and ride it to the ceiling," Urban said.
A dinner and musical entertainment followed the Mass
Reprinted with permission of The
Hays Daily News.