Pfeifer Church Rings in 125th Anniversary

Sherard, Judy. "Pfeifer Church Rings in 125th Anniversary." Hays Daily News, 26 July 2001.

A 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 Mikols.)

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 jubilee.

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 1950s.

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, Urban said.

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 there.

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 the altars.

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 children.

"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.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller