Pfeifer Residents Look Forward to Celebration

Zorn, Phyllis. "Pfeifer Residents Look Forward to Celebration." Hays Daily News, 24 July 2000.

A Volga-German Homecoming: 125th Jubilee Celebration

PFEIFER ­ Residents with ties to Holy Cross Catholic Church are looking forward to Wednesday's Volga-German 125th anniversary celebration here.

Carol Billinger is one of the planners of the event. She's a life-long Pfeifer resident and has been affiliated with Holy Cross since her baptism as an infant.

Her family's connection to the church spans several generations. Billinger's children are great-great-grandchildren of Joseph Stramel, a founder.

Pfeifer was founded 10 miles south of Victoria along the Smoky Hill River. Its founders were among the first ethnic Germans to leave Russia's Volga River region. They arrived in August 1876, with additional immigrants coming in late 1877.

Holy Cross is no longer is an active parish. There are no weekly Masses, but weddings, family reunions, funerals and Masses for other occasions sometimes take place here.

"The church was closed for lack of people and lack of priests in 1993," Billinger said.

The 40 or so members who remained have gone to other churches in the area, but only a handful of them have registered as members elsewhere, Billinger said.

Because Holy Cross no longer is an active congregation, and the town's population has dwindled, the celebration of Pfeifer's founding is being carried off with a modest outlay of funds, Billinger said.

"We're not an active parish, and we depend on donations to our charity for the upkeep of our church and the cemetery," Billinger said. "We don't have the same circumstances (as the other churches) to deal with. We cannot spend a lot of money. It's not ours to spend."

Plans for Wednesday's celebration include socializing and cold drinks in the afternoon, then ringing of the church bells at 4:30 p.m. and blessing grave sites in the church cemetery. A German choir will perform traditional music. The church bells will be rung again as participants go from the cemetery to the church.

Mass will be at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner and music throughout the evening.

Commemorative ceramic bells will be sold for $12, with the funds raised going to the Holy Cross Charities Inc.

"The one thing we're hoping for is to fill our church. It seats about 250 people," Billinger said.

After the parish was closed, the diocese told members they could do what they wanted with the church, Billinger said. They formed Holy Cross Charities to preserve and maintain the church building.

"We all banded together and sat down at our resident priest's house and wrote letters to everyone we could think of. We asked what we could do to preserve the church," Billinger said.

They spent weeks hunting up addresses of parish members, descendants of parish members and people with ancestors buried in the church cemetery.

"Then with the donations that came in, they began making repairs to the church. The building had deteriorated in the last years of its life as an active parish," Billinger said.

Sidewalks have been replaced. Landscaping has been added. The concrete surrounding the front steps was replaced. New carpeting was laid.

The big project for this year is painting the exterior wooden portions of the church.

"We send a letter every year to our donors letting them know what we have accomplished in the last year, what we still need to accomplish and how much money we have," Billinger said.

The donation-to-the-cause spirit that keeps Holy Cross in good shape is evident in the Volga-German celebration plans. Community members are providing cakes and relishes for the dinner. Volunteers will perform all the jobs that need doing.

Billinger said the job list isn't even being written out in advance.

"We're not making out a job list ... just waiting for the day," Billinger said

Reprinted with permission of The Hays Daily News.

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