BIS Travels: The Central Texas Painted Churches

The Central Texas painted churches are famous, but not so famous that they’re a touristy hotspot. Don’t you love discovering hidden gems?

This Lent, our family decided to make a day-trip pilgrimage to see five of them. We prayed a decade of the rosary at each, taking people’s prayer intentions with us. It was a really beautiful day with only minimal sibling rivalry. <– the true miracle of the day!

Yes, you can take an “official” tour through the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce. But with no room for the tour guide to “step on” our van (unless riding strapped to the top was an option) and with the need for flexibility with six kids, we flew solo. The painted churches are a beautiful, physical reminder of Czech and German immigrants who settled in Texas. These immigrants wanted schools and churches to help nurture their faith, so they erected and painted these awesome places of worship. Unfortunately, hurricanes and fires destroyed many of the first-generation churches. Thankfully, communities rallied and have re-built (and re-built) these churches to pay homage to their heritage. When I posted our pilgrimage on Facebook, a friend commented how she grew up in the area and went to countless festivals, weddings and events as a kid in all these churches. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous. How cool would that be?

It was an awesome day. Here’s a peek at our pilgrimage, what we loved, what we learned and why we’d do it again. In a heartbeat.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church  |  Ammannsville
This was our first stop. We were the only ones in the church and the kids did amazingly well. This was a really light, airy church inside and I loved that the altar was all in white. In fact, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was one of the prettiest I’d ever seen. Situated just to the right of the church was the cemetery. All the churches have huge pavilions nearby and it made me itch to attend a summer festival. I bet those are grand!

Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church | Dubina
Otherwise known as the church that caught us on surveillance video. For some reason, this church was gated on the inside. But because I needed pictorial proof that we did, indeed, visit Dubina, I encouraged three of the kids to crawl through the gate. I swear all they did was take photos. We ended up praying our decade of the rosary in the church’s narthex, so that totally counts. Figures that two of the kids needed to use the facilities, so they got to break in the outdoors. I almost posted that picture, but a rehearsal dinner in 2030 kept me from doing it.

Most of these churches don’t have onsite bathrooms (at least not that were easy to find), so I suggest going to the bathroom in places like Shiner and Schulenburg. Or, bring an empty water bottle. HA!

St. Mary’s Catholic Church | High Hill
You may remember this beauty from our Texas Forever vacation last summer. St. Mary’s is the church where I nursed my baby because Pope Francis said so. Well, I did it again, all while praying the rosary. Yep, just as lovely, only with a bigger baby – 10 months vs. 2 months.

St. Mary’s is probably the most ornate of all the churches and it just feels like home there. If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be a close tie between this one and Ammannsville.

St. Mary’s, Church of the Assumption | Praha
We were so incredibly sad to drive up and see that Praha was closed. We knew it probably would be, but there was a part of us that hoped the internet was wrong. Instead of breaking in to yet another church, we opted to pray our rosary at the Marian grotto just a few steps away. While we prayed, Luke picked me flowers and the sibling rivalry ramped up. There may, or may not, have been some elbows thrown during that last Hail Mary, or four.

After Praha, the wheels were starting to fall off. The troops were hungry. We swung through Shiner for a little What-A-Burger. Because nothing says Texas like spicy ketchup and sweet tea. We jokingly called this trip the addendum to our Texas Forever vacation.

Once everyone was fed, Gianna included, we hit the road for our last stop.

Sts. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church | Shiner
Sadly, this church didn’t also come with a side of Shiner Bock. Next time, we’ll have to make a stop at the brewery. As the last stop on our painted churches tour, I was hoping to finish strong. And finish strong we did. This church is also connected to the local Catholic school and I couldn’t help but think, “Wow. What’s it like to have school Mass in here every week?!”

After we prayed our final prayers, I could hear the anxious feet of my kids. They took one last look around and then bolted for the door to run off some energy with Scott following quickly behind to manage that crazy. Gianna and I found ourselves in the church, just us. For a moment I stood at the back and took it all in. The beauty. The quiet. The solitude.

And I felt peace.

Our spring has been filled with little schedule, open weekends and less chaos. This moment in the church reminded me that we had made the right choice for our family. That choice had afforded us this brilliant day. What a way to enter into the final weeks of Lent. Wherever you may be on your Lenten journey, just know that, in the words of our associate pastor, “it’s never too late to start again.”

When to Visit
The churches are all open Monday-Saturday, 9am-4pm (some a little earlier or later). Most of them still conduct weekend services, so keep that in mind if touring on Saturday or Sunday. The church in Praha is currently undergoing renovations and is closed until mid-August 2015.

Thanks for letting us pray for you!

Written by Kathryn Whitaker. Original published here. Find out more about her here.

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