St. Mary's Church
St. Patrick's church was erected in 1891. It was the original church in the Somerset district. Prior to that time, Holy Mass was celebrated in the home of Mr. Patrick Kenney. When the community decided to build a Catholic Church, Mr. Patrick Kenney donated the land for the church and the cemetery.
Mr. Kenney together with a group of Irish, German, French, and Mexican descent families, guided by Father Domingo Vento, built St. Patrick's. It was located two miles west of the present day Somerset, Texas in Bexar County. That church served many generation of families for years.
The site of St. Patrick's church is still referred by the locals, as "La Colorada",The Red-Haired Woman. Years ago,
the settlement surrounding the church was called by that name before it was named Bexar. The settlement,
and eventually the church, were named after Mrs. Opperman, a red-haired woman. She was the owner
of a store in the community.
Several years after the church was built, a bell was purchased, from the MeNeely Bell Company of Troy, New York,
to call the community to worship. It was shipped over water via the Gulf of Mexico to Indianola, Texas. Then it
was sent north across the Texas plains to its destination. The total freight bill was $161.00. It was hung in a
specially built tower located behind St. Patrick's Church. On a clear day, the bell could be heard for five or six miles.
Its composition consists of silver metal.
In 1895, when Father Vento would come to see his flock, once a month or so, the bell would summon the people
from the neighborhoods for Mass. People would travel by buckboard, horseback or by foot to celebrate the Mass.
When bad weather or muddy roads conditions delayed certain families, everyone agreed to wait an hour or two
until everyone arrived; only then was Mass celebrated.
In 1907, a branch railroad was built through the district and a new town called Somerset sprang up. Many of the
people from "La Colorada" Bexar moved to Somerset and the former town virtually disappeared.
In July of 1933, Father Mitchel, S.M., announced that a new church was to be built, in the community of Somerset,
since St. Patrick's church was old and in need of repair. The Mexican-American families protested because they
wanted to retain the old church. The Archbishop approved of the separation, leaving the burden of building a
new church to a small group of families. Later that month the church was named St. Mary after St. Mary's
University. The cornerstone was laid on November 12, 1933 and the church was dedicated on March 4, 1934.
Mrs. Virginia Pyron donated the land for the new church in Somerset. The Catholic Extension Society of
Chicago donated a considerable amount of money. The parishioners, especially the Catholic Ladies Auxiliary,
helped pay off the debt by 1937.
Father Lamm served both St. Patrick's and St. Mary's parish while continuing to teach at St. Mary's University.
Every Sunday he would celebrate Mass at 8:00 a.m. at St. Mary's and then at 9:00 a.m. at St. Patrick's. On his
way to St. Patrick's, he would give rides to parishioners who were walking to Mass. Like in the days of Father
Vento, the bell at St. Patrick's rung at 8:00 a.m. to summon parishioners throughout the district for Mass.
Father Lamm, strongly believed in propagating the faith and recruited a dedicated group of lay helpers from
San Antonio to teach Christian Doctrine. In 1940, members of the Fulton Sheen Guild, under the guidance
of Miss Frances Smith, undertook year-round catechetical work in the parish, especially St. Patrick's. In
addition, a Vacation School was held every summer for two weeks, taught by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word.
Though St. Mary's Church was built in 1934, it did not officially become a parish until April 16, 1947.
At which time St. Patrick's became a mission of St. Mary's.
In 1954, St. Mary's church received a gift of automatic electric Angelus Chimes in memory of Miss Frances Smith.
In 1958, due to the condition of St. Patrick's church, the Archbishop decreed that St. Patrick's church be closed
and all parishioners in the Somerset district worship together at St. Mary's.
As a comparison, in 1941 the combined number of parishioners of both St. Patrick's and St. Mary's were
120 families and 580 souls. At last count St. Mary's has 280 families.
Within the parish there are two cemeteries. The oldest one is St. Patrick's. It is referred as either San Patricio
or La Colorada. It is located at the site where St. Patrick's church used to be. There are seventeen graves of
native Irishmen in the cemetery. Many of the older graves have ornate granite work of exceptional skill.
That cemetery continues to be the resting place of descendants of the founding families. One of the oldest
graves at San Patricio belongs to Maj. John Malone, C.S.A. 1883.
The other cemetery is St. Mary's. It is located across the street from St. Patrick's Cemetery. The Breckenridge
Coal Company donated land for that cemetery in 1938.
In 1941, it was decided to open up a clinic to aid the community it was staffed by Dr. Stanley T. Lowry, Dr.
John Callon, Mrs. Walter Kurz, R.N. (wife of the Somerset postmaster), Mrs. Albert Hassler who assisted
Mrs. Kurz and acted as secretary, and Miss Guadalupe (Ruby) Casias who acted as interpreter and keeper
of records. No questions regarding religion were asked, and sick persons of all faiths or no faith used the clinic.
The only requisite for its use was the inability to pay. During the short tenure among its most outstanding
results were: 1) a marked decrease of sickness in the entire area (some 200 square miles); 2) a better attendance
at Sunday Mass, rectifying marriages, baptisms, etc.; and 3) a better understanding between all members of the
community. In 1941 the clinic served 203 adults and 164 children.
Father Lamm strongly felt that the Catholic community would be best served by building a parish school.
Therefore, he arranged for the Sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary, founded by Father William
J. Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary to come from Spain to take charge of the School, St. Ann. With
the aid of other priests, brothers, seminarians and parishioners a convent and school were built. The school
functioned for 10 years from 1950 to 1960. Since the closure of St. Ann's the school buildings have been used
to teach religious education to the school age children of the parish.
Father Domingo Vento, 1892
Father Joseph Moule, December 1894
Father John A DuMoulin (Padre Juan)
Priests from the Claretian Order and San Fernando Cathedral
Father Albert Mitchel, S.M. 1933
Father Cayetano Romero, 1937 - 1938
Father William Lamm, S.M. 1934 - 1964
Father Hilary van de Velde, C.I.C.M. 1964-1970
Father Marcel Van Hemelryck, C.I.C.M. 1970-1975
Father Felix Avau, C.I.C.M. 1975-1983
Father Paul Newhouse, C.I.C.M 1983-2003
Father Ed Pavlicek, Jr. 2003-2011
Father Rolando, 2011-2012
Father Alex Pereida, 2012 to 2018
Father James Kotara, 2018 to present
Father Walter A. (Mike) Mushalla, 1989-1998
Deacon Joseph Merlin, 1980
Deacon Roberto Cruz, 2001 to 2018