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South Texas Living

Area residents celebrate a 1913 migration of the faithful

Area residents celebrate a 1913 migration of the faithful
Among those celebrating with the community of White Deer are (front, center) the Most Rev. Patrick J. Zurek, bishop of the Amarillo diocese, and (far left) Monsignor Franciszek “Father Frank” Kurzaj of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Floresville and president of the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation. They were joined by 38 travelers from Floresville, La Vernia, Panna Maria, Gillett, Runge, Poland, and San Antonio.

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Elaine M. Stephens
September 18, 2013
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Over the Labor Day weekend, the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation made a chartered bus trip to attend the 100th anniversary of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in White Deer, Texas, in the Panhandle. The White Deer community and parish were established in 1913 by Polish families from South Texas, Bandera, and other locations who traveled to White Deer in the early 1900s to take advantage of job opportunities and land offered by a large ranching company.

The Sacred Heart founding families included familiar surnames: Kotara, Kotzur, Rapstine, Urbanczyk, Mazurek, Kalka, Haiduk, Czerner, Anderwald, Gordzelik, Peters, and Warminski. The travelers, 38 people from Floresville, La Vernia, Panna Maria, Gillett, Runge, Poland, and San Antonio, were led by Monsignor Franciszek Kurzaj, pastor at Sacred Heart parish in Floresville and president of the Father Leopold Foundation.

The anniversary celebrations included a visit to the cemetery, a gala at the parish hall, a welcome reception with Polish pastries, a Centennial Mass, and a Polish sausage dinner. The Centennial Mass celebrants were Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of the Diocese of Amarillo; the Rev. Mieczyslaw Przepiora, pastor at Sacred Heart in White Deer; and Monsignor Kurzaj.

Many of the foundation travelers met for the first time their cousins whose ancestors left South Texas for new opportunities in White Deer during the 1913 migration. Many members of the foundation purchased the parish cookbook and Roots of Faith, The Story of Sacred Heart Parish 100th anniversary edition.

Included in the bus tour were four professors and Monsignor Kurzaj’s niece from the Wroclaw University School of Physical Education in Poland, who are currently in Floresville to conduct health research.

On the way home, the bus group stopped in Groom to view the large cross and life-size Stations of the Cross.

For more information, visit or For more information about Sacred Heart Church in White Deer, call Carolyn Anderwald Rapstine at 806-669-3020.

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