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Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church offers beauty, history for generations

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

The altar of Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church in Shiner. The Rev.J.A. Forest blessed and dedicated the church on May 7, 1891, under the name of SS. Cyril and Methodius.

SHINER - A solemn swell of organ music filled the sanctuary at Shiner's Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church as Christine Wagner, her head bowed, rehearsed her hymns for Mass.

The 12-year-old, who already serves at the altar and sings, is doing her part to prepare for when the current organists graduate and her services will be needed.

"It's neat to give back," she said once her morning practice came to an end. "I like to do as much as I can."

Still, the girl with the long blond curls isn't the first in her family to offer the gift of music. Her great-grandfather, Dr. Frank Wagner, for instance, donated the church's first organ in 1950.

Stories like the Wagner family's - one generation leaving its mark, then others continuing the legacy - are familiar within the church, said Deacon Joe A. Machacek, a lifetime member of Saints Cyril & Methodius.

It's that ongoing commitment, he said, that helped the church become what it is today.

The church's long history in the Crossroads dates to 1890 - just three years after Shiner became Shiner - when the Rev. John A. Forest met with a group of men to discuss construction of a church, according to the church's website.

Land was purchased, construction began in January 1891, and the building was completed in May of that same year.

The following year brought change as, in February 1892, Saints Cyril & Methodius became a mission of the Moulton parish. Later that month, a tornado twisted through Shiner, pushing the church 11 feet off its foundation and destroying the tower.

After the necessary repairs, the church continued forward.

In 1897, the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament established a school, Machacek said.

In 1912, the church became its own separate parish, according to the website.

The house of worship's continued growth meant a larger church was necessary, Machacek said, and the building's current incarnation was blessed in 1921.

It didn't end there, however, because more renovations - a complete renovation began in the mid-1990s - and additions joined the mix through the years.

Ongoing repairs strive to not only maintain the church's longtime beauty, but also keep the building structurally sound, said the Rev. Kirby Hlavaty, who joined the parish in 2011.

The first phase of a $1 million capital campaign ends this year, he said. It includes things such as replacing the bell tower, adding air conditioning units and replacing outdated wiring.

An upcoming second phase - an anticipated $4 million job - includes reclaiming convent space and bringing it up to code with elevators, handicap-accessible bathrooms and the like.

It's no inexpensive feat to keep such an old structure going in modern times, Hlavaty said, but in the end it's worth it.

"We realize that someone else made sacrifices for us to be able to worship in this beautiful building," he said. "We are lucky enough to be stewards of this church, to be able to have a part in preserving its beauty for future generations."

Today, the ornate church not only serves as home parish for many Shiner families and education grounds for those attending its Catholic school, it is also a popular tourist site for those looking to catch a glimpse at Texas' "painted churches."

For those who venture inside, there's plenty to take in.

Intricate stained-glass windows detail Jesus' life, for instance, while statues of the saints, painted depictions of Biblical verse and other religious artwork surrounds those in the sanctuary.

And there's always something new to find, said Machacek, 65, who grew up in the church.

"I'm working here every day, yet there's always something I'm discovering," he said, gazing up at the church's brick exterior which, he noted, is made of more than one million bricks. "It really is beautiful."

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