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A journey to St. Dennis Mission Church (w/video)

By Frank Tilley
April 10, 2014 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 12, 2014 at 11:13 p.m.

St. Dennis Catholic Church sits in Refugio County on the O'Connor ranches.

Imagine looking out over the horizon and seeing nothing but cattle, mesquite trees and the winding San Antonio River as far as the horizon extends. In the early 1700s, that was the vista you could expect on the plains of what is now South Texas.

Almost 20 miles from any town in any direction lies St. Dennis Mission Church on Ranch River Road near U.S. Highway 77 in Refugio County.

In the early history of Texas, during the battle for independence, having a church nearby was unique - especially considering it would have been a day's ride to and from Goliad by buckboard.

Saint Anthony of the Woods was the early original church, but it was heavily damaged from a storm in 1942, and because of material shortages during World War II, the reconstruction was delayed about 10 years.

Kathryn Stoner O'Connor, who was influential in the reconstruction of the Mission La Bahia, lent her support in building St. Dennis with an architectural style similar to Spanish missions.

The limestone blocks used in the exterior walls have traces of fossil shells embedded into the surface, adding a unique texture.

The interior of the chapel embodies the essence of historical Texas, similar to the chapel at the Mission La Bahia some 20 miles to the west. An icon of historic merit, St. Dennis embodies a vessel of spirituality in the vast sprawling cattle ranch.

Under the Diocese of Corpus Christi, St. Dennis holds mass every Saturday afternoon, which is largely attended by ranch hands living on the property.

St. Dennis is a setting where one can find God and composure to live a life of solitude on the coastal plains.

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