Big Lessons Come in Small Packages

Vattmann, TX

Our Lady of Consolation Church in Vattmann, TX

Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Vattmann, TX is a relatively new addition to the Oblate Family of ministries, but there’s nothing new about this rural community of faith in the Diocese of Corpus Christie. According to the Vattmann Texas website, the town and the Parish were founded by German immigrants:

    “Vattmann was once called Vattmannville after Father Edward J. Vattmann who was secretary to the Catholic Colonization Society. Vattmann was invited to visit the area by Theodore Koch, land developer for Riviera and Riviera Beach.

     Father Vattmann was impressed with the location and with his approval, German Catholic families started moving there. The first family was from Westphalia, Texas (Falls County). Others came from other parts of the U.S. and they built their first church in 1909. The present church, Our Lady of Consolation, was built in 1920, after the devastating 1916 hurricane.”

Nowadays the original Church also includes two nearby mission churches: Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission in Riviera, Texas and Sacred Heart Mission in Ricardo, Texas. All are being served by Oblate Father Andy Sensenig, also pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sarita, Texas.

(L-R) Fr. Andy hears the report on the fund raiser by Bill Schonefeld.

Many of the current parishioners are descendants of the original German immigrants to Vattmann and Our Lady of Consolation is the Church they’ve attended their entire lives. Fr Andy ran into one of them as he arrived to prepare for Mass on a recent Sunday, Bill Schonefeld was there early working with parishioners on a parish-sponsored Bar-B-Q fundraiser.

On his way to the Sacristy, Fr. Andy stops to chat

While the Church building is small, the parishioners pretty well fill it up this Sunday morning and it is clear that just about everyone knows everybody else. During this morning’s Mass, Fr. Andy asks the congregation to bless four catechists who will be teaching PSR. One of them, Goldia Hubert told us about her family’s long history at Our Lady of Consolation. No doubt there are many other folks in Church that could tell similar stories.

Fr. Andy and the congregation bless the catechists, (L-R) Debbie Unterbrink, Bunny Marez, Julie Harris, and Goldia Hubert

The feeling one gets in this atmosphere is that perhaps, one “can go home again” in small ways, like spending time in a small church, in a small town, where everybody knows everybody else. One of the things faith is supposed to do is provide comfort, and one certainly feels it here. Nevertheless, they undoubtedly have their issues like everyone else, Vatmann and the surrounding area is no “Mayberry” even if it feels a little like it on a Sunday morning.

Fr. Andy is pleased to be here though there is much to do with two parishes and two Mission Churches. He’s still working to be close to the people of Vattmann, that’s what Oblates are know to be after all, “close to people.”

After Mass folks linger and chat outside

In his short time as pastor to the people of Vattman, Fr. Sensenig reflects on what he feels he’s learned from the people there, “The one thing that I have learned so far from ministering to and with the parishioners at Our Lady of Consolation in Vattmann is there is a dignity and grace in becoming fragile.
Often times fragility is seen as a weakness in the world around us and we try to cover it, but not at Vattmann.
They are a proud and older parish community, but when push comes to shove they are exceedingly honest in where they are at and willing to keep moving forward.
It is just as St. Paul discovered in dialogue with the Lord complaining about his weakness in prayer and he heard the Lord’s reply… ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. (2nd Corinthians 12:9, taken from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE)).
With these good people of Our Lady of Consolation, I will learn how to be weak, so Jesus can be strong.”

It appears that there are big lessons to learn, even in small communities of faith