Houston church a beacon for faithful after 100 years

April 15, 2012 9:02:45 PM PDT
It might be hard to image what Houston looked like 100 years ago, but in one east Houston neighborhood, the changes of the last century are not so evident.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is celebrating its centennial this year, and it is still considered a beacon for Houston's faithful.

It's a tradition 90-year-old parishioner Petra Guillen cherishes and has carried out nearly all of her life.

"To me, it means everything. That's why I've been here all my life," she said.

Guillen was married in this church and raised her 13 children here as well.

Every Sunday for as long as she can remember, Guillen has sold religious artifacts outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

The church has survived and thrived for 100 years at the corner of Navigation and Jenson in Houston's Second Ward, inspiring fierce loyalty among many of the faithful like Guillen and her longtime friend, Carmen Castro Ramirez.

"I was baptized here when I was three months old. I'm 92 years," Castro Ramirez said. "I have had many, many, many miracles. This is my second home."

Kids have played in this courtyard everyday for the past century. The Catholic school next door was built at the same time as the church. The property also includes a historic cemetery -- connection between past and present that's kept generations of families united in their faith.

"I think the connection to family. It's the roots that were established here in this part of Houston and so even though they may move away, they still come home because its familiar its comfortable its literally where they feel most at home," Father Ed Kilianski said.

Possibly the newest element of the church is its pastor. "Father Ed" was assigned here four years ago, and he plays to a packed house every Sunday.

"What I've noticed here is there is a faith here unlike any other. The people are extremely welcoming extremely hospitable friendly the easily hug their priest, and make me feel like I'm part of their community," Kilianski said.

The Nuns of Oblates of Mary Immaculate founded the church in 1912 to serve the then-growing Hispanic population.

The original buildings were torn down and rebuilt in the 1920s. Parishioner Trinidad Tamayo remembers.

"It used to be nothing but wooden two-story building, wooden building," Tamayo said.

The church has provided his moral compass, strong and unwavering. As for what the next 100 years brings, he relies on his faith.

"Only God knows," he said.

The church's first mass was August 18, 1912. This year, Mass on August 18 will be celebrated by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. The church is establishing a yearbook of past and present parishioners.


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