Panna Maria, Texas: Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception… the Oldest Polish Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.
About Panna Maria, Texas:
In 1854, a group of approximately 100 families from Poland, led by Fr. Leopold Moczygemba, arrived at the port of Galveston, Texas, often called the “Ellis Island of the West”.
From there they traveled up the San Antonio River to the junction the Cibolo Creek, about 55 miles south of San Antonio. Panna Maria, in Polish, means Virgin Mary…as you may have guessed.
On December 24 of that year, they celebrated their first Mass under an oak tree. The next year they built a church next to the tree, which unfortunately was struck by lightning in 1875 and burned to the ground. A new church was built in its place in 1877 and then enlarged in 1937.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S. they began holding school sessions in various buildings, and then built the first Polish private school in the U.S. in 1868.
The school is now a museum that highlights the life of early Polish immigrants to the U.S. Guided tours are conducted by volunteers. You need to call in advance to schedule a tour.
Traveling to Panna Maria, Texas:
Panna Maria is about 50 miles Southeast of San Antonio. The Visitors Center is the place to start….just across the street from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Address: Highway 81, center of town (you can’t miss it)
GPS coordinates: 28° 57′ 27.9000” N, 97° 53′ 53.1852” W
Tel: +1 (830) 780-4471
Click here for the official website of the town of Panna Maria
Overnight visitors may wish to stay here at the Panna Maria Convent Inn.
Click here for a great website about the history of Polish Catholics in Texas
There is no official website for the church, but you can find their Mass schedule on the website of the Archdiocese of San Antonio
Photo credits J P Smock Photography