St. Mary Catholic Church was established in 1883 with a Mass in the home of Thomas Sutton. The celebrant, Rev. John Lauth, was serving at St Mary's Parish in Austin, Texas, and also served in Belton, Rockdale, and Taylor. Masses continued to be celebrated in private homes or rented public buildings until a stone church was built in 1891.
Rev. Meinard Lennartz was the first resident priest in Temple, arriving in 1886. Fr. Lennartz purchased two lots, and in 1886 a brick house was built for "church purposes." In 1886, the Sisters of Divine Providence arrived in Temple to open St. Mary's Institute. In 1891, a stone church and school were built in the Third Ward area of Temple.
In 1892, Rev. Pius Heckman became pastor of St. Mary's. Fr. Heckman also had primary care of the Westphalia parish as well as serving as its postmaster.
His stations included Belton, Buckholts, Killeen, Lometa, and Lampasas. His service to these towns and the surrounding farms was made easier by a fully-equipped mobile chapel. Fr. Heckman was also chaplain at the Santa Fe Hospital which had opened in 1891 and was staffed by five Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. In 1894, a rectory was built at 608 S. 3rd Street at West Ave F. St. Mary's Church, a white wooden structure, was built in 1895 at 602 S. 3rd Street and was dedicated on October 27, 1896, by Bishop Gallagher of Galveston.
Rev. Benedict C. Pfiffner of Switzerland succeeded Fr. Heckman in 1919. He established a parochial school in Temple in 1919 with the help of four Sisters of the Incarnate Word from Galveston and the faithful laity. Fr. Pfiffner was succeeded by Rev. M.J. Murray and Rev. L.A. Sampson.
In 1924, Rev. Patrick J. O'Reilly was named pastor and remained with the congregation until his death on November 8, 1966. Under the stewardship of Fr. O'Reilly, the property on S.3rd Street at Ave F was sold to Scott and White Hospital. A block of land bounded by S.7th and S.9th Streets was purchased for the construction of a new church. In 1928, the rectory, school, and convent were completed, and St. Mary's Church was dedicated in 1929. By 1947, the parish had 150 families. Eighty-three children were enrolled in St. Mary's School.
As the Temple population grew during the 1950's and 1960's, so did the Catholic community. In 1952, the church was enlarged to its present size. Playgrounds, tennis and volleyball courts, and a parking lot were added. The Parish Hall was enlarged, and the basement was converted into classrooms for the school's primary grades. Several associate priests served with Fr. O'Reilly during his tenure at St. Mary's.
After the death of Msgr. O'Reilly, Rev. Clyde Holtman became pastor and remained until June, 1967, when Fr. Arthur Michalka replaced him. Fr. Arthur was pastor of St. Mary's for 23 years until June, 1990, and served along with several associate pastors. In 1985, St. Mary's welcomed permanent deacons from the newly established deaconate program.
Rev. Charles Davise succeded Fr. Michalka until 1996 at which time Rev. Steven Nesrsta was appointed Pastor. Rev. Ranjan Cletus served as pastor from 2003 until 2014.
Since July 2014, Fr. Steven Sauser serves as the pastor of the church and school. Permanent deacons, Deacon Robert Snigger and Deacon Bonifacio (Barney)Rodriquez are assigned to St. Mary Catholic Church. Teresa Wyles is the principal of St. Mary's Catholic School since summer 2014. Numerous priests, associate priests, permanent deacons, Sisters of the Incarnate Word, Sisters of Divine Providence, and other "religious" as well as the faithful laity have served the St. Mary community through the years.
This year, 2016, marks our 133rd year as a parish. We look forward to many more years of serving our Lord and our community.
We at St. Mary Catholic Church strive to fulfill our mission in service to our Lord Jesus Christ in the following ways: by worshipping together in a spirit of love and peace lifting our hearts up to God in word and in song; by providing for the educational needs of our children in St. Mary School and in St. Mary's Religious Education Program; by providing for continuing Catholic Adult Formation and Evangelization; by offering our support and assistance to the poor and needy of our parish and community; by supporting life in all its stages; by promoting and affirming family life; and by being faithful and respectful stewards of what the Lord has given us.*