(Orange, Texas)

December 15, 2011

St. Mary’s was established early in the community, education and missions

David Ball
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — One would think an early Catholic church in Orange would have a heavy Cajun influence, being so close to Louisiana, but St. Mary’s was primarily composed of Catholics of other nationalities in its beginning.

The earliest recorded Catholic Mass in the area was conducted by the Rev. P. F. Parisot in 1853, five years before the city of Orange was incorporated.

In 1879 the Rev. Vital Quinon (d.1894), a native of France, came to Orange at the request of the local railroad superintendent Charles A. Barton, who was concerned about the city's reputation as a rowdy and lawless industrial town. Known as the "Fighting Priest," Father Quinon provided the leadership necessary for the formation of this church.

Established as St. Vital's it originally served a parish comprised primarily of German, Austrian, Irish and Polish immigrants.

Significant growth began in 1896 when the Rev. J. M. Moran (1859-1922) of Ireland was assigned as the first resident priest of the parish. The congregational name was changed to St. Mary's in 1912 and a school and cemetery were established in the 1920s.

Prominent church leaders have included the Rev. George Berberich (d.1947) of Germany, who came here in 1929, and his brother the Rev. Msgr. Joseph Berberich (d.1980), who joined him in 1937.

Through their guidance, St. Mary's Catholic Church developed as a leader in community involvement, in quality education, and in the establishment of area missions.