In 1880 ten Catholic families built a modest mission church, St. Vitalis, at Pine and Sixth St. in Orange, Texas.  Previously these families from Poland, Germany, Austria and Iceland took turns being hosts for masses celebrated by a visiting missionary priest.  In 1896 Father J.M. Moran became the first resident pastor.  Two rooms were added to the rear of the church for his living quarters.

Now in 1883, St. Mary Altar Society was organized by two Dominican nuns who came from Beaumont to wash linens and vestments.  They asked some of the women in the parish for help and thus, St. Mary Altar Society was formed.

For 130 years, we have been washing church linens and vestments.  We bet it is easier now, then back in 1883!

Through the years, we have not only washed linens, cleaned the church, but also provided flowers for the altars, candles for the chapel, church linens, vestments, altar bread and wine, and mended the linens.  We have helped the soup kitchen, Birthright, St. Mary’s youth and St. Mary School.

During the 1898 storm the St. Vitalis Church was blown off it’s foundations.  it was restored and later moved to Ninth and Cherry Street on property purchased by the parish during Father Frei’s pastorship.

In 1911 the church was completely destroyed by fire.

In 1912 the first St. Mary Church was completed and dedicated.  St. Mary School opened October 24, 1924, staffed by four Dominican nuns.

Father Joseph O. Berberich was sent to Orange to asset his brother, Father George Berberich, and was instrumental in the formation of parishes in Orangefield, Vidor and Bridge City.

Through the years the clergy and people of St. Mary’s have been supportive of the Catholic community of St. Theresa, which was founded by the Josephite Order.

In 1956 the present church on Cherry and Eighth Street was dedicated. The church grew to 1300 families by 1978.  At this time, the Bishop instituted the new parish of St. Francis of Assissi for the northern part of the city, leaving 900 families at St. Mary’s.

Throughout the years, the St. Mary Altar Society has served the people and the Lord.  There are those who pray that our work will continue and why we encourage our friends and church members, especially the young, to join us as they are our future of the next 130 years.

Our oldest member was Mrs. Coke (Marion) Tilley, who was 105 years old when she died.  She join the Altar Society in 1924, and she is the reason that our organization is what it is today.  She worked so long and so hard for the church.

The women of St. Mary Altar,  located at 912 W. Cherry in Orange will be holding their annual Gift Shop and Gumbo Luncheon (this year now called “Holiday Extravaganza”).  We have changed quite a bit of it, and it now has the looks more of a gift shop.

This is to be held on Thursday, November 17th from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at St. Mary Parish Hall located at 912 W. Cherry Avenue in Orange.

The Gumbo Luncheon will be cooked by Larry David and will be served from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for $8.00.  Meal tickets can be purchased at the door.  Luncheon consists of gumbo over rice, crackers, potato salad, tea and dessert.  Take out orders are available for $8.00 with containers furnished.  There will be “no” delivery.  For large orders, fax by noon the day before on November 16th, to 409-883-3547, stating how many orders and what time you are to pick up.

Homemade, baked and canned goods are available, along with frozen entrees at $8.00 each, along with crafts, Christmas gifts, jewelry, a Silent Auction including gift baskets and more.  Santa’s Workshop and other specialty gifts.  Come see us and bring a friend!  All proceeds go to St. Mary Altar Society.

For more information please call Anna Belle at 409-886-4623 or 409-779-7076.