On November 16, 2002, the Czech Heritage Society of Texas marked its twentieth anniversary in Taylor. The state meeting was held on Saturday at SPJST Lodge No. 29. On Friday night, however, the CHS remembered its deceased members with a pilgrimage walk to the nearby kaplicka on Old Throndale Road.
The kaplicka, a small roadside chapel, was built by Dr. Kevin Hannan over a period of five years and dedicated in 1993. Having seen roadside chapels in the Czech Lands and Poland, Dr. Hannan decided to build one on his father’s farm outside Taylor as a monument to his Slavic heritage.
The kaplicka is an elegant masonry stucture covered with white plaster and topped with a gray shingle roof and a bell tower with an onion dome. Colorful Slavic flowers painted by folk artist Zdenka Matula surround the arched doorway, and the interior of the kaplicka is filled with icons, candles and painted flowers on the walls. It is just like in the Old Country only Hannan’s chapel sits on a flat expanse of rich black Texas soil in Williamson County.
At 7:00 in the evening some twenty-four CHS members led by Travis-Williamson Counties Chapter president Richard Pavlasek braved the cold Central-Texas November wind and carried fourteen large candles along Old Thorndale Road to the kaplicka. Each candle represented a particular county chapter’s members who had passed away since the founding of the CHS in 1982.
Unfortunately the wind blew out the candles before the pilgrims left the lodge-hall parking lot. So they made their trek in the cold dark night, but their hearts were filled with good cheer and with the memories of friends and family members with whom they had shared many happy times.
When the small band reached the kaplicka, they relit the candles and set them in the doorway, illuminating the interior of the small building. Dr. Hannan’s father, Mr. John Hannan, joined the group and related the history of how the small image of Central Europe came to be located in Central Texas. Father Josef Hybner from Assumption Catholic Parish in Ganado offered a prayer in memory of the Czech Heritage Society’s departed members. Father Hybner then led the group in song as the candles flickered in the wind.
The CHS pilgrims returned to the lodge hall, where the candles were placed in front of scrolls listing the names of each county chapter’s members who had passed away. And those members who took the pilgrimage walk shared a memory of an old-time Central-European custom that the Czech Heritage Society had recreated deep in the heart of Texas.
- Robert Janak
“Old-Time Central European Custom Brought to Central Texas,” printed in the series Czech Connections, Cesky Hlas, February 2003, page 5.