When the rectory at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church was originally built in the 1960s, it boasted four bedrooms, two offices, a living room, kitchen and dining room. Over the years, the space has changed with bedrooms becoming offices in place of the priests’ residence. Currently the pastor’s bedroom is in the original two-car garage and, like many rectories in the Diocese of Victoria, shares a kitchen with the staff, preventing the priest from having any sort of privacy.
“With the growth of the parish in mind and the desire to be able to accommodate another priest and a seminarian, St. Robert’s has begun construction on a new rectory – Casa San Roberto,” Father Philip Brune said.
On Thursday, July 8, Bishop Cahill joined Father Brune to bless the new rectory site and participate with leaders of the parish in a groundbreaking ceremony.
“His focus during the homily was on evangelization and that whatever we do and whatever we build, the focus must be on evangelization,” Brune said.
Brune has been working since last September with Father Kristopher Fuchs, who has an architectural degree from Texas A&M, as well as local architect Ken Shanks, builder Raphael Hernandez; woodworking specialists Mark and Kurt Pratka; Patricia Hoelscher, interior designer, and Dina Krenek, landscape designer, to start the designing and building process for the new rectory. Brune has also been in conversation with Father Greg Korenek who built the last rectory in the Diocese of Victoria at Holy Family in Victoria.
“He and other priests have given valuable insight into the layout of the future rectory,” Brune said.
The floor plan includes two suites for priests, with one located upstairs, along with the bedroom, bathroom and closet for a seminarian, and the other priest suite will be downstairs. Downstairs, the entire area will be ADA wheelchair accessible with an enclosed two car garage.
“Within Casa San Roberto, there will be a chapel for prayer for the clergy and it will be called Capilla Santa Elena in honor of the first church established in Pierce in 1928,” Brune said. “The old church altar will be used in the chapel and will also have the blessed sacrament for priests to spend time alone in prayer with our Lord.”
Other areas include a great room with an open concept kitchen, dining room table for 12 and living room.
“This will be a place where priests can invite parishioners, organizations, family and friends over to spend time together,” Brune said. “This is currently not possible in the current rectory.”
There will also be two porches on the West and East side of the rectory.
“The rectory will be a place where the clergy can also go outside and enjoy privacy or entertaining guests,” he added.
Different aspects have gone into the design and construction details so it will serve its purpose for many years to come.
“As the property originally given to St. Robert’s is in the floodplain, the rectory will be built five feet above the base flood elevation of 101 feet to prevent future flooding,” Brune said. “D-A-M Services has started building the pad for the rectory. We like to call it Mount St. Robert’s. The Casa will also be built to withstand winds of 120 mph and made of materials such as stone and Spanish roofing tile to withstand time and the elements.”
In keeping with St. Robert’s Spanish/Mexican architectural heritage, the new design of the new rectory will feature arches and beams like the church, and “will use elements such as natural pecan wood from Wharton County, tile, talavera, and even wood from a hackberry tree that was on our property for the bathroom counters,” Brune said.
“Please join us in praying for the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker and St. Robert Bellarmine as we begin construction and please pray for vocations from our parish,” CDA Regent Terri Beltran said. “May Saint Robert Bellarmine parish always be a place of welcome, evangelization and a home for everyone.”