Community Remembers Father Peter Keralum
MISSION – Every year people come together to remember a Rio Grande Valley priest who helped build several churches.
They gather at La Lomita Mission, south of Mission. Many people bring their own chairs and sit in the shade of the giant tree.
“We remember Father Keralum’s life and ministry and his last ride and his death,” Father Roy Snipes with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church said.
Snipes has been the main organizer.
“I think this is the 25th year that we’ve done this. Even way back, we used to do it in Starr County, and way back when I was a young priest, we would do it here,” he said.
Father Peter Keralum helped build churches and road on horseback from Brownsville to Roma, holding Mass on Valley ranches. He died 144 years ago.
Father Keralum was born in France, and he was a celebrated architect. When he was 28, he decided to study the priesthood.
One church he built was Our Lady of Refuge in Roma. In fact, across the street is a mural of the oblate priests known as the Calvary of Christ. He designed and built Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville, an area known as Peter Keralum Square. He also built Our Lady of Visitation Church in Santa Maria on the Military Highway.
“This church was probably already here, but he said Mass here many times. Once he was lost here and barely got to La Lomita alive. They had to nurse him back to health,” Snipes said.
Father Keralum was known to have bad health and deteriorating eyesight, and that’s why he got lost, they said, going from one ranch to another near Mercedes.
“November the 12th was the last day they saw him alive, 1872. Really nobody knows when he died,” Snipes said.
It was a mystery that remained for 10 years until two cowboys looking for lost cattle made discovery.
They found a chalice lying near a rosary, a watch and Father Keralum’s eyeglasses.
At one time there were efforts to have the Vatican canonize Father Keralum but so far that has not materialized.
“He’s kind of my special patron saint, you know,” Snipes said.
Father Keralum died in 1872, and for the past 25 years, people have met every November to remember him.
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