|The Tri-Parishes of
St. Joseph - Lankin ~ St. John Nepomucene - Pisek ~ Sts. Peter & Paul - Bechyne
|Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church
11951 County Road 19 ~ Bechyne, North Dakota (Map)
The first Czech pioneers arrived in the Dakota Territory
some years before 1883. Some of the Bohemian
settlers in southern Minnesota decided to visit, when the
government began to offer tracts of land free as
homestead and tree claims. They sent three "scouts" to
look over the ground and find a suitable place where the
whole colony might settle. They found this suitable place
in the northeastern corner of the part of Dakota Territory
which later became Walsh County in North Dakota. They
found their home in May, the month of Mary, and
accordingly named it Bechyne in memory of famous
Marian place of pilgrimage in Bohemia.
The first Czech priest who said Mass on the present site
of Bechyne was the Reverend Francis Pribil. The Rt. Rev.
Bishop Martin Marty, who had charge of the North and
South Dakota part of the Dakota Territory, decided in favor
of building the first chapel on the present site.
The parishioners built a 16 x 20 by 10 foot high chapel
(This was the sanctuary of the church that was destroyed
by fire in 1956) under the direction of Father Thomas Bily
in 1886. The little church was dedicated to Sts. Peter and
Paul (Peter: firmness in faith, and Paul: defense of faith).
In the absence of a priest, they were led in their prayers
by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bosh.
The Bechyne Branch of the Z.C.K. J. Lodge (Western
Bohemian Catholic Union) was organized January 1,
1888, under patron saints Peter and Paul. They built a
hall across the road from the church. In 1929, Z.C.K.J.
merged with the Catholic Workman. After the merger, it
became Branch No. 92, the Catholic Workman of
Bechyne. It became a tradition for the Catholic Workman
of Bechyne to sponsor a celebration every year on Sts.
Peter and Paul Day, June 29.
An addition to the church was built in 1897. The
parishioners donated labor as well as money, land for
the church and cemetery, and various other items to
complete the refurbishment project. 1912 brought
several additional changes. A 10 x 32 foot choir loft was
built so that the choir members would not have to stand
behind the congregation in the crowded church. A tower
twenty feet higher was finished, a cross properly affixed
to it, and the church provided a lightening rod. The
exterior tin walls of the church were covered with siding,
and wooden steps were constructed at the front entrance.
It had become obvious that the church was too small to
accommodate the rapidly growing parish. Since the
existing circumstances were not conducive to enlarging
the church, the idea of founding a mission church at
Lomice emerged, to afford an opportunity to those who
were perhaps hesitant to join the church.
After additional renovations in 1954, the congregation
now considered their church to be in tip-top condition. It
was a stunning blow to them when fire of undetermined
origin completely destroyed it late Saturday afternoon,
December 8, 1956.
Displaying the same courage and fortitude which
characterized their pioneer fore-fathers, the parishioners
soon stopped dwelling on their unfortunate loss and
began construction of their new church in the spring of
1957. With the exception of one carpenter hired for
framing, the entire church was built by volunteer workers.
The cornerstone was laid on June 29, 1957 in
impressive ceremonies, with eight area priests in
New pews were purchased for the Bechyne church in
1964 to replace the old ones which had been obtained
from the Minto church. The same year, the church floor
was tiled, and a front facing altar, built by the men of the
parish, was set up in accordance with the Vatican decree
that the priest can face the people during Mass. The
interior of the Bechyne church was painted and varnished
in 1969. In 1984, the church was painted inside and out,
and evergreens were planted around the cemetery on the
west, north, and east boundary lines.
Now that the church stood in completed splendor, the
parishioners of Bechyne turned to the Catholic Workman
Hall with ideas of renovations. In 1958, again with
volunteer labor, they annexed a spacious, convenient
kitchen to the east side. The ladies of the parish held
many fund-raisers through the years to equip the kitchen
and helped pay for half the cost of a new furnace for the
According to the parish records, the following priests
said Masses and administered the sacraments during
the early years in Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Bechyne:
Father Vaclav Dvorak (1887-1889); Father Thomas
Rabsteinek (1889-1891); Father Joseph Bartik (1891);
Father Cyril Augustinsky (1891-1897); Father Cyril
Votypka (1897-1898); Father Thomas Rabsteinek
(1898-1902); Father Frank Just (1902-1909; and Father
Alois Gajdusek (1909).
Father Vaclav F. Mikolasek came in 1911. He became the
first permanent pastor in Lankin, ND, serving the parish
of Bechyne, and later, Lomice as well. He became
Monsignor Mikolasek in 1948 and died in 1950. In
accordance with his wishes, he was buried "in the
cemetery in Bechyne, in the shadow of Sts. Peter and
The new Czech priest, Father Jaroslave Tomanek, took
over the Lankin and Bechyne parishes, saying his first
Masses on July 23, 1950. In 1962, Father Tomanek was
replaced in Bechyne by another Czech priest, Father
Ludvik Svetinsky. Father Svetinsky said his first Mass in
Bechyne on June 30, 1962 at the annual Sts. Peter and
Paul Day celebration.
In 1973, the Rev. John Graven assumed charge of the
parishes of Lankin, Bechyne, and Lomice. Father Daniel
Pilon was with us from 1980-1984. Following his
departure, changes were made in the local deaneries.
Father George Vasques became the new pastor of Sts.
Peter and Paul in Bechyne, St. Catherine of Lomice and
St. Lawrence O'Toole of Michigan.
After Father Vasques, we were served by Father Jack
Herron, Father Don Cote, Father Bert Miller and Father Al
Allamaras. Father Samuel Ezeibekwe, was with us a
number of years, first when he served the parishes of
Michigan and Bechyne and then, beginning in 2005,
serving the Tri-Parishes of Pisek, Lankin and Bechyne.
Fr. Samuel died unexpectedly in March 2013 and is
buried in his beloved home, Nigeria.
Fr. Prasad Marneni has been the pastor of our Tri-Parish
community since June 2013.
|Sts. Peter & Paul Cemetery
|Annual Celebration of the
Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul