|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.
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,
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 attendance.
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 hall.
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 Paul Church."
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
After Father Vasques, we were served by Father Jack Herron, Father Don Cote, Father Bert Miller and Father Al
Allamaras. Father Samuel Ezeibekwe, our current priest, has been with us a number of years, first when he served the
parishes of Michigan and Bechyne and now serving the Tri-Parishes of Pisek, Lankin and Bechyne.
|Sts. Peter & Paul Cemetery
|St. John Nepomucene ~ Pisek, North Dakota
St. Joseph ~ Lankin, North Dakota
Sts. Peter & Paul ~ Bechyne, North Dakota