Replica of a Historic 182-Year-Old Church Right in Our Manor Backyard

A little-known fact in Manor is that St. Mary Magdalene, the little white Episcopal church built up on the hill, across from the Shadow Glen Golf Course, is a near replica of a historic Episcopal church built in the early years of the Republic of Texas.

Christ Episcopal Church, Matagorda rebuilt in 1856.

Back in 1839, Christ Episcopal Church was built in Matagorda, Texas to become the first Episcopal church established in the newly created Episcopal “foreign missionary district.”

The Rev. Al Rodriguez, a Diocese of Texas priest, and the newly installed interim vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, recounts the historical pedigree of St. Mary Magdalene as part of his introduction to the Manor community.

“The diocesan-commissioned architect of the St. Mary Magdalene church had long waited for an opportunity to duplicate the historic Matagorda church somewhere in the diocese. I think Manor won the lottery,” according to Rodriguez.

St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church, Manor.

The exterior and interior of SMM were intentionally designed to nearly duplicate the historic church, making room for modern conveniences and city codes, says Rodriguez.

“It has the classic look of an early 19th century, white clapboard country church, but it has the heart of a progressive, multicultural Episcopal church that prides itself on being a stakeholder in the Manor area,” states Rodriguez in defining what this church’s mission is all about.

Rodriguez follows the departure of the much beloved Rev. Alex Montes-Vela who was “promoted” to the Diocese of Texas department of congregational development.

Rodriguez is a native of San Antonio but not a stranger to Austin or Manor. He and his wife, LaVerne, have lived in the northeast side of Austin since 1975, only twenty minutes from the church and have witnessed the development of St. Mary Magdalene since it began in Montes-Vela’s living room.

Rodriguez also brings in years of experience in leading Anglo and Hispanic Episcopal congregations in the Austin area and in Longview, Texas. He and LaVerne are former Peace Corps volunteers having served in Venezuela.

“As the Interim Vicar my major task is to walk the journey of transition with the congregation as it enters into a period of exploration and introspection in terms of its future missional ministry in the greater Manor area,” says Rodriguez.

He quickly adds that it is his goal to maintain the same intensity of involvement of the congregation in the communal life of the Manor community, including his personal participation in some of the city’s civic life.

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