You don’t need to go to church every Sunday to appreciate the history, architecture, and societal impact contained within, and seeping out of, places of worship. This Monday, all you’ll need is a functioning bike and a healthy curiosity* to learn more about some of the oldest churches in downtown San Antonio.
*Though as the days grow shorter, you’ll likely need bike lights. Water and helmets are recommended.
We’ll be proving a crash-course (no pun intended) on bike safety and traffic laws as well, in light of last week’s run-in with the law.
On Sept. 30, join the Rivard Report team, our partners at San Antonio B-cycle, and friends old and new for Something Monday, as we’re guided to four “holy” locations by Bike World‘s Bonnie Simons for this weekly, casual, social ride.
We’ll start gathering at La Villita‘s B-cycle station at South Alamo and Nueva Street, just across from Hemisfair Park at 6:15 p.m. and depart at 6:30 p.m. Street parking, metered but free after 6 p.m., is available on Nueva, Villita Streets and Jack White Way as well as a small lot across South Alamo just south of the Magik Theatre in Hemisfair Park.
Our approximately one hour tour begins and ends at La Villita, but we’ll likely ride over to the Friendly Spot for a post-ride gathering after the following stops:
- The Little Church of La Villita has hosted several denominations since its founding in 1879.
- St. Joseph Catholic Church, established in 1868 by German immigrants and currently crowded on either side by the Joske’s building/River Center Mall on Commerce Street.
- St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, established in 1858 hosted Lyndon B. Johnson’s wedding to Lady Bird (Claudia Johnson) in 1934.
- San Fernando Cathedral, established in 1731 in Main Plaza, is home to the exact center of San Antonio and the “oldest continually functioning religious community in the state of Texas.”
That’s all I can give you right now, I don’t want to spoil Simon’s thorough and passionate tour. While these churches will be closed during the tour (and going in each one would make the tour too long), Simons will be bringing enlarged interior photos and her wealth of knowledge to enrich the experience with historical, architectural, and contemporary information.
Simons worked as a registered nurse for for more than 30 years and is part owner of Bike World with her husband Bill, Cindi Snell, and Cindi’s husband and Bike World founder Whit Snell.
After 10 years working in public health and a 20-year career at a school district, Simons retired from nursing in 2011 after becoming a certified tour guide. She’s now co-vice president of the Professional Tour Guide Association of San Antonio and leads tours downtown by appointment through Bike World.
Simons also works as a volunteer tour guide at Mission San Jose every Thursday.
I think it’s safe to say that this fifth generation San Antonian is qualified. So why churches?
“I just think they’re beautiful,” Simons said while we studied a route map in my office. “I have grown up in church all my life … my great-great grandparents married in San Fernando and a window in St. Joseph’s is dedicated to my great-great-great grandmother … I was married in Little Church of La Villita.”
Simons has been an avid cyclist for about 40 years, but mainly as a “utilitarian rider,” as her husband says. Like many urbanists, she uses her bike to visit friends and run errands – smaller trips. Simons has a special passion for downtown San Antonio and is eager to share her knowledge with Something Monday riders – be they utilitarian, recreational, professional, or newbie riders.
“I think what’s great about B-cycle is that it’s really all different kinds of people riding them – they’re not all wearing spandex or the latest fashion,” she laughed. “People are getting on those bikes and falling in love (with cycling) all over again … many haven’t been on a bike since they were six years old.”
As a retired health care worker, Simons supports recreational cycling as a great exercise option.
“It’s music to my ears,” she said.