Texas, Catholic Church in
TEXAS, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
After Alaska, Texas is the largest of the states. It embraces an area of 267,339 square miles divided into 254 counties. The boundaries, for the most part, are the natural ones: the Rio Grande on the west and south, the Gulf shore line and the Sabine River on the east, the Red River on much of the north. The Panhandle, separating Texas from Oklahoma and New Mexico, is delimited by straight lines established in conformity with various treaties and agreements. Texas can be divided roughly into four great natural regions stretching in irregular belts from north to south: the east Texas plains, an area of extensive timberlands and rich agricultural soil that supports cotton, corn, sugar cane, and dairy cattle; the Texas prairies, a fertile, grassy strip that is the most populous region of the state; the middle Texas province, which was the original cattle range of Texas; and the subhumid, arid western high plains. Almost 80 percent of the people live in urban areas. Houston is the largest city, and Austin is the capital. Other large metropolitan areas center on Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, and Fort Worth.
In 2001 the state population was 20,851,820 with Catholics numbering 5,915,566, about 25 percent of the total. There were 15 dioceses, including the metropolitan see of San Antonio. San Antonio was established as a diocese in 1874 and made an archdiocese in 1926. The 14 suffragan sees as they stood in 2001 were Amarillo (est. 1926); Austin (1948); Beaumont (1966); Brownsville (1965); Corpus Christi (1912); Dallas (est. 1890; redesignated Dallas-Fort Worth, 1953; returned to original designation, 1969); El Paso (1914), Fort Worth (1969); Galveston-Houston (Galveston, est. 1847; redesignated Galveston-Houston, 1959); Laredo (2000); Lubbock (1983); San Angelo (1961); Tyler (1986); and Victoria (1982).
Early Missions. The Apache, Comanche, and other native tribes inhabited the territory when the Spanish established their first settlement in 1682 near the site of present day El Paso. The Spanish occupation of the northernmost reaches of New Spain, including Texas, was accomplished largely by Franciscan missionaries. Between 1690 and 1794 they established a chain of 36 missions,
clustered in three broad areas. In the years 1690 to 1693 and 1716 to 1719, the friars constructed a half-dozen missions in eastern Texas. They began with the establishment of Mission San Francisco de los Tejas in 1690 by Fray Damián Massanet. A second cluster was established in the vicinity of Matagorda Bay, inland from the Gulf of Mexico; and a third, centered around the mission San Antonio de Béxar, included the Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) built in 1718 by Fray Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares. Other missions in the last cluster were Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo constructed in 1720 and three established in 1731: La Purisima Conception, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada.
For well over a century the missionaries, among whom Antonio margil de Jésus was best known, labored on the frontier and at various places in the interior. The Spanish authorities had planned to convert each mission into a parish church and to turn the mission property over to self-reliant individuals who would be served by a parish priest while the padres moved into another frontier to begin the whole process anew. In theory the mission was dynamic, but in practice the results were largely ineffectual from the government's point of view. The mission system was gradually abandoned and secularization was completed by 1794, when the lands surrounding some of the missions were divided among friendly tribes. The social and political unrest attendant upon the gradual disintegration of Spanish sovereignty at the beginning of the 19th century gave rise to a prolonged period of political uncertainty. The remaining Spanish missionaries were expelled in 1820, departed, and secular priests were unavailable. A period of complete spiritual neglect set in, and there was no improvement under Mexican rule.
Although Texas was opened to foreigners, entry was restricted to Catholics. After 1825 Stephen F. Austin and
other empresarios brought in numerous colonists from the United States who willingly accepted nominal membership in the Church. There were not enough priests, however, to serve the needs of practicing Catholics, let alone merely nominal ones.
Ninteenth-Century Developments. When Texas became an independent republic in 1836 and sought annexation to the United States, Texan Catholics technically remained under the spiritual jurisdiction of the bishop of Monterrey, Mexico. Bishop Anthony Blanc of New Orleans, La., recognizing that ecclesiastical jurisdictional difficulties would inhibit the revival of religion in the Republic of Texas, asked the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to study the problem. John timon, CM, who was sent to investigate in 1838, compiled a lengthy report on the basis of which the Holy See created a prefecture apostolic and assigned the Vincentians to the task of renewing religion. Timon was appointed prefect apostolic. In 1842 John M. Odin, CM, was consecrated bishop to head a separate vicariate apostolic, and in 1847 he was named bishop of the newly created diocese of Galveston.
With enlarged administrative powers Odin brought about a remarkable revival as old parishes were reoccupied and new ones begun to serve the immigrants who were settling in the eastern part of the state. In the 1830s Irish established Refugio and San Patricio de Hibernia. Germans populated New Braunfels (1844) and Fredericksburg (1848). Belgians, French, and Swiss settled west of San Antonio. In 1854 Polish immigrants founded Panna Maria (Virgin Mary) where Fr. Leopold Moczygemba, then a member of the Conventual Franciscans, dedicated the Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1856.
As the Church continued to flourish further administrative changes were necessitated. In 1874 a new diocese was established along the Rio Grande in san antonio and Anthony Dominic Pellicer was named the first bishop (1874–80). In response to the needs of the Catholic population in north central Texas, the Dallas diocese was organized in 1890. The first bishop, Thomas F. Brennan (1891–92) resigned after a year and was succeeded by Bishop Edward Josesph Dunne (1893–10). In south Texas, where many people of Spanish descent lived and where the Oblates of Mary Immaculate served in a great number of parishes, the Diocese of Corpus Christi was erected in 1912. West Texas developed rapidly at the turn of the century, and the Diocese of el paso was created in 1914. At the time it included territory in southern New Mexico. El Paso remained a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe until 1982.
Twentieth Century. As the 20th century advanced, the Church recognized the need for a general ecclesiastical reorganization to serve the greater needs of the state. On Aug. 3, 1926, pius xi raised San Antonio to an archdiocese and erected a new diocese in Amarillo. In 1948 the Diocese of Austin was organized in central Texas. Galveston, the oldest diocese in the state, was redesignated in 1959 as the diocese of Galveston-Houston, recognizing that Houston had become one of the populous cities in the country. Dallas began as a vicariate apostolic in 1874, was made a diocese in 1890; in 1953 it was redesignated as the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth, only to be redesignated as the Diocese of Dallas in 1969 when Fort Worth became a separate diocese. Meanwhile San Angelo, in west central Texas, was made an episcopal see in 1961. The Vicariate Apostolic established in 1874 in Beaumont and later subsumed into the diocese of Corpus Christi (1912), was made a diocese in 1966. As the Catholic population of Texas continued to grow, more new dioceses were created in the years after the second vatican council: Victoria in 1982; Lubbock in 1983; Tyler in 1986, and Laredo in 2000. In 1964 the bishops established the Texas Catholic Conference to provide a forum in which the dioceses of the state can exchange information and coordinate their activities regarding government policy and legislation on social issues and other issues of concern to the Church.
In the wake of Vatican II, continued growth of the Catholic population, and social change, the Church experimented with new approaches to ministry. After the Vietnam War, communities of Asian Catholics necessitated the establishment of Vietnamese parishes in many places. Most dioceses established programs to prepare men for the permanent diaconate and nearly everyone had promoted the training of lay ministry. The laity took the lead in such movements as charismatic renewal and marriage encounter. The cursillo movement, begun in Spain, had its American beginning in Texas. Laity and clergy alike made concerted efforts to maintain the best of the Hispanic heritage in Texas. In the 1970s advocacy groups like the Padres, an organization of Mexican-American priests and Las Hermanas, an organization made up chiefly of women religious, worked hard for the advancement of Hispanics. Their efforts and the efforts of similar groups led to the appointment of bishops with Hispanic ancestry. Bishop Patricio F. Flores, the first Mexican-American bishop in the nation, was appointed to the diocese of El Paso in 1978, to the archdiocese of San Antonio, the following year.
Education. In the belief that Catholic schools were necessary to put the Church on solid foundations, as early as 1847 Bishop Odin persuaded the Ursulines from New Orleans to start a school in Galveston. In 1851 another community of Ursulines was established in San Antonio. From these two solid establishments the Ursulines spread to various parts of Texas. Many other religious congregations of women joined them in the work of education, including the Congregation of the Incarnate Word, the Sisters of Divine Providence, the Sacred Heart Dominican Sisters, and the Sisters of the Holy Ghost and Mary Immaculate, who conducted schools for African Americans. In 1964 there were approximately 70 religious communities of women in Texas, most of them engaged in teaching. To take care of the education of boys in San Antonio, Odin secured the services of the Society of Mary, which furnished him with four teachers able to teach in English, Spanish, German, and French. The brothers opened St. Mary's Institute (1852), which developed into St. Mary's University, the largest Catholic college in the Southwest. In 2001 there were 235 elementary schools, 47 secondary schools, and eight colleges and universities under Catholic auspices in Texas.
In many parts of the state bilingual clergy and teachers were indispensible for those of Mexican descent, who form the largest minority in Texas. A special Catholic council was organized to provide for the religious, social, economic, educational, and cultural advancement of these Mexican-Americans. In 1945 this council was given status by the bishops of the Southwest when they formed their own bishops' committee for the Spanish speaking. Among its other tasks, the bishops' committee undertook the monitoring of the socioeconomic conditions of migrant workers, urging remedial legislation and providing educational opportunities for their children.
Bibliography: r. f. bayard, Lone Star Vanguard: The Catholic Reoccupation of Texas, 1838–1848 (St. Louis 1945). c. e. castaÑeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1519–1936, 7v. (Austin 1936–58). b. doyon, The Cavalry of Christ on the Rio Grande, 1849–1883 (Milwaukee 1956). f. d. almaraz, jr., "The Legacy of Columbus: Spanish Mission Policy in Texas," Journal of Texas Catholic History and Culture 3 (1992) 17–36. p. foley, "Jean-Marie Odin, C.M., Missionary Bishop Extraordinaire of Texas," Journal of Texas Catholic History and Culture 1 (1990) 42–60. j. t. moore, Through Fire and Flood: The Catholic Church in Frontier Texas, 1836–1900 (College Station 1992). c. e. nolan, "Modest and Humble Crosses: A History of Catholic Parishes in South Central Region (1850–1984)" in j. p. dolan, ed., The American Catholic Parish, v. 1. (New York 1987). m. c. morkovsky, "Challenges of Catholic Evangelization in Texas: The Response of Women Religious," Journal of Texas Catholic History and Culture 5 (1944) 65–90. r. e. wright, "Pioneer Religious Congregations of Men in Texas Before 1990," Journal of Texas Catholic History 65–90.
[j. w. schmitz/