"The Old St. Louis Churches"...Courtesy of Institute of Texan Culture
Under Mexican and Spanish rule, Texas had been, by law, a Roman Catholic Province.
After the fight for Independence from Mexico, Texans were against the idea of having an
official religion. There were strong feelings against Catholicism because of the
association with a government that Texans had grown to hate. Because of this, a cleric of
Spanish or Mexican ancestry was working under a heavy handicap.
The badly demoralized Catholic Church was restored by French interest and
money. Texas was placed under jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of New Orleans because
it was impossible to get continued direction from the Mexican Diocese of Monterrey.
The change in jurisdiction sent Father John Timon as Prefect Apostolic. Timon and his
Vice Prefect, John M. Odin, began their work in 1841, and in a short time many priests
and nuns were drawn to this mission field from French orders. In 1847, Father Odin
became Bishop of Galveston, and was succeeded in that capacity by another Frenchman,
Father Claude Dubuis, in 1861. Both of the men went to their homeland to find
volunteers to minister to the widely scattered Texas Catholics. The Society for the
Propagation of the Faith at Lyons, France provided the financial support.
Schools, hospitals, churches, convents, and orphanages were established across
Texas by several religious orders in the 1840s and 1850s. Houses were built in San
Antonio and Galveston in the 1840s by the Vincentians. These were followed by the
Ursuline Sisters from New Orleans, the founders of girls schools in Galveston (1847)
and San Antonio (1851). The Oblates arrived in 1849, and during the 1850s built
schools in the Rio Grande valley. The Society of Mary Brothers arrived from France in
1851 to open a boys' school in San Antonio. St. Mary's University is a direct successor of
that small school. Incarnate Word and the Divine Providence Sisters from France came
after the Civil War. The Incarnate Word group founded hospitals in San Antonio and
Galveston. The University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio is a result of their efforts.
Schools were established in Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Castroville, as well as Our
Lady of the Lake University, by the Divine Providence Sisters, from Lorraine.
These orders brought the benefits of education, medical care, and religious
instruction to a new frontier. The manpower and money supplied by the French to these
causes represented a very substantial contribution to the settlement and civilization of
"Old St. Mary's College at San Antonio"...Courtesy of Institute of Texan Culture