Tejano History

Catholic Diocesan Church Of Spanish And Mexican Texas

Tejanos |

       CATHOLIC DIOCESAN CHURCH OF SPANISH AND MEXICAN TEXAS. In addition to the Franciscan missions in Texas under New Spain and Mexico (see FRANCISCANS and SPANISH MISSIONS), significant development within the same area was conducted by the Hispanic Catholic diocesan church. By “diocesan church” is meant the Catholic communities of a certain territory under the supervision of a bishop. The ordained ministers who are directly bound to a diocese are called diocesan or secular clergy, in distinction to those who belong to religious congregations and are called religious clergy, or, in previous times, regular clergy, from the fact that they live under a regula, or rule. The latter's work usually extends across many dioceses and even nations, and their members are subject, in the first place, to their own congregational leadership.

       The history of the church in Texas before 1850 is complicated by the fact that the various sections of its vast current territory belonged to different civil divisions of New Spain and Mexico. Church organization more or less mirrored these divisions, with a great variety of Franciscan provinces and missionary colleges responsible for the different areas of today's Texas. In turn, these areas all eventually came under the supervision of two major diocesan organizations; one of these dioceses later transferred its northern territory to a new frontier diocese. Far West Texas, the stretch of the Rio Grande from the Big Bend up through the El Paso valley, was claimed by the northwestern diocese of Durango soon after the first foundations in the area in the later 1600s. But that claim was generally successfully contested up into the early 1800s by the Franciscans of the Holy Gospel Province. In contrast, the jurisdiction of the huge Guadalajara diocese was recognized almost immediately by all the Franciscan-staffed settlements permanently established in the early 1700s between San Juan Bautista on the Rio Grande (near the site of present-day Eagle Pass) and the Louisiana border. The lower Rio Grande towns were part of major new colonization along the Gulf of Mexico around 1750. The new colony raised the question of establishing a separate diocese for the whole northeastern frontier, including the province of Texas and San Juan Bautista. Apparently none of the lower Rio Grande settlements except Laredo, the only town at that time staffed by a diocesan priest rather than a Franciscan, recognized any diocesan jurisdiction until just before the new diocese of Linares or Nuevo León was finally instituted in 1779. This new diocese was headquartered in Monterrey by the early 1780s.


Full article on the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas Online

   Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association.