History of the Archdiocese of San Antonio

The first recorded Mass in Texas was celebrated on May 16, 1675, during the Bosque de Larrios expedition at a site north of present day Del Rio.

In 1720, Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus founded the Mission of San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo a few miles south of Mission San Antonio de Valero. In 1731, the east Texas missions were relocated along the San Antonio River. These included Mission Nuestro Señora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuña, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Mission San Francisco de la Espada. On May 9, 1731, the cornerstone for the first parish church, San Fernando, was placed and after much effort to raise money, the church was completed in 1749.

Father Anthony Pellicer
Father Anthony Pellicer

Catholic population grows

As the Catholic population grew in Texas, the Diocese of San Antonio was established by Papal Decree on Aug. 28. 1874. Pope Pius IX named Father Anthony Pellicer as the first bishop of the new diocese.

Bishop Pellicer died on April 14, 1880, and following his death, the then-current Vicar General Father John Claude Neraz was selected to be the new bishop. Bishop Neraz is remembered for selling the Alamo to the state of Texas for $20,000.

Father John Anthony Forest succeeded Bishop Neraz as third bishop of San Antonio. After Bishop Forest served for 15 years, Father John William Shaw was appointed as the fourth bishop of San Antonio. Bishop Shaw served for seven years, founded St. John’s Seminary, and managed the church during the early part of the Mexican Revolution.

Father Arthur Drossaerts was named the fifth bishop and first archbishop of San Antonio on Dec. 8, 1918. On Aug. 3, 1926 the Church in San Antonio was raised to Metropolitan status, elevating Bishop Drossaerts to archbishop.

Archbishop Drossaerts worked on the preservation of the Old Spanish Missions and guided the Church through the Great Depression until his death in 1940.

The second archbishop of San Antonio was Robert E. Lucey who was installed in San Fernando Cathedral on Jan. 24, 1941. Archbishop Lucey integrated Catholic schools in 1954 and promoted membership in unions as well as other organizations that advanced Hispanic people. He retired on June 4, 1969, after 28 years as archbishop.

Father Arthur Jerome Drossaerts
Archbishop Francis J. Furey

On Aug. 6, 1969, Francis J. Furey (left) became the third archbishop and became the first in the nation to be given the authority by the Holy See to designate laymen as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

First Mexican American bishop

Shortly after Archbishop Furey’s death in 1979, Bishop Patricio F. Flores of the Diocese of El Paso was named fourth archbishop of San Antonio. He had previously served as auxiliary bishop of San Antonio and when named to this position in 1970, was the first Mexican American bishop in the United States. One of his best-known accomplishments was having St. Pope John Paul II visit San Antonio in 1987. In 2004, Archbishop Flores retired and on December 29, Bishop José H. Gomez, auxiliary bishop of Denver, was named fifth archbishop of San Antonio.

The sixth archbishop of San Antonio, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, was installed on Nov. 23, 2010. He had previously served as auxiliary bishop in Chicago. In order to set the direction for the archdiocese, Archbishop Gustavo initiated a visioning process which lasted over a year and involved listening sessions all over the archdiocese. This process resulted in the articulation of the archdiocesan vision, priorities, and goals in 2013. In 2022 the archbishop oversaw the adoption of an updated Proclamation of the Pastoral Vision.

Archdiocesan Coat of Arms

The insignia of the Archdiocese of San Antonio shows the large cross of Christian Faith, its center enlarged and squared to receive the cross peculiar to St. Anthony, called by heralds the TAU cross because of its resemblance to the Greek letter of that name.

It is derived from the short crutch which the saint slipped under one arm to support his tired body during long vigils. Above the cross is the “Lone Star” of the State of Texas. Crowning the Shield is the Miter, the liturgical headdress worn by bishops as a symbol of their special dignity and prominence in the church.