Established September 29, 1966
Bishops of Beaumont
Most Rev. Vincent M. Harris, D.D., J.C.L.
Installed First Bishop – September 29, 1966
Most Rev. Warren L. Boudreaux, D.D., J.C.D.
Installed Second Bishop – August 25, 1971
Most Rev. Bernard J. Ganter, D.D., J.C.D.
Installed Third Bishop – December 13, 1977
Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D.
Installed Fourth Bishop – May 9, 1994
Most Rev. Curtis J. Guillory, S.V.D., D.D.
Installed Fifth Bishop – July 28, 2000
History of the Diocese of Beaumont
The Diocese of Beaumont was established September 29, 1966. It took 11,790 square miles from the mother diocese of Texas, Galveston-Houston. The area included 13 complete counties – Angelina, Cherokee, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby and Tyler, and portions of Chambers and Liberty Counties east of the Trinity River.
There were 45 diocesan priests, one religious priest and 115 teaching sisters serving in the diocese when it was formed. Thirty-two parishes had resident pastors with 16 mission churches. Three high schools, 20 grade schools and three hospitals, with a total capacity of 551 beds, caring for 43,655 patients, were also part of the diocese. Twenty-two young men were studying for the priesthood. There were 2,187 infants baptized and 270 adults converted that year.
Shortly after the 20th anniversary of its founding, in December 1986, approximately 4,000 square miles in six counties were taken from the Diocese of Beaumont to become part of the newly created Dioceseof Tyler. The Beaumont Diocese lost Angelina, Cherokee, Nacogdoches, Sabine, San Augustine and Shelby counties. However, in 1989 the Diocese of Beaumont grew again when the rest of Chambers and Liberty Counties were added to its territory making the diocese 8,392 square miles.
Bishop Vincent Harris was consecrated as the founding bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont in ceremonies at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Houston, September 28, 1966. The following day, September 29, 1966, he was installed in St. Anthony Cathedral by Archbishop Robert E. Lucey of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Bishop Harris was the first native priest in the 119-year history of the Diocese of Galveston to be elevated to the episcopacy. He guided the diocese through its infancy for the next five years until he was named coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Austin in the spring of 1971. Msgr. H.A. Drouilhet was elected diocesan administrator.
In August of 1971, Bishop Warren L. Boudreaux was named the second bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont, a position he held until he was named founding bishop of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in March 1977. Rev. Joseph L. Bertrand was elected diocesan administrator.
The Diocese of Beaumont received its third bishop, Bishop Bernard Ganter, in 1977. Bishop Ganter had been founding bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was installed by Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate to the United States, on December 13, 1977. Bishop Ganter died on October 9, 1993, following a battle with brain cancer. Msgr. M. N. Enderle was elected diocesan administrator.
In April 1994, Bishop Joseph A. Galante, then auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, was named the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont. He was installed May 9, 1994. On November 23, 1999, Bishop Galante was announced as coadjutor bishop of Dallas, where he was officially received January 14, 2000. The College of Consultors elected Msgr. Michael A. Jamail as diocesan administrator January 17, 2000.
July 28, 2000, Curtis John Guillory was installed as the fifth bishop of Beaumont. Bishop Guillory, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, is the first Beaumont bishop to be a member of a religious community and the first African American ordinary of any diocese in Texas.
The Episcopacy of Bishop Guillory
Early in his episcopacy Bishop Guillory brought the Southeast Texas community together following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, by issuing the statement “Lord, Make Us Instruments of Your Peace,” one of the first statements of its kind in the United States. Bishop Guillory, Rabbi Barbara Metzinger of Temple Emanuel and Imam Fahmi AL-Uqdah of the Islamic Society of the Triplex joined together in January 2002 in issuing the joint statement and commitment to peace by the Jewish, Muslim and Catholic religious leaders of Southeast Texas.
The Diocese of Beaumont began providing child sexual abuse awareness training for adults before Bishop Guillory came to Southeast Texas, but under his direction it began a more focused and regular program in October 2003. At that time the diocese contracted with Virtus for its Protecting God’s Children Program for adults.
In January 2005, Bishop Guillory issued a pastoral letter to the faithful of the Beaumont Diocese titled “Revitalizing Our Parishes for Mission.” This letter was to motivate all Catholic faithful to renew their baptismal commitments and their responsibilities to their parish communities.
Bishop Guillory oversaw the multi-million dollar renovation, restoration and repair of the historic St. Anthony Cathedral in downtown Beaumont. Mater Ecclesia, Porta Caeli, Mother Church, Gate of Heaven began welcoming the public during a week-long celebration that ended with the dedication October 17, 2004.
On August 8, 2006, the announcement was made that the Vatican recognized the artistic and historical significance of St. Anthony Cathedral as well as its importance in liturgical and pastoral ministry and named the Cathedral a Minor Basilica. In celebration, Bishop Guillory opened a Centenary Jubilee Year September 10, 2006, which celebrated the naming of St. Anthony as a Minor Basilica, the 40th anniversary of the Diocese of Beaumont and the 100th anniversary of the dedication of St. Anthony with a year of jubilee activities. In October 2007, Bishop Guillory closed the Year of Jubilee with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica, installing the Tintinnabulum and the Ombrellio.
A highlight of the diocese’s history is the Together for God’s Good Work Capital Campaign. Under Bishop Guillory’s direction, the $25 million campaign kicked off in late summer 2008. Unfortunately thecampaign was put on hold after Hurricane Ike struck the area Sept. 13. A milestone in 2009 was the groundbreaking for the new Catholic Pastoral Center in August. The construction of the building was one of the elements to be funded by the capital campaign. The campaign resumed in January 2010 with more than $22 million pledged as of July 20, 2010. This first diocesan wide campaign will ensure that the Catholic presence remains viable in Southeast Texas for years to come.
A blessing for the diocese came September 24, 2009, when it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI conferred papal honors on 10 Southeast Texas priests and two women religious. At a Pontifical Mass Nov. 23, Bishop Guillory presented eight priests with certificates appointing them as Prelates of Honor with the right to the title of Reverend Monsignor. He presented two religious order priests and two women religious with the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pope), the highest honor the pope can give to a Catholic.
Bishop Guillory faced several challenges during those first few years of his episcopacy. His strength as both a church and community leader came to the forefront in September 2005 as Hurricane Rita hit. Bishop Guillory not only worked to support the Catholic community but also stepped up in the larger secular community as well. Rita swept through Southeast Texas damaging almost every parish and school in some way. Several parishes were out of their churches for several months – two parishes, St. Therese, Orange, and St. Paul, Sabine Pass, were out of their church buildings for more than two years. One of the saddest effects of the storm was the damage to St. Mary Church in Port Arthur. On April 23, 2006, St. Mary, the oldest church in Port Arthur founded in 1903, was merged with Sacred Heart to become Sacred Heart-St. Mary Parish on the parish plant of Sacred Heart. St. Mary Church had suffered severe hurricane damage and had other structural damage as well, making the cost of repairs astronomical.
Several churches made progress in the months following the storm. St. Joseph, Beaumont, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving in September 2007 after finishing repairs to the church. In November 2007 St. Therese, Orange, broke ground for its new church building. Bishop Guillory dedicated St. Paul Church, Sabine Pass, March 2008.
Hurricane Ike struck the area September 13, 2008. When Ike swept ashore that day, it tore through Southeast Texas leaving only one church untouched. Thirteen of the churches in the diocese sustained major damage. Communities such as Orange, Bridge City, Sabine Pass, LaBelle, Stowell and Oak Island were especially hard hit with major flooding from the storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico.
Recovery from the hurricane continued through 2009 and into 2010. After being hit hard by Hurricane Rita and then destroyed by Hurricane Ike, St. Paul Mission in Sabine Pass celebrated its last Mass November 1, 2009, and was closed. St. Henry Church in Bridge City was hit hard as well with flooding. However, that community celebrated June 12, 2010, when the repaired St. Henry Church was dedicated.
When the diocese was established in 1966, Bishop Harris established diocesan offices to begin the ministry to the Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas. Among those first offices were Family Life, Schools, Religious Education, Youth and Communications. Through the years, the ministries grew and changed. As new needs arose, new programs and offices were put into place. These include the Tribunal, Permanent Diaconate, Vocations, Stewardship, Catholic Charities, African American Ministry, Hispanic Ministry, Campus Ministry, Criminal Justice Ministry, Continuing Education, Apostleship of the Sea and Worship.
Education and formation is a vital part of the faith. The Schools Office oversees the Catholic schools in Southeast Texas and the Religious Education ministry works with parish catechists.
In September 1985 the Diocese began its Catholic Biblical School, a comprehensive study of the Bible for adults. The school, under the Diocesan Department of Religious Education, held classes at various locations throughout the diocese. That first year 600 participated in the classes. Participation the second year had grown to 2,000. The Catholic Biblical School continued until December 1996.
In September 1996, a new director of the Office of Religious Education was named, and the office was changed to the Office of Lifelong Catholic Formation/Education. A lay ministry program was initiated in August 1999 – known as the Catholic Education and Ministry Institute.
Bishop Guillory, a strong supporter of the Catholic school system, commissioned Diocesan School Board members to conduct an 18-month study to look at the sustainability of the Catholic schools in the Beaumont Diocese. In August 2004, Bishop Guillory put their findings into effect. Four areas were identified as those needing the most attention – marketing, school board, pastoral relations and finances. Bishop Guillory encouraged pastors to become more attentive to the challenges of Catholic schools. The individual school boards become more active and proactive in their leadership.
Bishop Guillory received the national 2006 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award at a banquet Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C., for progress made in the Catholic schools in Southeast Texas. It was presented by the National Catholic Educational Association. The NCEA once again recognized excellence in the Catholic education system in the Beaumont Diocese in March by awarding a national Outstanding School Board Award to St. Anne Catholic School, Beaumont.
Ministry to specific demographics, such as youth and families, has been important to the diocese from its inception.
Ministry to the youth began with the first youth convention held as the diocese was forming. The conventions have been annual since, attracting hundreds of high school youth to gather for several days to share faith. The Youth Ministry sponsors a number of activities and events, from monthly gatherings to summer camp and includes organizing trips to the regional and national youth conferences. The first Hands of Hope work camp was held June 2006. About 40 teens came together to improve homes in the Jasper area for people who where unable to work on the houses themselves or could not pay to have repairs made. The teens also reached out to those hit hard by Hurricane Ike when they spent two weekends working Extreme Cleanup Oak Island in fall 2008.
Campus Ministry at Lamar University reaches out to those attending and working at Lamar in Beaumont. Located on a busy campus corner, the Catholic Student Center provides a place for the students to gather in faith. The center offers sacramental, liturgical, pastoral, spiritual, social, educational and service programs. In 2010, the first major remodeling project began with the remodeling of the Student Center and the addition of a separate chapel.
Through the years of the diocese, other ministries have continued to do their work, some more behind the scenes than others. Initially the Tribunal was a co-op with the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. It became independent from that diocese in 1972 when the Beaumont Diocese established its own tribunal.
In November 1995, the first woman Chancellor was appointed for the diocese.
The Office of Worship as a separate ministry wasn’t formally begun until July 1981. Though the ministry is also in the background most of the time, many of the diocesan Masses and celebrations are a result of its planning and work. The first Diocesan Liturgical Conference, May 31-June 2, 2007, brought hundreds of Southeast Texans together to hear nationally known speakers such as Rev. Ed Foley and Steve Angrisano. Two more have been held, continuing the tradition of national speakers and quality workshops.
As with many ministries, Family Life has evolved through the years, but its focus remains the same in educating and supporting family life within the context of the Church and community. The ministry has offered various programs through the years and continues to support families in Southeast Texas, but realizing that for some groups, a more defined ministry targeted to specific communities may be necessary.
Even though Spanish-speaking sisters were recruited to the diocese as early as 1979, it wasn’t until 1996, when a grant funded the start of the office, that a specific Hispanic Ministry began. Through the years it has reached out to the Hispanic communities throughout Southeast Texas – working with both those who have been here for generations and the recent immigrants. The first Hispanic Family Conference was in March 2009 with more than 800 attending. The response was so positive that the conference was moved to the Beaumont Civic Center complex and other downtown buildings in 2010 with more than 2,000 of all ages attending.
An African American ministry was started in 1997 that works with issues, education and training that not only benefits the African American parishes in the diocese but the entire faith community as well. Apostleship of the Sea ministers to “the people of the sea” whether it is the ship that arrives in port from a land across the ocean or those who live in Southeast Texas and derive their living from the Gulf of Mexico through the shrimping, fishing, crabbing or oystering industry.
In 1975 the cultural diversity of Southeast Texas expanded when the Diocese of Beaumont assumed the responsibility of resettling refugees following the fall of South Vietnam. The original target was to resettle 1,000 people, but, by mid-1976, more than 2,000 had arrived in Southeast Texas. The Resettlement Office’s effort received national recognition in the New York Times and Texas Monthly. In the 1980s the office was recognized as an official entity by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in its amnesty program. The Diocese began its Catholic Charities Office in 1989. Catholic Charities and Partnership for Human Development (Resettlement Program) merged, placing all such services under one umbrella. Catholic Charities is activein ecumenical efforts, helping the homeless through the Hospitality Center in Port Arthur. It was also instrumental in beginning the Triangle Interfaith Project, a broad-based, grassroots organization that worked to identify and correct problems across the entire Golden Triangle. In January 2007 Catholic Charities approved revisions to its Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. One of the items included was changing the name to Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas.
Catholic Charities has continued to grow and evolve to meet the needs of people in Southeast Texas. Current programs are Asset Building Case Management, Child Care Contractor Services, Counseling Services, Disaster, Trauma and Loss, Hospitality Center, Immigration Services and Parish Social Ministry. Though separately incorporated from the diocese, Catholic Charities is the social service arm of the Catholic Church in Southeast Texas. It serves those in need, regardless of their religious affiliation.
The Office of Jail and Prison Ministry was established in 1994. In October 2000, in response to the growing number of correctional facilities located in the diocese, the Office of Jail and Prison Ministry became the Office of Criminal Justice Ministry with a full-time staff. In addition to ministering to the offender and the ex-offender, the office also ministers to the victims of crime. It ministers to the more than 25,000 men and women who are in prisons and jails in Southeast Texas.
Vocations Ministry is an active part of any diocese. The first priests specifically for the Beaumont diocese were ordained May 25, 1967. Many men and women entered the priesthood and religious life through the years. In July 2006 the first Operation Andrew was held. It was a day of prayer to help young men think about a call to the priesthood. The first class of five permanent deacons was ordained in ceremonies May 26, 1979. These men had studied with a class from the Diocese of Dallas for three years. In 1983 a second class of 17 men completed its studies in the diocese and was ordained. This group had taken all its classes in the diocese. A third group of 14 permanent deacons were ordained in 1992. In February 2006, Bishop Guillory ordained 17 permanent deacons. A fifth class began in fall 2006 and preparations are underway to begin the next class after the ordination of the fifth group. In 1984 the Diocese opened the Office of Continuing Education. Through workshops and retreats, speakers are brought in to work with the clergy and religious in continuing their education.
As the diocese grew, the needs of the faithful did as well. In 1982 the diocese began a capital fund drive for the construction of Holy Family Retreat Center located in north Beaumont. Ground was broken in August 1983 and more than $4 million collected to construct the facility. Funds in excess of construction costs were placed in an endowment fund to help reduce the center’s operating costs. In September 1998, Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery was established on the grounds of the Holy Family Retreat Center, Beaumont, with the first two monks.
Even though the diocese had an annual appeal through its existence, a new office of Stewardship and Development was started in July 1996 which brought a more concentrated effort to the development side of the office in addition to the annual appeal. In 2001 the Office was restructured to give even more attention to the formation of faithful in regard to the Stewardship of time, talent and treasure and the importance of being an active part of the Church community. An annual Stewardship Conference began in 2002 and the annual Stewardship Awards began a couple of years later with St. Anne, Beaumont, as the first recipient of the Bishop Curtis Guillory Parish Award.
Our Lady of the Pines, recognized twice as a recipient of the Bishop Curtis Guillory Parish Award, received international recognition in October of 2008 at the International Catholic Stewardship Conference. The parish received an award for being an example of Stewardship in a small parish.
In February 2006 Bishop Guillory merged the Office of Stewardship and Development and the Office of Communications to become the Office of Stewardship and Communications. The Communications ministry has received regional, national and international recognition for its website, newspaper, marketing and public relations efforts. Honors in 2009 included the ministry receiving an award at the International Catholic Stewardship Conference in October for its 2009 Bishop’s Faith Appeal video. The video was acknowledged as second best video produced by any diocese that year.
In 2006, the diocese initiated a concerted evangelization effort known as “Return to Me.” The effort began with television and newspapers ads encouraging “occasional” Catholics (those who do not attend Mass regularly) to become active participants in the life of the Church and inviting the unchurched to learn more about the Catholic faith. The multi-part project also provided training for clergy on evangelization and communication and includes revamping the diocesanwebsite to provide more information on the Catholic faith.
The diocese increased its evangelization efforts in 2009 when the first Encounter Catholic experience was held at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur. Hundreds of people stopped by the booth during the four-day event. In 2010 it grew with even more visiting the booth to talk about the Catholic faith or participate in the children’s activities. The diocese also uses social media to evangelize – with Bishop Guillory and the East Texas Catholic establishing Twitter accounts in 2009.