History of the Diocese

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History of the Diocese 2017-10-24T13:36:24+00:00

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

We are Established

The Episcopacy of Bishop Harris


Our faith-filled diocese was established on September 29, 1966, carved out of the Diocese of Galveston and stretching from the coastal waters near Sabine Pass to the Piney Woods of East Texas with Bishop Vincent Harris as its first shepherd. Our Diocese was the second diocese in the United States created after the Second Vatican Council. From its inception, the clergy, religious and the laity have played an integral role in the formation and growth of our diocese.  Even in those early days, our diocese was a diverse one reflecting the many cultures and ethnicities of the area. That diversity has only expanded and grown in recent years.

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 he was installed at St. Anthony Cathedral by Archbishop Robert E. Lucey of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Bishop Harris was the first native priest of the Diocese of Galveston to be elevated to the episcopacy in the 119-year history of the Galveston Diocese.  He guided the Diocese of Beaumont during the next five years until he was named coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Austin in 1971.  After his leaving, Msgr. H.A. Drouilhet was elected diocesan administrator. He was the first of several priests who would serve as diocesan administrator while the diocese was without a bishop. Bishop Harris died March 31, 1988, and is buried at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica.

When our diocese was established in 1966, it 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.

When the diocese was formed 45 diocesan priests, one religious priest and 115 teaching sisters were serving. The diocese was composed of 48 parishes and missions. Twenty-two young men were studying for the priesthood. There were 2,187 infants baptized and 270 adults converted that year.

When the diocese was established in 1966, Bishop Harris created several diocesan ministries to begin serving the Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas. Among those first ministries were Family Life, Schools, Religious Education, Youth and an office for the Catholic newspaper.  All were headed up by priests with a lay person as editor of the newspaper which at that time was called the Texas Catholic Herald, Beaumont Edition.

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.

Vocations Ministry is an important part of any diocese. The first priests specifically ordained for the Beaumont Diocese were ordained May 25, 1967.  Since that time, our diocese has been blessed with many men and women entering the priesthood and religious life.

From the beginning, Youth Ministry has been strong and consistent in the Diocese of Beaumont.  Like the diocese, The first youth convention was held as the diocese was forming. The annual conventions attract hundreds of high school youth. The Youth Ministry sponsors a number of activities and events, from monthly gatherings to summer camp and also organizes trips to the regional and national youth conferences.

Diocese Grows, Welcoming the Stranger

The Episcopacy of Bishop Boudreaux


In August 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, Louisiana, in March 1977. Rev. Joseph L. Bertrand was elected diocesan administrator. Bishop Boudreaux died October 6, 1997.

During Bishop Boudreaux’ episcopacy the cultural diversity of Southeast Texas expanded in 1975 when the Diocese of Beaumont assumed the responsibility of resettling refugees following the fall of South Vietnam. The massive undertaking was headed up by Msgr. William Manger. 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.

During these years, the diocese began “welcoming the stranger” in another unique way as the Port of Port Arthur and several local churches joined together in 1974 to minister to seafarers.  That initial outreach later gave birth to the Apostleship of the Sea Ministry which continues until today ministering to “the people of the sea” whether it is the ship that arrives in port from across the ocean or those who live in Southeast Texas and derive their living through shrimping, fishing, crabbing or oystering.

Diocesan ministries also saw a change under Bishop Boudreaux. When our diocese was established, 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. Annulments were streamlined in 2016 when Pope Francis issued two documents that reformed the way the Church handles annulments.

Structure of the Diocese Changes, Catholic Charities and Holy Family Established

The Episcopacy of Bishop Ganter


We received our third bishop, Bishop Bernard Ganter, in 1977. Bishop Ganter had been the founding bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was transferred to the Diocese of Beaumont where he was installed on December 13, 1977, by Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate to the United States. Bishop Ganter died on October 9, 1993, following a battle with brain cancer. He is also buried at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica. Msgr. M.N. Enderle was elected diocesan administrator.

During Bishop Ganter’s episcopacy about 4,000 square miles in six counties – Angelina, Cherokee, Nacogdoches, Sabine, San Augustine and Shelby – were taken from the Diocese of Beaumont to become part of the newly created Diocese of Tyler in December 1986.  However, in 1989 the Diocese grew again when the rest of Chambers and Liberty Counties were added to its territory making the diocese 8,392 square miles.

The local Church saw a growing need for permanent deacons. 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 was ordained in 1992. In February 2006, 17 permanent deacons were ordained.  A fifth class of nine permanent deacons was ordained in June 2012. The sixth class is preparing for a 2017 ordination.

In 1984 the Diocese opened the Office of Continuing Education. Through workshops and retreats, speakers are brought in to work specifically with the clergy and religious in continuing their education. Topics for these workshops include financial management and helping priests who are not native to the United States understand the culture better.

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.

The Diocese began its Catholic Charities Office in 1989 with Father Tom Phelan at the helm. His appointment highlights the vital role priests have played in the growth of the diocese.  Catholic Charities and Partnership for Human Development (Resettlement Program) merged, placing all such services under one umbrella. Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas has continued to grow and evolve to meet the needs of people in Southeast Texas with programs like the Hospitality Center 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 important role the religious played in the establishment of the diocese became even more evident during Bishop Ganter’s episcopacy. Southeast Texas was beginning to see increased migration from Mexico. In 1979, the diocese recruited Spanish-speaking sisters to fulfill that growing need.

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.  Ground was broken in August 1983 and more than $4 million collected to construct the facility. The retreat center project was coordinated by Msgr. Michael Jamail. Funds in excess of construction costs were placed in an endowment to reduce the center’s operating costs. In September 1998, Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery was established on the grounds of the Holy Family Retreat Center with the first two monks, emphasizing again the importance of religious to the local Church.

Woman Chancellor, Outreach Ministry

The Episcopacy of Bishop Galante


In April 1994, Bishop Joseph A. Galante was named the fourth Bishop 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. Msgr. Michael A. Jamail was elected diocesan administrator January 17, 2000.  Bishop Galante retired from the Diocese of Camden, N.J., in 2013.

Under Bishop Galante the diocese saw its first woman Chancellor as Sister Esther Dunegan, I.W.B.S., a canon lawyer, was appointed by him to the position in November 1995.  The appointment not only highlighted again the importance of religious to our diocese but also the growing role of women in the local Church, especially in diocesan ministries.

In September 1996, the Office of Religious Education was changed to the Office of Lifelong Catholic Formation/Education and a new director was named.  A lay ministry program was initiated in August 1999 – known as the Catholic Education and Ministry Institute (CEMI). The Institute continues its work even today holding classes in both English and Spanish – many of which serve as a prerequisite for the Permanent Diaconate Formation.

During Bishop Galante’s episcopacy two new diocesan ministries were established which reflected the local Church’s diversity.  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 annual conference ministered to the community for years.

An African American ministry was started in 1997 that works with issues, education and training that not only benefits predominately African American parishes in the diocese but the entire faith community as well. The ministry raises awareness in Southeast Texas through a variety of ways including the celebration in honor of St. Katharine Drexel for her and her religious order’s ministry to Southeast Texas; the celebration of the feast day of St. Martin de Porres; and the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2012, the Martin Luther King celebration was a multi-cultural event acknowledging the different cultures of Southeast Texas who come together to form one faith community.

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. In addition to ministering to the offender and the ex-offender, the office also ministers to the victims of crime.

Even though the diocese had an annual appeal throughout 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. The appeal also received a new name becoming known as the Bishop’s Faith Appeal.

Pastoral Care, Peace, Evangelization, and the Future

The Episcopacy of Bishop Curtis J.  Guillory, S.V.D.


On July 28, 2000, Bishop Curtis John Guillory was installed as the fifth bishop of Beaumont. Bishop Guillory, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, was the first Beaumont bishop to be a member of a religious community and the first African American ordinary of any diocese in Texas.

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.

Through the years Bishop Guillory continues to address the community and encourage prayer and healing when a crisis happens. These times include Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in December 2012 and the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. When the Orlando nightclub shooting occurred in 2016 Bishop Guillory held a special Mass to remember the victims and to call for peace.

Bishop Guillory has often been a voice for the needy and the vulnerable taking an active part in Catholic Charities’ Advocacy Days in Austin. And through the Texas Catholic Conference he addresses legislators about issues of social justice. Catholic Charities takes the lead on the Advocacy Day which is supported by other diocesan ministries staff and clergy as well.

Because of concern for the parishes and the clergy who serve them, Bishop Guillory issued a pastoral letter in 2005 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. It was also a step to greater evangelization efforts that were in the diocese’s future.

Bishop Guillory provided leadership not only to Southeast Texas Catholics but to the entire area following two hurricanes, Rita and Ike, that devastated large parts of Southeast Texas – first 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. Rita swept through Southeast Texas damaging almost every parish and Catholic school. 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 rendering it not repairable. 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.

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.

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. However, that community celebrated June 2010 when the repaired St. Henry Church was dedicated. St. Mary Church in Fannett, dedicated in November 2010, was the last church in the diocese to complete its hurricane repairs.

Youth Ministry and Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas both responded to the disasters. Catholic Charities provided assistance to victims of both storms and created the Disaster Response Program which continues to offer help after disasters including spring floods of 2016.  Diocese youth came together to reach out to those hit hard by Ike and spent two weekends working Extreme Cleanup Oak Island in the fall 2008.

Early in his episcopacy Bishop Guillory began to make plans for the future financial stability of the Church in Southeast Texas establishing a foundation in 2002. The Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Beaumont, Inc., is a 501 (c) (3) umbrella foundation for funds given by the generous stewards of our diocese.

In 2001 the Stewardship and Development Office was restructured to give even more attention to the formation of faithful in regard to Stewardship not only of treasure but also of time and talent.  The first diocesan wide Stewardship Conference was held in 2002 beginning a 15-year journey of formation. The annual Stewardship Awards began two years later with St. Anne, Beaumont, as the first recipient of the Bishop Curtis Guillory Parish Award.

In February 2006 Bishop Guillory merged the Office of Stewardship and Development and the Office of Communications to become Office of Stewardship and Communications Ministry. The new merged office provided for a more efficient way to develop Stewardship and to spread the Gospel message.  The Communications ministry has received not only regional but national and international recognition for its website, newspaper, marketing and public relations efforts. Most recently the office’s work was honored for not only its promotion efforts but also its development success with the International Catholic Stewardship Conference’s Excellence for Total Annual Appeal Effort for the 2015 Bishop’s Faith Appeal Campaign and the ICSC Excellence for Total Planned Giving Effort for 2016.  To plan for a more solid future, the Stewardship and Communications Office kicked off a planned giving campaign in 2015 as Bishop Guillory established a Planned Giving Commission and the ministry created its Across Generations program to encourage planned giving for parishes, schools and ministries.

Much of Bishop Guillory’s episcopacy has focused on youth and young adults.  A strong supporter of the Catholic school system, Bishop Guillory commissioned the Diocesan School Board to conduct an 18-month study into 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 attention – marketing, school board, pastoral relations and finances. In an effort to strengthen our Catholic schools, a multi-year grant was obtained to enlist Catholic Schools Management, Inc. The four-year project, started in fall 2011, helped to identify and create plans for development, marketing and student retention.

Because of this work, Bishop Guillory received the national 2006 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award from the National Catholic Educational Association. The NCEA once again recognized excellence in the Catholic education system in the Beaumont Diocese by awarding a national Outstanding School Board Award to St. Anne Catholic School, Beaumont.

Bishop Guillory’s growing concern for youth and young adults was a large part of his motivation to undertake the Together for God’s Good Work Capital Campaign. Under his direction, the $25 million campaign kicked off in late summer 2008 with $7 million of it earmarked for youth programs and $1 million to be used for Campus Ministry at Lamar University in Beaumont.

The diocese had been offering ministry to Lamar’s college students since its inception bringing them together for worship and recreation. But the actual plant had been deteriorating.  In 2010, thanks to the capital campaign, the first major remodeling project began with the renovation of the Student Center and the addition of a separate chapel. St. Thomas More Chapel was dedicated in August 2011 and Campus Ministry’s renovated Student Center building was reopened.

Funding from the campaign also provides scholarships for Catholic schools, funds for parish youth ministry and parish religious education. It shored up funds for the Infirmed Priests Fund to help the many priests who have been such an integral part of the growth of the diocese and then become ill.  The campaign secured funds for the future of Catholic Charities as well as Holy Family Retreat Center.

A milestone in 2011 was the dedication of the new Catholic Pastoral Center in April. The construction of the building was one of the elements funded by the capital campaign. The building brought together ministries that had been scattered in several buildings in different locations in Beaumont to one site for a more cohesive workplace.

The new Pastoral Center provided a beautiful neighbor for the St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica which had been renovated and restored a few years earlier. Msgr. Jeremiah McGrath had coordinated the restoration.  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.

As with many ministries the diocesan Family Life Ministry has evolved through the years and under Bishop Guillory’s episcopacy, the director’s position became a fulltime one with a more defined ministry targeted to specific demographics. In the past several years the director has enhanced the marriage enrichment ministry of the office and began a new push to reach young adults. A series of retreats called the “I Do, Again” retreats is becoming increasingly popular with married couples

A unique outreach to young adults – both married and single – was established in 2013 as Bishop Guillory began a series of young adult dinners at his home.  First established to increase participation by this demographic in the life of the Church, the dinners have now become a type of focus group giving Bishop Guillory the opportunity to hear the concerns of young adults.

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 which offers training for employees and volunteers.

The local Church revitalized its evangelization efforts as Pope Benedict XVI called for New Evangelization across the world. In 2013 the Office of Lifelong Formation/Education was renamed Evangelization and Catechesis – a better fit for the ministry. Though its title was new the ministry had been at the forefront of the diocese evangelization efforts for many years.  It has hosted two Evangelization Conferences to educate the Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas. And adding to programs already underway like Living the Eucharist and Confirmation for Adults, it provided formation for Evangelization Parish Teams. About the same time Bishop Guillory established the Diocesan Evangelization Commission.

Evangelization efforts had also been much of the focus of the Stewardship and Communications Office. 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 diocese increased its evangelization efforts in 2009 when the first Encounter Catholic experience was held at Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur. Later Encounter Catholic spread into East Texas making its initial appearance at the Dogwood Festival, into Orange County at the Vidor BBQ Festival and Hardin County with the Village Creek Festival. The diocese also uses social media to evangelize – with Bishop Guillory and the East Texas Catholic on Twitter and the diocese on Facebook and on Instagram. In 2015, the Stewardship and Communications Ministry was once again restructured to provide for more evangelization through visual materials as well as the new forms of media.

A unique retreat experience that brought many into the faith also began during Bishop Guillory’s episcopacy as ACTS retreats first came to St. Anne Parish in Beaumont and then quickly spread throughout the diocese. Teen ACTS and Campus Ministry ACTS as well as ACTS in the prisons were established. Prison ACTS, which later became known as the Kolbe Prison retreats, were established in 2012. Results of the prison retreats include an increased number of baptisms and of confirmations in the correctional facilities that have held a retreat.

The Office of Worship, which first began in 1981, held its first Diocesan Liturgical Conference in 2007 bringing hundreds of Southeast Texans together to hear nationally known speakers. This conference evolved into the Prayer and Worship Seminar with a similar format but the same idea of continuing education for the Catholic faithful in Southeast Texas. In January 2014 the Office of Worship, with support from the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, hosted the annual Southwest Liturgical Conference study week. It was memorable in that an ice storm hit Southeast Texas those same days causing transportation problems throughout the area. The ministry’s quiet and reverent work continues in the background most of the time with diocesan Masses and celebrations.  It has been at the forefront of our 50th Anniversary Liturgical Celebration.

At the time of our 50th anniversary in September 2016, we are 44 parishes and 7 missions, one high school, four grade schools, a retreat center, a Catholic foundation, a vibrant social ministry through Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas, numerous lay organizations, 18 diocesan ministries, 65 priests and 38 deacons.  We are 71,000 Catholics strong.