The unique relation of the states of Texas and Louisiana in Southeast Texas is well known. It is only in this corner of the state that the French are the leading ethnic group.
There is also a colorful relation of the two states in the ecclesiastical field.
Spanish Texas was under two different dioceses in Mexico. Texas was under the Diocese of Guadalajara from 1548 till 1777.
We were next under the Diocese of Linares, present-day Archdiocese of Monterrey, from 1777 till a few years after our independence from Mexico.
Texas won its independence in 1836 from Mexico. The government of Texas, strongly Masonic, realized that the Catholic Church was still under a Mexican diocese. The government encouraged the Catholic Church to establish its own diocese in the new country.
Vincentian Father John Timon came in 1838 to investigate the scene and advise the pope. Upon receiving his report, Rome immediately established a vicariate.
Though not a full diocese, it did give Texas autonomy in its church governance at an early time. It was named a diocese in May 1847.
In a little known fact, being a vicariate placed the Diocese of Galveston in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Baltimore, the first archdiocese in the country, was still the only one at that time.
New Orleans did not become an archdiocese till 1850.
Texas was in the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 1850 till 1926, when San Antonio was made an archdiocese.
Spaniards came early to Nacogdoches. French came early to Natchitoches. The French did not bring priests in the early years as did the Spaniards.
Thus, the Catholic parish in Natchitoches was established by the famous Padre Antonio Margil. The Catholic Directory lists this church as second only to St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans as the oldest church in Louisiana.
Padre Margil was at one time or another in residence at Nacogdoches, TX; San Augustine, TX; and Robeline, LA. Robeline was once the capital of Texas for half of a century.
Louisiana has sent three bishops to Texas.
Bishop Warren Boudreaux came from the Lafayette Diocese to be in Beaumont (1971-1977).
Arthur Drossaerts came from the Archdiocese of New Orleans to be bishop and later the first archbishop of San Antonio (1918-1940).
Now Bishop Curtis Guillory, S.V.D., takes up his episcopal ministry in Beaumont. He was born in Mallet, in the Lafayette Diocese, and served as a Divine Word priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Texas has sent three bishops to Louisiana.
Bishop John Odin, C.M., the first bishop of Galveston (1847-1861), was transferred to New Orleans (1861-1870). He became ill while attending Vatican I and returned to France where he died.
Bishop John Shaw was bishop of San Antonio (1911-1918). He then went to become archbishop of New Orleans (1918-1934).
Finally, Bishop Boudreaux is again listed as going from Texas to Louisiana to start the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux (1977-1992).
In 1918, there was only the Archdiocese of New Orleans in south Louisiana. In Texas, there were only the dioceses of Galveston, San Antonio, and El Paso on Highway 90.
In New Orleans, Archbishop James Blenk, S.M., died April 20, 1917. He was replaced by transferring Bishop John Shaw of San Antonio to New Orleans on January 25, 1918. In Galveston, Bishop Nicholas Gallagher died on Jan. 21, 1918. He was replaced by Bishop Christopher Byrne on Nov. 10, 1918.
When a bishop accepts his transfer, he is reduced to being temporary administrator even of his former diocese. Thus, there was a moment in time when there was no “ordinary” — that is, a bishop with full jurisdiction — from the Louisiana-Mississippi state line to about 100 miles east of El Paso.
Texas was at one time part of Spain, Mexico, independent, and the United States. Louisiana was part of France and Spain.
The international border between the two was often in dispute. Both sides agreed that they would simply stay out of that territory.
It became a “no-man’s land.” There was no law and order. Thieves, robbers, and murderers found their haven there. One sociologist suggested that is the major factor in explaining East Texas psychology even to this day.
The bishops of the two states in the 20th century were very concerned about the religious care of these people.
They agreed to a mutual plan. They gave the area over to the La Salettes. At one time, you could travel from the Gulf of Mexico to Shreveport and never leave a La Salette parish. They became an ecclesiastical border patrol.
— Reverend Monsignor James Vanderholt