Holy Cross Missions in Mexico

1.3 The Congregation of the Holy Cross in Mexico

Members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross have been involved in missionary work in Central Texas since they first arrived in Texas in 1874. When the congregation took charge of the Austin parish, the parishioners of St. Mary's consisted of German and Irish Catholics. Austin was not founded until after the Republic of Texas was created and there were few native Spanish speaking Tejanos living in the area in 1874 (139).

By 1907 the rapidly growing Mexican barrios along West Avenue in what is now downtown Austin attracted the attention of the Holy Cross brothers, sisters and priests who staffed St. Mary's Church and Academy and St. Edward's College. Rev. Patrick O'Reilly, C.S.C., began working with the Spanish and Italian-speaking residents of the West Austin colonia. In April 1907 the Bishop of Galveston dedicated a missionary chapel at the corner of Fifth and Guadalupe Street for this community that became la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (128).

Prior to 1918 a mission was created near the village of Garfield located along the Bastrop Highway between Austin and Bastrop. Priests and brothers from what was then St. Edward's College attended to this mission. In 1919, the Travis County School Board granted permission to build a church adjacent to the County Mexican School and the County Mexican Cemetery in School District #35. In 1919 Rev. Walter O'Donnell, CSC, of St. Edward's built a chapel on property. This mission was called Guadalupe Church (71).

In 1923 the Catholic Home Mission Guild of Austin built a chapel in East Austin that eventually became Cristo Rey Church. At the time five of the sixteen members of the Board of Directors of the Mission Guild were Holy Cross Fathers: Rev. Angus MacDonald (Guadalupe), P.J. O'Reilly (Seton Infirmary), Michael Quinlan (St. Mary's), Edward Burns (St. Mary's) and Matthew Schumacher (St. Edward's) (127). Of these Rev. MacDonald and Rev. O'Reilly spoke Spanish.

In the 1930's four Spanish-speaking Holy Cross priests, Rev. Frederick Schmidt, C.S.C., Rev. Thomas Culhane, C.S.C., Rev. Alfred Mendez, C.S.C., and Rev. Joseph Houser, C.S.C., were assigned to Central Texas. They formed Catholic communities that soon became parishes in which Spanish was the primary language (197).

Rev. Frederick Schmidt, C.S.C.'s mission to Mexico

By 1937 Rev. Frederick Schmidt, C.S.C., was serving as the pastor of St. Helen's in Georgetown (71). He worked at St. Helen's and its missions for the next 35 years. In 1972, when he was already 65 years of age, he took a sabbatical from his work in Central Texas and found a position in a small parish near San Luís Potosí. The parish lacked a priest. At the end of the year, he received permission to continue to work in the village of Ahuacatlán. He was pastor there for the next 25 years (197).

During those years, many Holy Cross religious Brothers, Sisters and priests visited Fr. Schmidt at his parish in México and some, like Fred Underwood, C.S.C., and later John Korscmar, C.S.C., took groups of young people to learn about the culture and help Schmidt for some weeks in the summer months (197).

In the spring of 1974, a group of youth people from San José and Dolores Churches began a mission project to Mexico that lasted until 1985. During June, July and August of 1974, 1975 and 1976, about 30 persons, about half from San José Parish and half from Dolores Parish, traveled to a parish south of Saltillo to work as Catechists. They worked in San Rafael Parish in the State of San Luís Potosí (249:21/04/74) (249:09/06/74) (250:12/09/74) (250:03/11/74) (223:27/07/75) (119).

In 1981, the Mission Group from Austin traveled to Father Schmidt's mission at Ahuacatlán. The young people and their chaperones left Austin in June or July and stayed at the mission for two weeks (223:05/07/1981) (223:12/07/1981) (223:27/06/82). The Mission Group made the trip to Ahuacatlán annually from 1979 until 1985 under the leadership of Paul Gonzales and Jesse Ortiz (223:05/09/82) (223:16/01/83) (223:23/01/83). The size of the group varied each year from 30 to 15 persons. They collected items such as canned food and powdered milk as gifts for Rev. Schmidt's mission (223:05/06/83) (223:07/07/1985).

The relationship between Dolores and San Jose Parish and their sister parish in Ahuacatlán did not end in 1985. Until at least 1993 both Austin parishes continued to send money from a Second Collection to Rev. Schmidt's mission. Father Schmidt passed again in 2003.

A second Holy Cross Parish in Mexico

In 1985 the Southern Province of the Congregation of the Holy Cross decided to take a second parish in Mexico. In 1986 a delegation traveled to Monterrey and were encouraged to staff Santo Tomás Moro Parish in the town of Guadalupe, east of the city of Monterrey. In 1996, when the parish was divided, Holy Cross Fathers took charge of the poorer of the two parishes, Nuestra Madre Santisima de La Luz.

In 1993, Holy Cross took responsibility for San José Parish in Taman, San Luís Potosí, very near the first Holy Cross Parish in Ahuacatlán (197). This parish primarily serves indigenous Nauhtal-speaking people.