Missions of San Jose
Mexican Missions in southern Travis County, 1939
Between 1936 and 1939, Rev. Alfredo Mendez, C.S.C. was assigned to the Diocese of Galveston. During this time, he built eleven mission churches, all north of the Colorado River (72). Most, if not all, served the growing Mexican population of northern Travis and Williamson Counties. Because funds from the Diocese were scarce, the Catholic Church Extension Society, based in Chicago, Illinois, provided most of the funds to build the missions.
Holy Cross priests had been working for many years in Austin and Travis County north of the Colorado River. In early 1939, these missionaries turned their attention to Travis and Bastrop Counties south of the Colorado River. The area south of the Colorado River was in the Diocese of San Antonio and they needed the San Antonio Bishop's permission to work there. On July 20, 1939, Rev. Fred A. Schmidt, C.S.C., asked Bishop Arthur J. Drossaerts of San Antonio for written facilities for him, Rev. Mendez and Rev. Thomas Culhane (46).
According to Brother William Dunn's history of San Jose Parish, Mendez was invited by Archbishop Drossaerts of San Antonio to work in his Diocese. No Spanish-speaking clergy worked in the area between the Colorado River and Kyle and only one chapel, at Vasquez, was available to Mexican Catholics. On August 13, 1939, Mendez, writing from St. Edward's University, suggested a Mexican mission in south Austin to Bishop Drossaerts. He explained that Rev. Donahue and Rev. Houser were supportive of the idea (46). Rev. James W. Donahue was the former superior general of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He had recently retired and moved to St. Edward's University. Father Joseph Houser was an instructor at St. Edward's.
This letter was a formal request and apparently ratified an agreement that had already been reached. Two days later, on August 15, 1939, the Archbishop wrote back and laid out the agreement as he understood it (46) (73). This letter established the geographic bounds of the missions and stated that the "mother church" would be in South Austin. The C.S.C. Provincial in Notre Dame, Indiana, Rev. James Burns, accepted the invitation of Bishop Drossaerts and appointed Mendez to the new mission (211).
In this way, Rev. Mendez was assigned to work among Mexicans in Travis and Bastrop Counties south of the Colorado River in the Diocese of San Antonio. His first collaborators in this work were Holy Cross Fathers James Donohue, Joseph Houser, Peter Mueller and Thomas Culhane.
Boundaries of Mexican Mission
Archbishop Arthur J. Drossaerts of San Antonio set the geographic limits of the Mexican Mission, agreed that the "Mother Church" would be in South Austin and approved appeals to the Catholic Church Extension Society for building funds (73). The tentative limits of the Mexican Mission were, 17 miles east of Red Rock, 17 miles northwest of Lockhart, 17 miles north of San Marcos, west to Johnson City and a circle 5 miles around Johnson City (73). Later, the Archbishop told Mendez that he need not feel obligated to take care of Johnson City (74). The territory of the mission was mostly in Travis County. There were apparently already missions or churches at Rockne, Lockhart and San Marcos in 1940.
Rev. Mendez intended to erect a "national" or "language" parish for Mexicans in Austin within the limits of St. Ignatius Parish. This church would create missions in Bastrop and southern Travis County wherever a large enough cluster of Mexican Catholics were found. However, San José Church was not declared a national church in 1940. As a result, in February 1942, the San Antonio Archdiocesan Boundary Commission determined that San José Church was within the limits of St. Ignatius Parish. Bishop Lucey informed Mendez that San José Parish was not erected by the Holy See and, since bishops could not erect a national or language parish, Mendez' appointment as Pastor of San José was not valid. To remedy this problem, Archbishop Robert E. Lucey of San Antonio appointed Mendez and his helpers as Assistant Pastors of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish with the understanding that they would work at San José Mission (46). Archbishop Lucey asked the Holy See to erect San José as a national parish for Spanish-speaking Catholics and this was done on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947 (75) (46, letter of April 6, 1947) (211).
When the parish was erected in April 1947, the three priests that were assigned to the Mexican Mission at that time (Mendez, Peter Mueller and James A. Donnelly) were reassigned to San José Parish (46).
Beginning the work: 1940
The first task was to locate prospective parishioners. In February 1940, two Religious Sisters of the Missionary Catechists (Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters) (Sister Blanche Marie Richardson and Sister Mary Salome Dorava) arrived in Austin to take the census of Mexican farm workers in Bastrop and Travis County for San José Parish. They worked until July 1940 but did not finish the task. The census was still incomplete in the spring of 1941 (1).
In the Annual Report for 1940 to the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Rev. Mendez listed the missions in the Diocese of San Antonio that his team served (1). He reported 70 registered families and 20 baptisms at Guadalupe Church in Garfield; 180 families and one baptism at San Francisco Church in Colton and 65 families and 150 infant and one adult baptism at San Jose Church in Austin. He explained that the mission at Colton had just been started when he wrote the annual report.
He also reported the following preaching stations: Buda with 60-70 families and 10 baptisms; Manchaca with about 25 families and 20 baptisms; Elroy, Creedmoor and Oak Hill. He explained that the home census work had yet to be done in Manchaca and the other preaching stations.
Although Mendez had a number of helpers, they were not able to attend to each mission every Sunday. Only San José (then known as St. Joseph) in Austin had Mass every Sunday. The mission at Garfield (Guadalupe Church) celebrated Mass on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month and the mission at San Francisco (also known as St. Francis) in Colton celebrated Mass on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month. Mendez visited the preaching stations once every month.
He reported that he did not know the number of communions made because, "Priests help me from St. Edward's on various missions. I cover each once a month." His helpers included Fathers James Donahue, Thomas Culhane, Peter Mueller, James Donnelly, Brother Anthony Weber, Joel Atwood and Elmer Vincent Rupp, all Holy Cross Brothers or priests (3).
Catechetical instruction was given to children at each Mission once a week. The schedule was: Manchaca on Monday;
San José on Tuesday and Sunday
Dry Creek and Elroy on Wednesday
Colorado and Norwood on Thursday
Turnerville and Creedmoor on Friday.
Three Holy Cross Sisters from St. Mary's Academy were the Catechists. They probably lived at 207 E. 7th Street (1). Two Sisters of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters also helped as Catechists. Rev. James Donahue was in charge of performing marriages for those persons who were not married in the church. He rented a storeroom south of Austin during the summer of 1940 for this purpose (1) (4).
The 1940 Annual Report asked about how the mission was financed. Mendez reported an income of $105 from the missions (excluding San José). Mendez used his car to visit the missions and preaching stations. He reported expenses of 50 cents a trip on, "Sunday and Catechism day", which is say six days a week. In 1940, Mendez personally raised $620 from donors outside the parish ("in the north"). A single large donation for $4,500 was used to build chapels (probably at Santa Cruz and San Francisco) (1). That money probably came from the Catholic Church Extension Society with which Mendez had a long and successful relationship (46).
The Mexican Mission in 1942
In 1942, Rev. Mendez wrote letters on stationary with a printed letterhead. The letterhead read Holy Cross Mexican Missions, Archdiocese of San Antonio, 715 W. Mary Street, Austin, Texas and listed the following missions and stations (81).
Missions: San José, Austin; Guadalupe, Garfield; San Francisco, Creedmoor; Santa Cruz, Buda
Stations: Bluff Springs, Turnerville, Dry Creek, Manchaca, Colorado, Norwood, Oak Hill, Elroy, Owens, Maha
Missing from the list of missions is what later became Nuestra Señora de los Dolores Catholic Church. Mendez was aware that there was a scattering of Mexican families living in the area of Montopolis. Montopolis was an African-American community on the south bank of the Colorado River. The Colorado preaching station was in that neighborhood. In 1940, Mendez said he intended to, "study the situation at Montopolis and towards Bastrop - no man's land northeast of Rockne and east of us". Sometime in 1942, a mission (La Luz) was constructed near the Colorado River on the eastern edge of the Montopolis neighborhood.
In the 1930s, many Mexicans and African-Americans worked side-by-side as farm workers in rural Travis County. Both communities lived on shacks located on their employer's farm although some African-Americans lived on and worked their own land (4). The locations of the Preaching Stations served by Mendez and his team usually referred to the location of a rural school. In rural Travis County and in Bastrop Counties, there were sometimes three schools, one for African-Americans, one for Mexicans and one for Anglo (White) students (4). If there was no Mexican school nearby (as was often the case), Mexicans attended school with the Anglo students (252) (270). In Austin, except for a brief period between 1930 and 1940, Mexicans attended school with Anglos (32). African-Americans attended racially segregated schools until 1955 (32).
The precise location of the various preaching stations is not known. The following lists each station, the Negro School District if known, the probable route of travel took by Mendez and the travel distance from St. Edward's University.
The location of the preaching station at Bluff Springs is not known but it was probably somewhere east of Interstate Highway 35 along E. William Cannon Drive.
Buda was a stop the San Antonio Highway, 14 miles south of St. Edward's University. In 1940, the San Antonio Highway was an extension of South Congress Avenue and it passed through Buda.
Colorado was in School District 36, near where US Hwy. 183 now crosses the Colorado River. It was an estimated eight miles drive from St. Edward's. The address was either R2 Austin or Del Valle. It was near the Montopolis neighborhood.
Creedmoor was in School District 41, about 15 miles from St. Edward's. The route to Creedmoor was probably along Congress Avenue and Lockhart Highway or US290 and State Highway 29 (now US183).
Dry Creek was in School District 37, about eight miles from St. Edward's. The exact location is not known. Its address was either R6 Austin or Del Valle.
Elroy was in School District 64. It was about 14 miles from St. Edward's along Congress Avenue, US290 and then what is now FM 812. Its address was R2 Del Valle.
Garfield was near the Colorado River in School District 35. It was in the territory of the Del Valle Post Office. It was about 15 miles from St. Edward's along Congress Avenue and then TX Highway 71 towards Bastrop. Highway 71 passed through the village and just north of the Mexican church and school.
Lytton Springs is located about 27 miles south of St. Edward's. The School district is unknown. Rev. Mendez would have traveled south on Congress Avenue, east on TX 71 and south towards Lockhart on what is now US183 and FM1854.
Maha was near Creedmoor in School District 68. It was about 12 miles from St. Edward's.
Manchaca was located about 11 miles south of St. Edward's in School District 44. Its address was either R5 Austin or Manchaca. Rev. Mendez probably drove there on Congress Avenue and what is now FM1616.
Oak Hill is about seven miles west of St. Edward's on Congress Avenue and US290. The location of the preaching station is unknown but it may have been on or near the Charles Dellana ranch on the west side of Zilker Park.
The location of Owens school is unknown.
J.B. Norwood School was a few miles south of the Colorado School in School District 66 in the territory served by the Del Valle Post Office. This location is now in Austin at the intersection of Hwy. 183 and Burleson Road. It was about 7 miles from St. Edward's along Texas Highway 71.
Turnerville was in School District 42 and was in the territory of Buda Post Office, R1 & R4. It was 14 miles from St. Edward's along Congress Avenue, San Antonio Highway and what is now TX45.
Annual Report 1940
In the Annual Report for 1940 to the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Rev. Mendez listed the missions in the Diocese of San Antonio that his team served (1). Mendez gave answers to questions written on the report form.
1. Give Name of Mission or Station: 2. Number of families: 3. Number of Baptisms:
Name of the Mission Number of families Number of baptisms
Guadalupe, Garfield 70 20
San Francisco, Colton 180 1 baptism (just built)
San José, Austin 65 150 Infants, 1 Adult
Buda 60-70 10
Manchaca 25 (Home census work yet to be done), 20 baptisms
5. How often and on what Sundays is Mission attended?
Guadalupe, Garfield 1st and 3rd Sunday
San Francisco/St. Francis, Colton 2nd and 4th Sunday
San José/St. Joseph, Austin Every Sunday
Preaching Stations: Personally once every month
4. Number of Communions: Hard to say, Priests help me from St. Edward's on various missions. I cover each once a month.
6. How often is Catechetical instruction given to the children? Each Mission once a week Manchaca Monday
San José Tuesday and Sunday
Dry Creek and Elroy Wednesday
Colorado and Norwood Thursday
Turnerville and Creedmoor Friday
7. What support is derived from this Mission? Roughly $1.50 to $2.00 a Sunday
8. What expenses are incurred by attending to this Mission? About 50 cents a trip (Sunday and Catechism day)
Remarks about Mission: Repair Guadalupe at Garfield; begin church near Buda; study situation at Montopolis and towards Bastrop - no man's land northeast of Rockne and east of us
Luís Calderón farm
Rev. Mendez reported that there were 65 registered families at San José Mission at the end of 1940. He reported 150 infants and one adult baptism at San José during the year. The congregation had moved into its new building just six months before but already San José was the largest of the missions founded by Mendez and his team. The mission of San Francisco near Creedmoor had as many registered families as San José had in 1940 but San Francisco was a much newer congregation. San José was the first of the four mission churches founded by the Mexican Mission between 1939 and 1942 and was destined to become the largest.
San José Church grew out of a preaching station in South Austin that Mendez established in 1939. According to Mrs. Mary Louse Calderon Huerta, "When I was a young girl growing up on a farm on Radam Lane near Williamson Creek, two priests, Rev. Mendez and Rev. Thomas Culhane, visited my father, Luís Z. Calderón. My father asked the priests if they would say Mass once a month for the families who lived in South Austin. He said he would build a platform so everyone could see and hear them" (221).
Luís Calderón built the platform on his farm and, when the weather permitted, the platform was used for Mass until the church on W. Mary Street was finished. The farm was on a rise near where Radam Lane ended at Williamson Creek. It was east of the railroad tracks, north of Williamson Creek and bounded on the east by the road. The road is now called Emerald Forest and it no longer ends at the creek. According to Mrs. Huerta, "Mass was still being offered at our home once a month during the construction of the church" (221). San José Church was under construction between February and June 1940.
The Sisters' Chapel
Mendez and Culhane also said Mass in a small chapel in the rectory of St. Ignatius Church on Johanna Street. Mary Murillo recalled that, "The church started at a house on the corner where the Boys Club is now (303 West Johanna Street). The house was the first St. Ignatius Church then. There was a white house there and we went there for Mass. By then, there were too many cars and the horse would get scared so we were really glad we had a church nearer to our home" (at 707 W. Monroe Street) (218).
The first St. Ignatius Church was located in a former Methodist parsonage at the corner of Wilson and West Johanna Streets (possibly at 306 W. Johanna Street). Apparently, a wooden structure was built or placed next to the old Methodist parsonage and services took place there. The white house became the rectory. The white house mentioned by Mary Murillo was probably the rectory of St. Ignatius Church. The rectory had a tiny chapel for the priest's use. Rev. Mendez used this chapel on occasion. The Sociedad del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús was organized in the chapel in 1939. In that chapel, Mendez and the men of the mission began to plan for the construction of a church on W. Mary Street (209). Some San Jose parishioners remember that services were held in a barracks-like structure between the rectory and the first St. Ignatius Church while others remember that services were held only in the chapel.
In August 1940 four Holy Cross Sisters moved into the rectory and the pastor of St. Ignatius moved into the basement of the school. For this reason, many San José old-timers refer to the chapel as the Sister's chapel. Other parishioners (Ester Govea Terrazas) remember that there were services in a barracks next door to St. Ignatius church on Johanna Street.
According to Mrs. Huerta, the Moreno, Álvarez, Bargas, Estrada, Sosa and Rocha families and many more came for Mass at the Luís Calderón ranch (221). It is unlikely that the Moreno and Rocha families attended Mass on the Calderón property. Alfredo Moreno Sr. lived on Sabine St. north of the river in 1939 and José Rocha moved from Buda to South Austin in 1941. Aurelio Estrada arrived in the area in 1940s. The families that attended Mass there probably included Florencio Bargas, who lived at 708 W. Monroe in 1939; Gabriel Bargas, who lived at 516 W. Annie St. in 1939; and Pila Sosa, who also lived in the area in 1939.
Mission Church at Garfield
A Mexican Catholic church near Garfield had existed for twenty years when Rev. Mendez began the Mexican Mission south of the Colorado River in 1939. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Church was organized sometime prior to 1918 (211). The church was located on property belonging to Travis County next to the County Mexican School and the County Mexican Cemetery. The School District was #35. In 1919, the Travis County School Board granted permission to build a church on this property. The building was erected in 1919 under Rev. Walter O'Donnell, C.S.C, and had been in continuous use since then. The original building in 1939 was an oblong building with a tin roof and was valued at $1,200 (81).
Guadalupe Church was located one mile west of the village of Garfield on the north side of Texas Highway 71 about 22 miles east of Austin (81). It was in Travis County and south of the Colorado River. It became a mission of the newly founded San Jose Mission. In July 20, 1939, Holy Cross priests Fred A. Schmidt, Alfredo Mendez and Thomas Culhane were working at the "beautiful little Holy Cross mission at Garfield" (71).
In 1940, Mass was celebrated at the mission at Garfield (Guadalupe Church) on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month. Rev. Mendez reported that the mission had 70 registered families and 20 baptisms in 1940. He did not say when or if Catechists visited the mission.
In 1946, a sanctuary and porch were added to the Garfield mission at a cost of $400. The new building then measured 34 feet by 20 feet (81). The old part of the church building was repaired at a cost of $500 (85). In November 1946, Mendez divided the debt of $900 owed his sister (Mrs. Adeline Laugier) between the four mission churches and assigned $53.50 to Garfield (82).
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church remained a mission of San Jose (110) until April of 1953 when Nuestra Señora de La Luz (renamed Dolores) became a parish. At that time, San Francisco Church in Creedmoor and Guadalupe Church in Garfield became its missions (28) (211). After some years, the congregation in Garfield decreased to the point where the church was closed and all traces of the church building and the County school have since disappeared. Only the graveyard remains.
Santa Cruz Catholic Church, Buda
In 1940, Rev. Mendez described a preaching station in Buda with 60 to 70 families and 10 baptisms during the year. He said he visited the preaching station once every month. He did not indicate that Religious Sisters, who served as the mission's Catechists, gave instruction to Catholics living in Buda. Mendez estimate of the number of families living near Buda was high. The 1940 Federal census indicated 60-70 Catholic Mexican families did live in that district (1) but the mission initially attracted only 25 to 30 families (11).
The preaching station had been upgraded to the status of a mission by 1941 and the decision was made to build a chapel. On March 17, 1941, Mendez purchased one acre of land from M. Rylander of Buda in the name of Bishop Arthur J. Drossaerts D.D. of the Diocese of San Antonio for the purpose of building a church. He paid $90 for the one-acre lot, $25 for a Guarantee of Title, a $5 recording fee and another sum for a survey by J. Freeman. The deed is recorded in Hays County (81). The land was located at the intersection of US Highway 81 (now known as the Old San Antonio Road) and a dirt county road running southeast toward the crossroads of Goforth (81). US Highway 81 was an extension of South Congress Avenue and was the highway to the City of San Antonio.
A chapel was built in June 1941
Work on a church began in June 1941 (as soon as the church in Creedmoor was finished) and was finished in December 1941. Rev. Mendez did not bother his architect to design a new building. The building was a replica of San José Church and used the same architectural prints used to build San José (193). The building had stone floors and walls, steel casement windows and a wooden roof covered with wooden cedar shingles. The roof beams were hand-hewed with an ax by Rev. Thomas Culhane, C.S.C. (11). The source of free stone from the Delanna Ranch was exhausted during the construction of San Francisco church and the stone used at Santa Cruz was taken from other ranches further away. The same volunteers who build San José and San Francisco Churches build the church at Buda. Rev. Peter Mueller, who was boarding and teaching at St. Edward's University, provided transportation for the men who build the church. Mendez estimated that the cost to construct the building was $3200. Mendez listed himself as both the architect and the contractor (81). On December 14, 1941, Archbishop Robert E. Lucey blessed the Santa Cruz mission when he presided over a confirmation ceremony at the mission (11). The Combined Register for the Mexican Missions shows that the Bishop confirmed 21 persons at Santa Cruz on that date.
In 1945, Mendez visited the mission at Buda every two weeks and celebrated Mass there in the morning. The congregation consisted of farm workers who lived within travel distance of the mission. Some of these families later moved to Austin and purchased homes near San José Church. These families included that of Victor Ramírez and José Rocha.
In November 1946, when Mendez divided the debt of $900 owed his sister (Mrs. Adeline Laugier) between the four mission churches, he assigned $346 of the debt to Santa Cruz Mission in Buda (82).
In 1950, when Santa Cruz was a mission of San José, Rev. Joseph Houser purchased a barracks from Camp Swift for use as a parish hall. Houser said, "Barracks from dismantled Camp Swift were purchased for the churches. The men of each church volunteered, as they did so faithfully over the years, to fix these buildings into attractive parish halls" (211).
Until September 15, 1953, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores was a mission of San José Church with the title of Nuestra Señora de la Luz. On that date, La Luz became a separate parish with a new name (28). The other two missions of San José, San Francisco in Creedmore and Guadalupe in Garfield, were now missions of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. This left Santa Cruz as the only remaining mission of San José Church. Santa Cruz had 40 families and San José had 300 families. All were of Mexican descent. St. Ignatius Catholic Church took care of all the Anglo Catholics living in the same territory. The parish boundaries of St. Ignatius enclosed an area that measured about fifteen miles across (28).
In 1953, the C.S.C. Provincial took Rev. Driscoll from San José and sent him as the replacement for Rev. Donnelly in the St. Helen's Missions of Georgetown. The intention was to replace Driscoll with Rev. Rupp who was working in St. Mary's Mission of Lampasas. However, Rev. Francis Weber, C.S.C., who was the pastor of St. Mary's Missions, stated that two priests could not take care of the seven churches of the St. Mary's Mission. Houser, who was Superior of the Missions, agreed to let Rupp remain with Weber in Lampasas. The Provincial agreed to this arrangement (28). As a result, San José and its mission, Santa Cruz, were left with only one priest.
In July 1953, Rev. Edwin Bauer, C.S.C., who was the Procurator of the Missions, agreed to say Sunday Mass at Santa Cruz Mission. He began in July of 1953 and continued until July of 1956 when he was transferred to Holy Cross Parish in South Bend, Indiana (28).
The congregation was small
In July 1955, there were only 43 families at Santa Cruz church (124). However, sometime between 1955 and 1962, Santa Cruz was erected as a parish (223:01/14/62). It was too small to have a full-time priest. As late as December 1975, the pastor of San Francisco Javier Parish near Creedmoor also served Santa Cruz Church (10).
In recent years, the church was relocated. The present Santa Cruz Church is not located on the site of the 1942 mission. The mission was located in what is now a vacant field at the northeast corner of I-35 and the road to Goforth (County Road 2001). Leif Johnson Ford in Buda is located just north of where the old church was located (according to Victor Ramírez). The new church is located at 1100 Main Street about 1.5 miles from the site of the original church.
San Francisco Javier Catholic Church, Creedmoor
In 1939, a large number of Mexican farm workers lived in the area of Creedmoor in southern Travis County. Rev. Mendez began working with this community within weeks of his appointment to the Mexican Mission in the Diocese of San Antonio. In the summer of 1939, Mendez began his work with Mass in the hall at Creedmoor. He said Mass in the school at Mendoza on two occasions and in the school of La Dalia on two other occasions. Most of the time, for the next two years, Mass was said in the residence of Mr. Ruby Arévalo (87).
Fr. Mendez quickly realized that the area around Creedmoor had great promise as a mission field and he prioritized the work in Creedmoor as second only to San José, the Mother Church of the Mexican Mission. On October 5, 1940, Mendez purchased one acre of land from Sallie P. McCown of Creedmoor in the name of Bishop Arthur J. Drossaerts D.D. of the Diocese of San Antonio for the purpose of building a church. He paid $95 for the land. He paid someone an agent's fee of $5 for negotiating the deal. Miss McCown was a minor who inherited the estate of Howell W. Wilhite and $35 in court costs was necessary to get a judge's permission for her to sell the land. Gracy Abstract Company of Austin charged $25 for the Guarantee of Title (San Francisco Javier website, September 2018).
The land was located on State Highway 29 (now US 183). In 1940 the highway was called the Austin-Lockhart Highway. The address of the church is 9110 Highway 183 South (3). It was 12 miles south of Austin on the road to Lockhart (81).
In December 1940, Mendez reported 180 registered families and one baptism at San Francisco Church in Colton. He explained that the mission at Colton had just been started when he wrote the annual report and that accounted for the low number of baptisms there.
Work began on the chapel in January 1941
In January 1941, work on the mission chapel began (87). Arthur Fehr, the same Austin architect who designed San Jose Church, drew the plans for this church. The two buildings shared many design features. The plans were dated October 29, 1940 just a few weeks after Mendez purchased the site. The same group of men, led by Jose Botello, who volunteered to build the building for San José built the mission in Creedmoor (211). Mendez was once again the acting architect and contractor (81).
San Francisco Church was built using fieldstone taken from dry creek beds, perhaps from a farm near Manchaca. La Luz church in Montopolis was built of the cut stone and, when La Luz was torn down, the stone was taken to San Francisco church and used to enlarge the kitchen and the back part of the church (14) (193).
Like San José Church, the building had stone floors and walls, steel casement windows (81) and rafters that were recycled telephone poles (87). A conspicuous difference was that the building in Creedmoor had a flat wooden roof deck with a built up composition roof over the deck (81). The flat roof was blown away completely or partially several times (11). Over the years, hurricanes damaged the roof at least three times (87). It is unclear if this is due to the roof design or the fact that the building is built on a hill in an area largely cleared of trees. The building was completed in June 1941. Mendez reported that the cost of construction was $3100 (81).
Rev. Peter Mueller was appointed as the first Vicar and on July 6, 1941, the first Mass was said in the church. On December 14, 1941, the Most Rev. Archbishop Robert E. Lucey of San Antonio probably dedicated or blessed the church when he presided over the first confirmation ceremony there (11) (87). Registers in the sacramental archives of San José show that the Bishop confirmed 68 persons at San Francisco Church on that day.
When the mission was built in 1941, there were 400 Spanish-speaking families in the area of Colton, Creedmoor, Maha, Elroy, Dry Creek and Lytton Springs. The number later declined to 75 families, mostly because of immigration to Austin during and after World War Two (11). The families that moved to Austin had previously attended Mass in Lockhart, Uhland, Kyle and at the Vásquez chapel as well as at the mission church of San Francisco (87). Many ethnic Mexicans in South Austin grew up in Lockhart and its environs and moved to Austin as young adults.
In November 1946, when Mendez divided the debt of $900 that he owed his sister (Mrs. Adeline Laugier) between the four mission churches, he assigned $300.50 to San Francisco. It is not clear on what basis Mendez assigned portions of the debt. Santa Cruz, whose share was $346, had only 43 families. San Jose with 165 registered families was assigned a debt of $200. A share of $53.50 was assigned to the declining congregation at Garfield (82). Perhaps, the shares reflected the actual amount spend to build the missions. The Catholic Church Extension Society gave $2,500 to help build San Francisco Church (85).
In June 1950, a surplus Army barracks was purchased and remodeled as the parish hall (87). Rev. Joseph Houser said, "...barracks from dismantled Camp Swift were purchased for the churches. The men of each church volunteered...to fix these buildings into attractive parish halls" (211). On July 15, 1951, when Rev. Elmer Rupp was the pastor, Austin Bishop Louis J. Reicher dedicated the new parish hall (87).
Beginning on August 6, 1952, under the supervision of Rev. Joseph Houser, C.S.C., and Rev. Charles Delaney, C.S.C., the front of the church was torn down and the buttresses, the façade and the belfry added. The remodel was completed on August 21 at 3:00PM (11) (87). Later that year, in November 1952, work on a grotto honoring Our Lady of Fatima began. The grotto was finished on December 13 (11) (87). According the church's website, the grotto was made from rock carried from Pilot Knob. Msgr. Matocha, Fr. Houser and the pastor, Fr. Charles Delaney, blessed the new grotto on December 21 (87).
The mission became a parish in 1961
In 1953, when Fr. Delaney was pastor of Dolores Church on Montopolis Drive in Austin, San Francisco became a mission of Dolores Church. San Francisco did not have a resident pastor until Elmer V. Rupp, C.S.C., became the pastor in July 1957. Because the parish did not have a rectory, Rev. Rupp lived in two rooms in the parish hall. It was not until 1958 that another room and a bath with water were added to the temporary rectory located in the parish hall. On December 31, 1961, San Francisco became a territorial parish (11).
In June 1962, San Francisco returned to the status of a mission. During the summer, a five-room rectory was built. Msgr. Edward Matocha, Chancellor of the Diocese of Austin, blessed the rectory on October 21 and the pastor moved into it the next day (11). In 1962, the mission had three ministries: lectors (14 persons), extraordinary Ministers of Communion (15 persons) and La Sociedad del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (5 persons). The Socios were Ray Adalco, Peter Pérez, Rudy Arévalo, Gilbert Anguiano and Wally Hernández (64). The Catholic Youth Organization, the Legión de María and the Guadalupanas were other sodalities at the church (6).
On April 25, 1971, San Francisco Church hosted the annual Diocesan Spanish Convention. In the morning, all of delegates and officers of parish societies met in plenary session. At 2:00PM, the resolutions taken during the morning session were read and discussed. Prayers, hymns, a sermon and comments followed. The delegates lined up at 4:30PM for a procession and entered the church for Mass at 5:30PM. The celebrant of the Mass and the preacher was Rev. Patrick Flores, D.D., who was the Auxiliary Bishop (and later Bishop) of San Antonio (8).
In October 1974, Rev. Elmer V. Rupp was the pastor (250:27/10/74). He also served at Santa Cruz Church in Buda (10). The congregation was small and the parish had only two Sunday Masses, in Spanish at 7:00PM and in English at 9:00AM. The annual bazaar was held on the church grounds on a Sunday in October (223:04/10/1981). It typically began at 11:00AM and ended at 10:00PM (223:05/10/1968).
Rev. John Haley, who served as pastor of both San José and San Francisco Churches at different times, died on Christmas Day in 1986. He asked that his funeral take place at San Francisco Church, which was done on December 28 (223:04/01/1987).
In 1987, the parish had a Mayfest or Jamaica on May 3, Sunday from noon to 9:00PM with a free dance, games, a cakewalk, chili dogs and Mexican dinners for sale (223:03/05/1987). In 1988, Rev. Joel Atwood, C.S.C., was the pastor of San Francisco Church.
La Luz or Dolores Catholic Church
In 1940, Rev. Mendez said he intended to, "study the situation at Montopolis and towards Bastrop". Montopolis was an African-American community on the south bank of the Colorado River. Mendez was aware that there was a scattering of Mexican families living in the neighborhood and that there was Mexican cemetery there. In 1940, Mendez established a preaching station near the Colorado School on the eastern edge of the neighborhood. The Colorado Negro School was located near where US Hwy. 183 crossed the Colorado River.
Mendez visited the preaching station at least once a month and Catechetical instruction was given to children there once a week. Three Holy Cross Sisters visited the missions at Colorado and Norwood schools on Thursday to prepare the children for their first Communion. Until a church was built, Mendez said Mass in a house on Ponca Street (14). At the time, few Mexican people lived in the area (3).
A family named Fabian donated land for a church and in 1942 or 1943, shortly after Santa Cruz Church in Buda was finished, a mission church was built near the Colorado River (14). The church building was built by the same construction crew from San José church that built the churches in Creedmoor and Buda. The church was called "La Luz" (3).
According to some sources, the source of free stone from the Delanna Ranch was exhausted during the construction of San Francisco in Creedmoor and it was finished using cut stone from a lime pit in Cedar Park. La Luz Church was built of the same stone. It is likely that the cut stone found at San Francisco Church was salvaged from La Luz Church when it was demolished.
Sometime later, possibly in 1945, the State purchased the site of La Luz to expand US Hwy. 183 (3). The building was demolished but the foundations of the original church could still be seen until recently (14). When La Luz was torn down, the recovered stone was taken to San Francisco church and used there (14). After the sale of the first church near the Colorado River, another location was purchased and a church built at 1111 Montopolis Drive in 1946 (3).
The second church on Montopolis Drive
The entire cost of the second La Luz Church was $5,915.00 (some $1,700 less than the lowest bid received) (82). In November 1946, La Luz had an outstanding note of $1,200 payable to the Chancery at 3% interest. This was money Rev. Mendez borrowed to purchase the building lot. There was also an outstanding bill to Comal Lumber Co. of Austin for $1,015.00 (82) (83). Nevertheless, Mendez hoped to add a hall at La Luz at a cost of $2,000 (82). $5,000 of the $7,000 expense to build the church came as a gift from the Catholic Church Extension Society (85).
Mendez borrowed a large amount of money to build the missions and he looked to the Archdiocese for help pay the debt. In a letter dated February 10, 1948, Mendez asked again for the Archbishop to pay some of the debt owed by the Mexican Missions. Specifically, he asked that the Archdiocese pay $221.25 owing on a Seminary assessment of $350 and cancel a note held by the Chancery for $1,200 that was used to buy land for La Luz in 1946 (85). In his last letter to Rev. Mendez, Archbishop Lucey of San Antonio reminded Mendez that the $900 owed his sister is the debt of the Mexicans of Austin and that they were not too poor to help themselves (84).
The third church
In 1952, the third La Luz Church was built. By 1952, it was obvious that both San José in South Austin and La Luz in Montopolis were too small for the size of their congregations. People were standing outside during Mass at both San José and Our Lady of Light or "La Luz", as it was popularly called. Providentially, a Mexican working in real estate located a choice piece of land in the center of the Mission of La Luz, a little over five acres. The land was purchased and by autumn, the groundbreaking ceremony took place and on November 15 construction of the new church began (28).
During the provincial visit in January 1953, Rev. Theodore J. Mehling, C.S.C. and Diocese of Austin Bishop Louis J. Reicher agreed to make La Luz a separate parish with a resident pastor. Rev. Delaney's name was kept in confidence for that appointment which went into effect in April 1953. La Luz now had its first pastor. The new pastor had under his charge two missions, that of San Francisco in Creedmoor and that of Guadalupe in Garfield. San José was left with its own Mission and Santa Cruz Mission in Buda (28).
The name of La Luz was changed at this time. When plans were being made for its blessing by Bishop Louis J. Reicher, he pointed out that a church should bear the name or title of a Mass found in the missal, "since each parish was supposed to have an annual commemoration or celebration for its patron". The Bishop accepted the feast proposed by Rev. Houser, Our Lady of Sorrows, which in Spanish remains its title, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. It is now called simply "Dolores" (28).
When the blessing took place on September 15, 1953, Rev. Charles Delaney, C.S.C., was the Pastor. The church, often called Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, is located at 1101 Montopolis Road and seats 500 people (117).
Rev. Fred Underwood
In 1962, Rev. Fred Underwood, C.S.C., was assigned to Dolores Parish. The parish was located an impoverished area with a high crime rate. Rev. Underwood embarked on a multi-year project to improve the area. Underwood borrowed money to build a Community Center. He then used Federal funds to start a Day Care and Head Start program. He created a Neighborhood Youth Corps. He started a bus system called Poverty Island Transportation and, over the years, built 175 homes for low-income families using Federal money (118).
In the early 1960s, the area was plagued by gangs. The gang leaders were invited to boxing competitions at the Montopolis Community Center and then invited to join the Neighborhood Youth Corps (116). In the Youth Corps, the youth were paid by the Federal government to learn job skills (116). By 1964, gang fights had largely stopped and the gang leaders were working at respectful jobs (116). In 1971, Underwood told a reporter that the gangs no longer existed although a half-dozen "mavericks" still tried to organize them (116).
During Underwood's 14-year tenure at Dolores Catholic Church (57), he worked to improve living conditions for his parishioners. Some of the parishioners worked by a furniture factory called Economy Furniture that was located on Manor Road. When the largely-Mexican work force at Economy Furniture went on strike in November 1968, Dolores Parish stood with and encouraged the strikers. In January 1970, Rev. Underwood joined twelve other pastors and priests on the picket line at Economy Furniture (161).
In 1971, programs sponsored by the Montopolis Community Center included 187 low-cost houses, day care for 65 children, the bus system, a furniture co-op, a credit union, a store selling used clothing and furniture and the Montopolis Community School (116). Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart staffed the 1st and 2nd grades at Montopolis Community School (116) that was housed in surplus barracks purchased from the US Air Force (118).
The programs run by the Montopolis Community Center benefited the entire community. In January 1971, the San José Sunday Bulletin announced that 50 new 2, 3, 4 and 5-bedroom houses in Montopolis were available to low-income families. The down payment was $200 and the houses were financed with low monthly payments. Parishioners at San José were urged to attend a meeting at the Montopolis Community Center to submit their application (223:01/24/71).
In 1992, Rev. Underwood, recalling the years he spent at Dolores Parish, said, "When I was pastor at Dolores Parish, we tithed as a parish (10% of our Sunday collections went to help the poor, two missions in Mexico, etc.). As soon as the parish began tithing, our financial situation completely changed. Jesus really blessed us. Within several years we paid off the $70,000 debt on the Church; paid off $90,000 (a 100% loan on Montopolis Center, which we built); built and paid off Dolores Family Center, $180,000; and last but not least, we paid off a $2,000,000 debt on the Housing Development where we developed 75 acres with paved streets and utilities and built 235 houses for low income families, plus there were two new five-bedroom houses and $150,000 in CDs when I left Dolores" (223:29/11/1992).
In 1985, a television station (Channel 10) aired a documentary film about the history of Montopolis, called "Montopolis". Rev. Fred Underwood, who initiated many of these community improvements there in the 1960s, was interviewed along with other neighborhood residents and leaders (223:10/11/1985).
The Ahuacatlan Mission
Rev. Frederick Schmidt, C.S.C., was a Holy Cross missionary who was well-known to both the San José and Dolores parish communities. In the 1930's, Schmidt was one of four Spanish-speaking Holy Cross priests assigned to Central Texas. The other priests were Thomas Culhane, C.S.C., Alfred Mendez, C.S.C., and Joseph Houser, C.S.C. (197).
For 35 years, Father Schmidt worked with Mexican Americans in Georgetown, Killeen, Copperas Cove and Round Rock. In May 1972, at the age of 65, he requested a sabbatical. Writing in 2012, Rev. Pete Logsdon, C.S.C., who was well acquainted with Schmidt, told how the mission began. What follows is a summary of a blog post written originally by Rev. Pete Logsdon, C.S.C., and published in February 26, 2012.
Schmidt said that he desired to spend some time in Mexico. He did not tell the Holy Cross Provincial, Rev. Christopher O'Toole, C.S.C., he would be looking for a parish in Mexico that had no priest. Schmidt located such a parish in the mountains of San Luís Potosí and received permission to spend his sabbatical year there. As the year drew to a close, Schmidt asked that he be allowed to remain in the village of Ahuacatlán. O'Toole brought the matter to his Provincial Council and it was agreed that Fr. Schmidt could stay in Ahuacatlán. He was pastor there for the next 25 years.
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).
The San Jose/Dolores Mission Group
In the spring of 1974, a group of youth people from San José and Dolores parishes 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 1979, Paul Gonzalez of San Jose parish emerged as the Mission Group's leader. He organized fund raisers throughout the year to finance the trip (223:11/03/79) (223:18/03/79) (223:18/03/79) (223:07/06/1981). That year, the Mission Group 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). Mr. Martin Estrada and Dolores Church both donated the use of a van for two weeks to transport the Mission Group as well as food and clothing donated to the mission (223:11/07/82).
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 Mission Group apparently disbanded in 1985. The 1985 trip was the last annual trip to Ahuacatlán recorded in the archives of San José Church. In July 1987, San José Church sent $1,000 to Schmidt's mission at Ahuacatlán but the money came from a Second collection. Rev. Schmidt sent the parish a thank-you note (223:02/08/1987).
This ended a remarkable partnership between youth groups at San José and Dolores Church. Rev. Fred Underwood and Rev. John Haley were pastors of Dolores and San José when the Mission Group formed in 1974. Both priests were reassigned in 1976. Rev. John C. Korscmar was pastor of San José from July 1976 until 1982. The Mission Group existed throughout Father Korscmar's tenure at San José and disbanded only after Rev. Underwood was assigned to San José in 1982. Rev. Underwood had other plans for the youth group at San José and soon organized them into a team that traveled throughout the State of Texas leading a Catholic revival meeting called Parish Renewals.
Although the mission trips to Ahuacatlán, SLP, ended in 1985, the two Austin parishes continued to help the mission. In June 1989, San José Church took a Second collection and raised $1,529.74 for Schmidt's mission (223:02/07/1989). Another Second collection was taken for the mission in 1992 (223:28/06/1992). The following year, the mission, which the pastor described as a sister parish, asked for ten men and women to help evangelize young people in the village (223:20/06/1993).