The Valley Catholic
A rich and deep tradition of the Catholic faith has endured in the Rio Grande Valley for almost 500 years.
The first seeds of the Catholic faith were planted in 1519 in the time of the Spanish Conquistadores. An expedition under the command of a Spanish captain named Alonso Alvarez de Pineda brought the first Catholics to the Gulf Coast Area.
The teachings, rituals and customs of the Catholic Church have been handed down continuously from generation to generation, fulfilling the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles and to us.
Today, the Diocese of Brownsville includes more than a million Catholics, who worship in 71 parishes and 44 missions.
The Catholic faith may be deeply rooted in the Valley’s history and culture, but its diocese is young. While the area was part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville from 1874 to 1912, the Diocese of Brownsville was established on July 10, 1965 by Pope Paul VI. The ninth diocese in Texas was formed by detaching four counties – Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr – from the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
The Golden Anniversary of the diocese will be celebrated with several events throughout 2015.
The Family Life Office and Young Adult Ministry Office of the diocese are co-sponsoring one-day pilgrimages of historical sites on Feb. 28, June 13, Aug. 1 and Oct. 24.
Bishop Daniel E. Flores is scheduled to celebrate an open air Mass at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2 in front of the mosaic at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine. The event is open to the public and will serve as the principal event of the Jubilee Year.
Vespers for clergy and religious will be prayed at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville.First Bishop: Most Rev. Adolph Marx
Second Bishop: Most Rev. Humberto Medeiros
Third Bishop: Most Rev. John Joseph Fitzpatrick
Fourth Bishop: Most Rev. Enrique San Pedro
Fifth Bishop: Most Rev. Raymundo J. Peña
The first parish
Island named for local missionary
Cavalry of Christ
The Valley Catholic 50th Anniversary Special Issue
A native of Cuba and a former missionary, Bishop Enrique San Pedro, S.J. became the fourth bishop of the Brownsville Diocese, upon Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick’s retirement.
He had been installed as Coadjutor of the Diocese on Sept. 26, 1991.
He was born in Havana, Cuba, on March 9, 1926, where he lived until he left in 1946. He entered the Society of Jesus on Dec. 7, 1941 and was ordained a priest on March 18, 1957.
Bishop San Pedro was appointed the first Hispanic auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston on April 1, 1986. Consecrated as bishop on June 29, 1986, he served as auxiliary bishop of Galveston-Houston until 1991. At the time of his ordination as bishop, he was only the third Jesuit to be named a bishop in the United States.
Prior to his ordination as a priest in 1957, he received a master’s degree in Classical Literature from St. Stanislaus College, Salamanca, Spain in 1947; and a Licentiate in philosophy from the Pontifical University of Comillas, Santander, Spain in 1950.
Bishop San Pedro continued his studies earning a Licentiate in Theology from the Leopold-Franzens University, Innsbruck, Austria in 1958 and a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the same university in 1965. He also did postgraduate work at the Franz-Joseph University in Vienna, Austria from 1958-1959. From 1960 to 1964 he attended the Pontifical Biblical Institute where he obtained the Licentiate in Holy Scripture in 1962 and finished the following year as a candidate for the doctorate in Rome.
Bishop San Pedro spoke seven languages and served as a missionary in the Philippines and China.
Following his studies, San Pedro taught at various universities until this appointment as auxiliary bishop of the Galveston-Houston Diocese. He was in Vietnam from 1963 to 1975 but left because of the Communist takeover. He also served in Suva, Fiji, 1978-1980; and Boynton Beach, Florida, 1981-1985.
At the age of 65 he was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville on Nov. 30, 1991.
Lydia Pesina, director of the Family Life Office, said Bishop San Pedro “was an educator ‘par excellence.’ In the tradition of the Jesuits, he believed in education and formation for all involved in parish ministries.”
In the 1990s, Pesina, with the Office of Catechesis, recalls that he asked them to develop a catechist formation program locally since the national “Echoes of Faith” program was just in the initial stages.
Pesina remembers on one occasion she and Bishop San Pedro drove from Alamo to Brownsville and he shared that his first teaching experience was at the age of twelve, when he was in the minor seminary and was asked to assist in teaching Latin to some seminarians older than him.
“I believe this exemplifies his life’s work and service to the Church,” she said.
Bishop San Pedro had few possessions other than his books as he was an avid reader, learner, and teacher. He said that he read whenever he had a chance such as waiting at airports. He quipped that he gave his day to service to the Lord, but after his night-time prayers he would say something like “ I did what I could today for your people, but now I leave them in your hands, Lord; I am going to bed.”
In March 1993, Bishop San Pedro was part of a bishop’s delegation to address the United Nations on the plight of refugees, many of whom had been sent from south Florida to his diocese.
Bishop San Pedro, age 68, died of cancer on July 17, 1994, in Miami Beach, Fla. He was buried in a section reserved for bishops and priests in the Catholic cemetery “Our Lady of Mercy” in Miami.
Bishop San Pedro's motto: “Most gladly I will spend myself and be spent for your sakes.” – 2 Corinthians 12:15
Story by The Valley Catholic
Catholic Diocese of Brownsville 50th Anniversary 1910 University Blvd. Brownsville, TX 78520 Phone: (956) 542-2501
Catholic Diocese of Brownsville1910 University Boulevard • Brownsville, Texas 78520 • (956) 542-2501 • (956) 542-6751 Fax 700 North Virgen de San Juan Blvd • San Juan, Texas 78589 • (956) 781-5323 • (956) 784-5081 Fax Contact Us Copyright © 2014 Diocese of Brownsville. All Rights Reserved.