The Diocese of Austin Launches 75th Anniversary Celebration
Editor: Bishop Vásquez, this November, the Diocese of Austin celebrates its 75th anniversary. Let’s start with a brief history of how this diocese came to be.
Bishop Vásquez: I am thrilled to announce that we will celebrate 75 years of faith beginning this November. Pope Pius XII established the Diocese of Austin in 1947, which was the seventh diocese in the state of Texas. The Austin Diocese was carved out of several dioceses: the Dioceses of Dallas and Galveston and the Archdiocese of San Antonio. At that time, the diocese consisted of 30 Central Texas counties encompassing 25,477 square miles. The population was 762,383, of whom 75,495 were Catholic. Bishop Louis J. Reicher was named first bishop of the Diocese of Austin. He guided 55 parishes and 43 missions.
Subsequently, the diocese was shepherded by Bishop Vincent M. Harris, John E. McCarthy and Gregory M. Aymond. I was installed as the fifth bishop in March 2010. Over these 75 years, we have grown to a total of 123 parishes. We have fewer counties now (25 total), as some went to the new dioceses of San Angelo, Fort Worth and Victoria. We have 20 Catholic schools and more than 200 priests serving the people of God. Presently, the diocese has about 700,000 Catholics and continues to grow.
Editor: How do you see that growth as you travel from one end of the diocese to the other?
Bishop Vásquez: The diocese is growing in various ways. I can see it as the number of confirmations we celebrate each year increases. It is obvious that parents continue to encourage their children to celebrate the sacraments. They want to pass on the greatest treasure that we have to give our children — our faith.
Also since I have been bishop, we have dedicated several new churches, as parishes have needed larger sanctuaries to accommodate the growing number of people. Currently, we have three parishes on Austin’s eastern corridor that are building new churches because of the growth: San Francisco Javier in Austin, Santa Barbara in Austin and St. Joseph in Manor. St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station is also building, and Church of the Visitation Parish in Westphalia is rebuilding after the devastating fire in 2019. Our parishes continue to construct parish activity centers and other buildings for their growing populations.
The growing presence of young people in campus ministry and young adult groups are wonderful signs of growth. Also in 2015, Pope Francis named the diocese’s first auxiliary bishop — Bishop Daniel E. Garcia, who now shepherds the Diocese of Monterey, California. That was a sign that the Holy Father noticed the growth in Central Texas. As a diocese, we continue to grow, and, as bishop, I am committed to nurturing the spiritual growth of all those who live in our diocese.
Editor: What is the plan for the diocese to celebrate this big anniversary?
Bishop Vásquez: The chosen theme for our 75th anniversary is “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21), which is also the theme for our Eucharistic Revival. My hope is that these initiatives will complement one another by fostering a greater love for the Eucharist and serving as a source of unity in our diocese.
Our anniversary celebration will kick off with Mass on Nov. 19, and we will have several events over the next year to celebrate. We have designated certain parishes that will be pilgrimage sites in the diocese, so that people can gather, pray and receive a plenary indulgence. There will also be opportunities during the year for our people to get to know the history of the diocese with a traveling kiosk that will visit parishes.
I have also commissioned a commemorative book that will be published in the next few months. It will feature a brief history of the diocese as well as photos and information on all our parishes and Catholic schools. I am looking forward to celebrating this milestone in our diocese, and I hope all will join us as we continue to share the message of Christ with our families and communities.
Editor: What is your prayer for our diocese as we move forward into this year of celebration?
Bishop Vásquez: O God, giver of all good gifts, you have blessed us with this wonderful, vibrant and truly faith-filled Diocese of Austin. May we continue to follow Christ faithfully, be good disciples, witness to him and continue to invite others to join us in forming the body of Christ in Central Texas. I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire us to live our baptismal call to holiness and lives of charity. Finally, I ask the intercession of Mary of the Immaculate Conception to keep us faithful to the mission bestowed upon the Diocese of Austin. Amen.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez
The fifth bishop of the Austin Diocese, which is home to more than 700,000 Catholics. For details, visit the diocesan website at austindiocese.org.