Chapter 1 In The Beginning: 1911 to 1932
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
The Rev. John William Shaw (1863-1934) was appointed the fourth archbishop of the Diocese of San Antonio on March 11, 1911. It was a turbulent time south of the border; opposition to the government of Porfírio Diaz was already brewing, and just two months later, the populist politician Francisco Madero executed a military coup against Diaz and replaced him as president of Mexico. Madero had recently returned from political exile in San Antonio, and as successive governments became increasingly hostile to the Roman Catholic Church, waves of Mexican Catholics would also flee to South Texas seeking refuge from state-sanctioned repression and persecution.
Immediately after his appointment, Bishop Shaw boarded a covered wagon and set out to visit the entirety of his sprawling diocese, which at the time extended from Brownsville to El Paso. This visionary prelate, who, later on, founded the diocese’s first seminary, restored and renovated the Spanish Missions and created a parish community for Spanish-speaking Catholics on the West Side of San Antonio in his very first year as Archbishop. Bishop Shaw dedicated the parish to Our Lady of Guadalupe and entrusted it to the Claretian Fathers, who celebrated Mass in what is now, one hundred years later, the parish hall on San Fernando Street. The Theresian Sisters ran a high school until 1916, when they were replaced by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.
The Reverend Arthur Jerome Drossaerts (1862-1940), installed as Bishop of San Antonio in 1918, inherited his predecessor’s interest in the plight of Mexican Catholics and clergy. Drossaerts tirelessly recruited priests from across the border, raised money to facilitate their resettlement, and took to the pulpit, the press, and the airwaves to advocate for American interest in their neighbors’ Revolution. He also recognized the importance of the Guadalupe neighborhood, where an ever-expanding number of Mexican immigrants were arriving. In 1921, Drossaerts ordered the construction of a brick church for Guadalupe parish. The building was completed in 1926, and six years later, in 1932, Drossaerts arranged for the Claretians to exchange it with a parish run by the Jesuits in El Paso. On July 17, Jesuit Father Carmelo Tranchese, SJ (1880-1956) assumed his responsibilities as pastor, assisted by John Buckley, SJ, and Amandus Snebelen, SJ.