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In 1890 Catholic population of the area of the Brazos and Trinity rivers had grown large enough that Pope Leo XIII established the Diocese of Dallas. As early as 1870 Claude Marie Dubuis, the second bishop of Galveston (which diocese encompassed all of Texas at that time), had begun sending Father Vincent Perrier twice a year to visit Fort Worth. At that time several Catholic families were meeting in the Carrico home. Fort Worth’s first parish church was a frame structure built at 1212 Throckmorton Street and called St. Stanislaus Church. It stood until 1907. The cornerstone of St. Patrick’s Church, which eventually became St. Patrick Cathedral (pictured right), was laid in 1888; the church was built just north of St. Stanislaus Church and dedicated in 1892. When Dallas was made a diocese the region that eventually became the Diocese of Fort Worth had seven parishes-in Fort Worth, Cleburne, Gainesville, Henrietta, Hillsboro, Muenster, and Weatherford.
Image: St. Patrick's Church in 1905. The crowd had gathered to welcome President Theodore Roosevelt, who visited Fort Worth that year. William R. Hoover, St. Patrick’s: The First 100 Years (Fort Worth: St. Patrick Cathedral 1988) Photo courtesy of Amon Cater Museum
The decade of the 1870s witnessed the earliest Catholic education in the area. In 1879 Father Thomas Loughrey, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, opened a boy’s school that operated in the church until 1907. In 1885 the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur established Saint Ignatius Academy in Fort Worth and Xavier Academy in Denison. In 1910 the same order of nuns founded Fort Worth’s first Catholic college, Our Lady of Victory College. Other Catholic schools opened in Denton (1874) Weatherford (1880), Muenster (1890 and 1895), Gainesville (l892), Pilot Point (l893), and Cleburne (l896). In early 1885 the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio took charge of the nursing staff at St. Joseph’s Infirmary, which was later destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1885. The hospital became known as St. Joseph Hospital in 1930 and remained as such until 1993.
In 1953 Pope Pius XII changed the name of the Diocese of Dallas to Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth, and Saint Patrick’s Church in Fort Worth was elevated to the status of a co-cathedral. In 1985 St. Patrick Cathedral, St. Ignatius Church, and the St. Ignatius rectory were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
On August 9, 1969, Pope Paul VI separated 28 counties of north central Texas from the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and established it as the Diocese of Fort Worth. Two months later, on October 21, Bishop John J. Cassatta, a native of Galveston, was installed in St. Patrick Cathedral as Fort Worth’s first ordinary. From 1969, when the Diocese of Fort Worth was established, to 1986 the Catholic population increased from 67,000 to 120,000. Meanwhile, in 1981 Bishop Cassata retired, and Pope John Paul II named as his successor a native of Massachusetts who had previously worked in Brownsville, Bishop Joseph P. Delaney.
Under Bishop Delaney the diocese continued to mature. In 1986, it had fourteen primary schools, three secondary schools, the Cassata Learning Center (dedicated in 1975 as an institution offering nontraditional, personalized instruction to the underprivileged of Fort Worth), and a new Catholic Center. The center, a 20,000-square-foot edifice, brought together under one roof all of the pastoral and administrative offices of the diocese. Guided by Bishop Delaney, the diocese continued to underscore the principles of the Second Vatican Council, especially a commitment to the poor, to ecumenism, and to an increased role in the church for the laity.
Under Bishop Vann, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth was one the fastest growing Catholic dioceses in the United States. In 2005, the Diocese’s Catholic population was an estimated 400,000 and grew to an estimated 710,000 when Bishop Vann was appointed as the Bishop of Orange in 2012. The growth resulted in a more diverse diocese, with a large Hispanic presence, a growing Vietnamese presence and immigrants from other countries. Under Bishop Vann’s leadership the Diocese’s growth was accomplished primarily by expansion of existing parishes and the creation of one new parish, Blessed John Paul II Parish that serves the Denton university communities. An estimated $135 million in capital improvements have occurred at diocesan parishes and ministries during the last seven years.
|Bishop John J. Cassata|
The first bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth was Most Reverend John J. Cassata, born in Galveston on November 8, 1908. He studied in the diocesan seminary, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston on December 8, 1932, and served as associate pastor and pastor of Holy Name Parish in the city of Houston for 35 years, and as vicar general. He was appointed by Pope Paul VI as Auxiliary to Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth on March 12, 1968, and ordained a bishop at St. Michael's Church in Houston on June 5, 1968. Bishop Cassata served, as auxiliary bishop, for one year as pastor of St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral in Fort Worth. On August 9, 1969 the new Diocese of Fort Worth was created, and on October 21, 1969 he was appointed its first bishop.
During his 13 years of episcopal ministry, Bishop Cassata brought financial stability to the new diocese, established twelve parishes and encouraged lay and priestly ministry. He resigned as bishop on September 16, 1980, but served as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Fort Worth until Bishop Joseph P. Delaney was installed on September 13, 1981.
Bibliography: Sister Joseph A. Dederichs and Sister Rose Mary Cousins, Catholic Schools: Dawn of Education in Texas (Beaumont: Beaumont Printing and Lithographing, 1986). William R. Hoover, St. Patrick’s: The First 100 Years (Fort Worth: St. Patrick Cathedral 1988). Patrick Foley, The New Handbook of Texas (The Texas State Historical Assoc. 1996).
|Bishop Joseph P. Delaney|
The second bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth was Most Reverend Joseph P. Delaney. He was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on August 29, 1934. He studied for the priesthood in seminaries in Boston, Washington, and Rome, and was ordained a priest on December 18, 1960 for the Diocese of Fall River.
After serving six years as associate pastor, high school teacher, and assistant superintendent of schools in Taunton, Massachusetts, he received permission of his bishop to work in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. He served in that diocese as an associate pastor, the pastor of two parishes, superintendent of schools, editor of the diocesan newspaper, judicial vicar, and co-chancellor.
Bishop Delaney was named the second bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth by Pope John Paul II on July 10, 1981, and was ordained to the episcopacy in the Tarrant County Convention Center on September 13, 1981. His leadership of the Diocese of Fort Worth spanned 24 prosperous years. He died on July 12, 2005.
The funeral mass for Bishop Delaney was celebrated at St. Patrick Cathedral on Monday, July 18, 2005. Some 1,200 people attended the Mass. Today he is at rest at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Fort Worth.
|Bishop Kevin W. Vann|
Bishop Kevin W. Vann, was ordained and installed as the third bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth on Wednesday, July 13, 2005, at Texas Christian University’s Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
Bishop Vann was born on May 10, 1951 in Springfield, Illinois. He is the oldest of six children of William M. Vann Jr. and Theresa Jones Vann. He is a graduate of Springfield’s St. Agnes Grade and Griffin High Schools. He attended Springfield College and earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology from Millikin University, located in Decatur, Illinois. After working three years as a medical technologist, he entered the seminary in l976, spending a year at the Immaculate Conception Diocesan Seminary in Springfield and four years at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, majoring in theology.
After his ordination on May 30, 1981, he was assigned to graduate studies in Canon Law at the Angelicum in Rome, with residence at the graduate house of the North American College in Rome, the Casa Santa Maria dell’ Umilta.
Upon returning to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Bishop Vann was involved in the work of the Diocesan Tribunal and the Tribunal of Second Instance in Chicago. He served as pastor of parishes ranging in size from 35 to 1,300 families, two of which had large schools. He taught Canon Law at Kenrick Seminary. Before he was named bishop of the Catholic Dicoese of Fort Worth, he was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Springfield, Vicar for Priests, and the Diocesan contact for Hispanic Ministry. He celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination in 2006.
Bishop Vann collaborated closely with other bishops in the area and in the Metropolitan of San Antonio as well as through the Texas Catholic Conference and Region X. He was the Texas Bishops’ Liaison to the Texas Mission Council and Texas Catholic hospitals. He was active in the U.S. Conference of Bishops and worked with bishops of other countries. Bishop Vann provided leadership for various initiatives at the national level, including an ad hoc committee which assisted the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to incorporation Anglican groups into the Catholic Church of the United States, as USSCB Episcopal Liaison to the Catholic Health Association, as a member of the USCCB Committee on Migration. Bishop Vann was the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision in the United States. Bishop Vann collaborated with Catholic Diocese of Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell on the annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference. Pope Bendict XVI named Bishop Vann as the Fourth Bishop of Orange on September 21, 2012 . Bishop Vann was installed as Bishop of Orange on December 10, 2012.