Four bishops lie peacefully in Emmanuel Chapel

by Geraldine McGloin, Correspondent
March 23, 2012

Each of the eight men who have guided the Diocese of Corpus Christi brought special gifts and priorities, which shaped and enriched the diocese and helped to move its mission forward.   

They are a varied group. With the exception of two natives of Ireland, all are native born Americans. Each has left his imprint on the diocese; whether it is a ministry developed to meet a new situation, new buildings, people or institutions.

Four bishops lie peacefully in what is now the Emmanuel Chapel located in the lower level of the Corpus Christi Cathedral. The chapel was built as a crypt for the final resting place of the diocese’s bishops.

Currently entombed in the chapel are Bishops Paul Nussbaum, Emmanuel B. Ledvina, Mariano S. Garriga and Thomas Drury. 

Bishop Paul Joseph Nussbaum, CP, DD
(1913-1920) was the first Bishop of Corpus Christi.
Bishop Paul Joseph Nussbaum, CP, DD (1913-1920) was the first Bishop of Corpus Christi. He was named to a Diocese covering an area from south of San Antonio to Brownsville and west to Laredo with a population of 158,000 of whom 82,400 were Catholics. Of these, more than 70,000 were Mexican Americans, many of whom did not speak English.

It is important to note that transportation was a major problem at the time, which tended to isolate small communities within the area. To help minister to these souls, the Spanish-speaking Bishop called on his fellow Passionist priests, also bilingual, to come to the new diocese to help with this important work.

The cadre of priests under his command included 19 secular priests and 19 religious who ministered through 19 churches and 54 missions. They instructed and confirmed thousands of people in the faith. A belief that the growth of religion is determined by the growth of individual piety was the driving force behind Bishop Nussbaum’s efforts.

Bishop Nussbaum felt that Catholic action is essential to the promotion of personal holiness among Catholics generally.  Toward this end he worked for the establishment of lay societies.  Three are still functioning: the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas and St. Ann’s Rosary and Altar Society at Corpus Christi Cathedral.  These organizations have been instrumental in the establishment of local units throughout the entire region.

Bishop Nussbaum introduced many practices devoted to the development of personal piety and Catholic formation, including the Holy Hour devotion, congregational singing, the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and meetings of young men and women.

Bishop Emmanuel B Ledvina DD, LL.D (1921-1949) was the second Bishop of Corpus Christi and could be called “the builder.”
Bishop Emmanuel B Ledvina DD, LL.D,  (1921-1949) was the second Bishop of Corpus Christi and could be called “the builder.” This native of Indiana served as a pastor prior to being appointed secretary General of the Catholic Church Extension Society which built numerous missions, churches, schools and convents all over the diocese. 

One of his first acts as bishop was to recommend to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Corpus Christi that they build a new convent of solid construction.  They had for years lived in old, unsafe and unsuitable buildings. A much-needed school building followed the new convent for the Academy.  

He then turned his attention to the education of boys through the establishment of Corpus Christi College Academy.  The entire campus was completed by 1928.  Run by the Benedictines, the school boasted a full complement of school buildings and residents for faculty, student borders and other staff. The academic program was equally complete offering the youth of the parish a quality Catholic education. The facilities for boarding students made Catholic education possible for a number of youth from rural areas, which was not possible before.  

Under Bishop Ledvina’s episcopacy, the number of parishes grew to 57 with 115 missions and stations. Catholic education included 34 parochial schools, six academies for girls and three for boys. 

Bishop Ledvina’s crowning achievement was the construction of Corpus Christi Cathedral completed in 1940.   He oversaw the entire process down to the smallest detail, insisting that only the best be used for this house of God.

Bishop Mariano S. Garriga, DD, LL.D (1921-1949)  (1949-1965) had the honor of being the first native Texan.
Bishop Mariano S. Garriga, DD, LL.D, (1949-1965) had the honor of being the first native Texan elevated to the hierarchy as bishop.  He was born in Port Isabel, Texas in 1866, which eight years later was within the new Vicariate of Brownsville and later the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

Bishop Garriga served as coadjutor for Bishop Ledvina for 16 years and succeeded him in 1949.   He presided over the consecration of Corpus Christi Cathedral in 1952, dutifully following the direction of Bishop Ledvina for the completion and installation of the ecclesiastical art that had been a part of the original plan of the church. 

Its Eucharistic theme was further enhanced with decorative painting and other art pieces.  Stained glass windows and mosaics were among the elements added to tell the story of the Eucharist.  The church was considered the finest work of architect Charles Monot.  

In addition Bishop Garriga built 59 new churches, 20 schools, convents and hospitals. He also started the Corpus Christi Minor Seminary, which encouraged native vocations to the priesthood.

Bishop Thomas Joseph Drury, DD, LL.D (1965-1983)  expanded diocesan offices from two to 32 departments.
Bishop Thomas Joseph Drury, DD, LHD, (1965- 1983) was known for his pastoral style and friendly demeanor. He showed loving concern for each person he met. Bishop Drury will be remembered as the bishop who began the work of diocesan telecommunications.

In 1966 he established the weekly Texas Gulf Coast Register, later called Texas Gulf Coast Catholic and today the South Texas Catholic as the official newspaper of the diocese. He also authorized the groundwork toward acquiring a license for a diocesan radio station, which eventually became KLUX.

Bishop Drury expanded diocesan offices from two to 32 departments.  This included the establishment of Catholic Charities, the office of Catholic Schools, the Catholic Youth Organization, the Family Life Bureau and the permanent diaconate program.

Bishop Drury was responsible for bringing in a number of Irish priests, some of who are still serving in the diocese.

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