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'A Son of Texas'

by Msgr. Michael Howell, Contributor
October 2, 2012

Bishop Emmanuel Ledvina (left) shakes hands with Coadjutor Bishop Mariano Garriga.
Archived Photo
In 1948, Bishop Emmanuel Ledvina turned 80-years-old and had served almost 30 years as the chief shepherd of the Diocese of Corpus Christi during times of destruction and development.On March 15, 1949, his much-deserved retirement was announced from Rome, and the Church in South Texas prepared to begin a new decade under the direction of a native son.

Since the centennial of Texas Independence in 1936, Bishop Ledvina had enjoyed the assistance of Coadjutor Bishop Mariano S. Garriga, the first native Texan to be appointed a bishop in the state. Born in Port Isabel, Texas–which was a part of the Diocese of Corpus Christi at the time of its erection in 1912, Bishop Garriga had served Texas in many ways prior to beginning his administration as the new bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. 

As a young priest he knew both parish and diocesan responsibilities in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.  He served in parochial assignments in Marfa and San Antonio. He served as a military chaplain during World War I in France. Upon returning to Texas he was involved with the Matrimonial Court in San Antonio, served as president of Incarnate Word College and vice-rector at St. John’s Minor Seminary. 

As the archdiocese’s historian, he oversaw the restoration of San Jose Mission in San Antonio.  His leadership was recognized through Church honors, including an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from St. Edward’s University in Austin.

As the young assistant bishop of Corpus Christi he served as pastor of St. Peter’s parish in Laredo where he also served as the dean of all the parishes in the western half of the diocese. He was again appointed to the Matrimonial Court and as the Vicar Delegate of the Military Ordinariate for the military and naval forces in Texas and Louisiana. 

The young bishop who had taught preaching in the seminary and possessed mastery of the Spanish language was called upon on many occasions to help with confirmations, the dedication of new churches and to lead retreats. When Holy Family Mission Church in Corpus Christi was dedicated in March 1946, Bishop Garriga traveled from Laredo to deliver the dedicatory sermon in Spanish. 

Bishop Garriga was a driving force in encouraging his friend Kathryn O’Connor to restore the chapel and presidio of La Bahia in Goliad—a part of the Diocese of Corpus Christi until the erection of the Diocese of Victoria in 1982. O’Connor dedicated her book on the presidio and its restoration to “the Memory of Most Rev. Mariano S. Garriga, Bishop of Corpus Christi from 1936 to 1965 under whose inspiration the project of the restoration of The Presidio of La Bahia was made.”

Bishop Garriga, by reason of his appointment as coadjutor bishop with right of succession, became the ordinary of the diocese immediately upon the retirement of Bishop Ledvina. Already 63-years-old when he began his administration he continued the efforts of Bishop Ledvina to promote Catholic lay spiritual and the lay apostolates through such programs as the Cursillo and the Legion of Mary. 

He dedicated many churches to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which honored his own first name of “Mariano.”  He also put his ministry under her watchful eye as he took as his episcopal motto “Sub tutela matris” (Under the protection of Mother). He also initiated a regional Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, held annually at the Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi to accommodate parochial students and parents from around the area. 
Bishop Mariano S. Garriga blesses the Cathedral during the consecration services in 1952.
Archived Photo
A most memorable event during the early years of his administration was the development of the complex that is known today as the Basílica of Nuestra Señora de San Juan, in San Juan, which is now in the Diocese of Brownsville.

Originally a small mission built in 1920, the little chapel was enlarged after 1949 when Father Jose Maria Azpiazu, OMI, commissioned an artist in Guadalajara to make a reproduction of the original image of the Immaculate Conception housed in the Church of San Juan de los Lagos a short distance outside of Guadalajara. Bishop Garriga approved the building of the new church and dedicated the new shrine some five years later. 

During the decade of the 1950s, the population of South Texas exploded as young men returning from World War II settled down to raise families, and the development in agriculture, tourism and industry brought many new families to the Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley. Numerous parishes replaced small and aging churches while new parishes were erected to accommodate growing communities. 

Between 1949 and 1961, 59 new churches and 20 schools were built in the diocese. New churches or new parishes included St. Theresa in Premont, St. Gertrude in Kingsville, Sacred Heart in Rockport, St. John of the Cross in Orange Grove, St. Joseph in Alice and in Corpus Christi St. Joseph, St. Patrick, Holy Family, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Christ the King. Other new buildings included seven convents, two hospitals and two homes for the aged. However, even bigger changes were coming for both the diocese and the Church at large.

Incarnate Word school and convent were also relocated to South Alameda and the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral was moved north of the channel to become Our Lady Star of the Sea.  This allowed for the sale of the old church block (bounded by Carancahua, Antelope, Tancahua and Leopard Streets) and final payments on the debt from the Cathedral’s construction. 

As the centennial of the city of Corpus Christi in 1952 and of the original Catholic parish now known as Corpus Christi Cathedral in 1953 approached, Bishop Garriga made plans to decorate the Cathedral and consecrate it to celebrate the anniversaries and the retirement of the debt. The sanctuary’s apse, formerly covered with blue sky and stars, was decorated with images of Christ surrounded by saints associated with the Eucharist. 

The Consecration ceremonies and subsequent Mass for the redecorated Cathedral were held on Sept. 19, 1952. His Eminence Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago and chancellor of the American Board of Catholic Missions, celebrated the first Pontifical Mass at the Cathedral on Sept. 25, 1952. 

While the early years of Bishop Garriga’s administration were marked by major events and developments in the diocese, his last 10 years as bishop of Corpus Christi witnessed changes for both the diocese and the universal Church that substantially eclipsed those early years.
One of his requests by the mid-1950s was for help in guiding the future spiritual growth of a rapidly increasing flock. Pope Pius XII answered the bishop’s prayers by appointing Msgr. Adolph Marx as Auxiliary Bishop of Corpus Christi.
Msgr. Adolph Marx
Auxiliary Bishop of Corpus Christi
A native of Germany, Father Marx completed his studies for the Diocese of Corpus Christi at St. Mary’s Seminary at La Porte, Texas and after ordination earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 

As a young priest, Father Marx served on the Diocesan Tribunal, in various parochial assignments and as secretary to Bishop Ledvina. In 1948, the aging Bishop Ledvina gave him further diocesan responsibilities, including the assignment as Chancellor. Bishop Garriga also appointed Msgr. Marx to numerous diocesan posts.

On July 6, 1956, Msgr. Marx received the appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Corpus Christi and by 1957 fully exercised authority in the name of Bishop Garriga who had named him his Vicar General and subsequently Officialis of the Diocesan Tribunal and a Diocesan Consultor.

In May 1961, Bishop Garriga made plans to celebrate his diamond jubilee of life, golden jubilee as a priest and silver jubilee as a bishop.  He wanted to celebrate the occasion by realizing one of his dreams for the diocese—the establishment of a minor seminary to promote the fostering of local priestly vocations. 

The festivities included a Mass at the Memorial Coliseum of Corpus Christi on May 8. Four cardinals were on hand for the festivities, including James Francis Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles and Albert Cardinal Meyer of Chicago. As part of the celebration, the Corpus Christi Minor Seminary was dedicated on May 9, 1961 “under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The Apostolic Delegate to the United States, His Excellency Most Rev. Egidio Vagnozzi, officially dedicated the seminary in the presence of Cardinals McIntyre, Meyer and Joseph Cardinal Garibi-Rivera of Guadalajara. Cardinal Meyer said in his dedication sermon, “This seminary has been the apple of his [Bishop Garriga’s] eye and the heart of his episcopal ministry.”

The festivities of his Jubilee had hardly died down when the bishop had to prepare for a new adventure—the first Ecumenical Council called since the 1800s. The Holy Father called for a Synod in Rome, and Bishop Garriga imitated the successor of Peter by calling for the first diocesan synod for the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1962. 

Pope John XXIII called for the Second Vatican Council to commence in October 1962. Bishops Garriga and Marx were among those attending the early sessions of the Council as the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sought to address the spiritual needs of God’s people and the challenge of preaching the Gospel in a fresh way to a rapidly changing world. 

The next years brought not only reconsideration of local adaptations instigated by the Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, but also some major adaptations in a liturgy that had not essentially changed since the 1500s.  However, Bishop Garriga was not to see the final scene in this drama.

At 78-years-old, Bishop Garriga suffered a heart attack on the morning of Feb. 21, 1965. The Jubilee of Bishop Garriga in 1961 and the Diocesan Synod that followed in 1962 were the final celebrations of the unified Catholic community of South Texas before waves of major change swept over a people that had been one big family since 1874.

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