Bishop E. B. Ledvina, the Builder
Called “The Builder,” Emanuel B. Ledvina became the second bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. He was said to have a methodical mind, a sense of fair play, flawless integrity and a cool head. He led the diocese as its chief shepherd through a period of tremendous growth when the number of Catholics in the diocese tripled, as did the number of priests and religious women. He saw to the construction of more than 150 new churches, missions and schools. After that he began work on his crowning jewel—the Cathedral of Corpus Christi, which was dedicated in 1940. He died in 1952 and was interred in the Cathedral Crypt named Emmanuel Chapel in his honor.
In the early years of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, lack of transportation was a major hurdle for clergy and laity alike. There were few roads, fewer cars and many miles between places. People could not get to the churches for Masses, or to receive the sacraments. There were however, railroad tracks, which linked the small villages together. This led to the creation of the chapel car. It was a railroad car specially equipped to open up revealing a complete chapel inside. A priest traveling with the car would celebrate Mass, providing the people gathered along the tracks the opportunity to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion.
Mt. Carmel Home
For nearly 90 years the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus have been a loving presence in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, caring for both the young and the elderly. Known by the simple brown dress and black veil of their habit, the sisters were originally asked by Bishop Emanuel B. Ledvina to come to Corpus Christi to help him establish what became known as the Carmelite Day Nursery, a haven for poor Mexican children whose mothers needed to work during the day. The program grew to serve a pressing need over several decades, touching hundreds of children with the sisters’ loving care. Eventually the center closed and the sisters reached out to the other end of the age spectrum, opening the Mt. Carmel Nursing Home for elderly Catholics seeking assisted living facilities. It has been in operation for more than 50 years and is also home to a number of retired priests.
Corpus Christi College Academy
A desire for accessible Catholic education for youth of the Diocese of Corpus Christi by both Bishop Emanuel B. Ledvina and Catholic layman John Dunn resulted in one of Bishop Ledvina’s biggest achievements; the establishment of the Corpus Christi College Academy for the high school education of boys. Situated on land donated by Dunn for the purpose of Catholic education it developed into a regional boarding school making Catholic education accessible to the youth of the area. Run by the Benedictines it opened in 1928 with 55 students. Over the years many of the men who graduated became leaders in the Catholic community of the diocese, entering professions and business, holding public office and remaining faithful to the values learned at the academy by leading a fully developed Catholic lives. The school closed in 1972.