The Roman Catholic Diocese of Laredo (Latin: Dioecesis Laredanus) is located in Laredo, Texas. It was founded on July 3, 2000 by His Holiness Pope Saint John Paul II. The San Agustín Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Laredo. Most Reverend James Anthony Tamayo is the current bishop of the diocese and was previously the Auxiliary Bishop from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The Diocese of Laredo covers an area of 10,905 sq. mi. and has 344,711 members (as of 7/2017). As of August of 2018, it has one bishop, 48 diocesan priests, 14 religious priests, 33 permanent deacons, 32 parishes, and 17 missions.
The Laredo diocese combined portions of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Corpus Christi and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, namely the counties of Dimmit, Jim Hogg, La Salle, Maverick, Webb, Zapata, and Zavala. On August 9, 2000, the Apostolic Letters erecting the diocese and installing Bishop Tamayo were formally read by the Apostolic Nuncio in the presence of 25 bishops, over 200 priests, 50 deacons and 3000 other faithful who gathered for the occasion at the Laredo Civic Center.
James Anthony Tamayo (2000 - Present)
San Agustín Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Diocese of Laredo, traces its beginnings to 1755, to Don Tomás Sanchez and a group of Spanish families. It was already a growing settlement when the Bishop of Guadalajara, Fray Francisco de San Buena Ventura paid a visit in 1759. The following year, he sent the first resident priest, who served his people in a small mission chapel until 1778. In that year, the first stone structure was erected to accommodate more than two hundred families. In 1789, San Agustín was established as a parish by the Bishop of Guadalajara, whose jurisdiction extended into Texas, which was at that time part of Mexico. In 1874, the Holy See established the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville at the same time as it created the Diocese of San Antonio. The two bishops appointed to the newly created jurisdictions were Bishops Manucy and Pehicer, cousins, both natives of Florida, of mixed Spanish-French descent.
Bishop Dominic Manucy, for reasons disputed by area Church historians, chose, after some years, to reside in Corpus Christi rather than in Brownsville. The Right Reverend Claude Jaillet was appointed administrator "ex officio sed non in titulo" when Bishop Manucy was appointed Bishop of Mobile, with Bishop John C. Neraz of San Antonio being appointed administrator "in titulo." In 1890, Father Pedro Verdaguer, a native of Spain, was named to succeed Manucy as Vicar Apostolic of Brownsville.
Bishop Verdaguer chose to reside in Laredo because of its Hispanic and Catholic culture. During his episcopacy, the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was erected in Encinal (1898), as well as the parish of St. Peter (1897), to minister to the needs of the English-speaking Catholic in Laredo. Bishop Verdaguer died in 1911 while on a Confirmation tour near Mercedes, Texas. His mausoleum is in the Laredo Catholic Cemetery. The Diocese of Corpus Christi was established in 1912 with the Most Reverend Paul Nussbaum as its first Bishop. Corpus Christi was established as the See City, as it was fast outgrowing both Brownsville and Laredo.
In 1920, Bishop Emmanuel B. Ledvina succeeded Bishop Nussbaum. During his long term of office, Laredo saw the erection of Our Lady of Guadalupe (1926) and Holy Redeemer (1940) parishes. Bishop Ledvina's episcopate also witnessed the persecution of the Church in Mexico. The people of Laredo generously offered their homes as refuge for many clergy and religious who were expelled, exiled or who fled the country. At one time, there were 14 bishops and archbishops living in Laredo. In 1926, the Franciscans came to Hebbronville and established the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a seminary, Scotus College, which operated until 1952.
Bishop Mariano Simón Garriga, native of Port Isabel, TX, was named Coadjutor Bishop of Corpus Christi with the right of succession in 1936, and took up residence at St. Peter's Parish in Laredo. He lived in Laredo until 1948, when Bishop Emmanuel B. Ledvina, second bishop of Corpus Christi, retired as Ordinary. Bishop Garriga was well-loved by the people of Laredo and was named Mr. South Texas in 1954.
During the administration of Bishop Thomas J. Drury, Fourth Bishop of Corpus Christi, the parishes of St. Vincent de Paul (1969), St. Patrick (1970), San Martin de Porres (1979) and St. John Neumann (1979) were erected, bringing the total number of parishes in the city of Laredo to thirteen.
Bishop René H. Gracida, Fifth Bishop of Corpus Christi, created the parishes of Holy Family and St. Jude in 1984. Soon after his appointment to the See of Corpus Christi, Bishop Gracida procured a building at 1901 Corpus Christi Street in Laredo. The various departments of the Diocese of Corpus Christi began to establish offices in Laredo in this building, then the Laredo Pastoral Center (1985) and currently the Chancery.
On January 25, 1990, Bishop Gracida issued a decree of erection of the Western Vicariate of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. The decree states that the vicariate was erected to promote the pastoral good and unity of all the people of God in this area, "especially in view of the possible erection of a new diocese in that region in the not too distant future." The Western Vicariate encompassed the counties of Webb, Zapata, Jim Hogg, and the southern portion of La Salle.
The Reverend Monsignor James A. Tamayo was appointed the first Episcopal Vicar, serving in this capacity from January 25, 1990 until March 1993, when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. During Monsignor Tamayo's tenure, the vicariate began to gain a corporate identity as an entity within a larger body. A relationship was promoted between the vicariate and the new Diocese of Nuevo Laredo, which was erected in 1990. Regular meetings of Coordinators of Pastoral Ministry were held during Monsignor Tamayo's term of office. The Pro-life movement began to increase activities in the Laredo area. Greater emphasis was placed on outreach to the rapidly growing colonias in South Laredo. The independent mission of Santa Margarita (1991) was created at this time.
Further, Monsignor Tamayo coordinated efforts with Bishop Edmond Carmody, then Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, appointed by Archbishop Patricio Flores to oversee the counties in the Archdiocese which would possibly be joined to the proposed new Diocese of Laredo. Bishop Gracida envisioned a "border" diocese that would possess a somewhat homogeneous population addressing similar concerns.
Upon Monsignor Tamayo's Episcopal ordination, the Reverend Monsignor Lucian Brasley became the Episcopal Vicar. He was called out of retirement and became pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Laredo. Under his tenure, a new effort was launched on behalf of the colonias of South Laredo, seeking to offer pastoral and medical care as well as utilities and services where they were not previously available. In April 1995, a mobile medical clinic, through the generosity of the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Hospital, began regular visits to these colonias.
Also under Monsignor Brasley's leadership, the priests began to gather every two months on the deanery level. There were also seasonal celebrations and welcome lunches for new priests in the area. These served to increase the bonds of fraternity among the presbyterate. The Human Life Office of the Western Vicariate was also inaugurated during Monsignor Brasley's term of office. He suggested that the Bishop celebrate a Chrism Mass in Laredo, which was very well received by the people of Laredo. In November 1994, Monsignor Brasley fully retired because of health concerns.
In 1997, Bishop Roberto O. Gonzalez, OFM succeeded Bishop Gracida. As the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, he began frequent trips to the parishes of Laredo and once again initiated efforts to have the Western Vicariate established as a Diocese in its own right. Several mission churches in the colonias were built. Divine Mercy Parish (1998) was established in Laredo. Mercy Health Center was completed and continued its outreach to the Laredo community and beyond. Father Domingo DeLano was named Vicar of the Western Vicariate, while continuing his work as pastor of San Martin de Porres Parish, but after having to retire for health reasons, was succeeded in that position by Monsignor Thomas Davis. To give a further presence of clergy and laity in the administration of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Bishop Gonzalez appointed Father Alejandro Salazar as Chancellor of the Diocese and named laymen and women to the Diocesan Finance Council and other diocesan governing boards.
On March 17, 2000, Bishop Edmond Carmody, was installed as the Seventh Bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi and immediately turned his attention to the Laredo area and the ongoing process for the erection of the Diocese of Laredo.
On July 3, 2000, news came from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, that the Diocese of Laredo had been created by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and that Auxiliary Bishop James A. Tamayo, from the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, would be the First Bishop of Laredo. The new diocese would include portions of the Diocese of Corpus Christi and the Archdiocese of San Antonio, namely the counties of Dimmit, Jim Hogg, La Salle, Maverick, Webb, Zapata, and Zavala. On August 9, 2000, the Apostolic Letters erecting the diocese and installing Bishop Tamayo were formally read by the Apostolic Nuncio in the presence of 25 bishops, over 200 priests, 50 deacons and 3000 other faithful who gathered for the occasion at the Laredo Civic Center.
Parishes of the Diocese of Laredo that were formerly part of the Archdiocese of San Antonio bring to our new diocese a rich history. In the order of their founding, they are:
1859 - Our Lady of Refuge, Eagle Pass
1881 - Our Lady of Guadalupe, Carrizo Springs
1882 - Sacred Heart, Cotulla
1917 - Sacred Heart, Crystal City
1917 - St. Joseph, La Pryor
1918 - Immaculate Conception, Asherton
1966 - Sacred Heart, Eagle Pass
1967 - St. Joseph, Eagle Pass