Basilian Fathers mark bicentennial anniversary

December 13, 2022

HOUSTON — The Congregation of St. Basil commemorated 200 years of service through education and evangelization with a special Basilian bicentennial Mass at St. Anne Catholic Church in Houston on Nov. 21.

“Founded in the small town of Annonay, France, the Basilian Fathers’ ten founders would barely recognize the Congregation of today,” said Most Rev. Kevin Storey, CSB, Superior General of the Congregation. “Our founders, who were responding to the needs of their time, would be proud and thrilled at what their initial actions have produced. The same Basilian spirit and sense of community our founders embodied continues to permeate all our apostolates that today spread across three continents, five countries, and three languages.

An exhibit depicted the Congregation’s at the church, featuring a timeline of how the small community’s founding mission of providing Catholic education to those in need took the Congregation from its birthplace in France to the New World in Canada and the United States in the 19th century and Latin America in Mexico and Colombia in the 20th century.

Basilians first came to Texas in 1899 where they opened St. Basil’s College in Waco, Texas. Three of the school’s graduates became Basilian priests and had significant influence in the local Catholic community.

Father Thomas Patrick O’Rourke, CSB was one of the founders of the University of St. Thomas, which opened in 1947. Father Daniel Dillon, CSB was principal of what is now St. Thomas High School from 1919-1922 and later became vicar general of the Basilians from 1942-1948. His brother, Father Joseph Dillon, CSB, began ministering to the Spanish-speaking people living in towns around Houston in the 1930s and 40s.

This work became known as the Mexican Missions and led to the establishment of full-fledged parishes in the Galveston-Houston and Victoria dioceses. Encouraged by Pope John XXIII’s call to religious communities to send their people to Latin America, the Basilians expanded on their mission work by establishing an apostolate in Mexico.

Since their arrival in 1899, the Basilian Fathers have had a strong presence in Houston, staffing many parishes and schools around the Archdiocese, including St. Mary’s Seminary in La Porte from its opening in 1901 until 1911. Basilians continue to minister at the University of St. Thomas, St. Thomas High School, and St. Anne Catholic Church in Houston.

The Archdiocese is also home to the St. Joseph’s Mission Center, which raises funds for the Congregation’s ministry in Mexico and Colombia, and scholasticate for the Congregation’s Canadian and American candidates for the priesthood.

Today, the Basilians minister in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Colombia and administer three high schools Their work in education continues at the post-secondary level in the areas of teaching, administration, and research, campus ministry, publications, and missions work. They provide formation to lay Catholic educators to train Catholic teachers with the foundation for sound Christian education.

They also serve as missionaries, hospital chaplains, licensed counselors and therapists, retreat directors, peace-keepers, and more.