Closing Mass ends 175th anniversary celebrations

May 23, 2023

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo blesses a permanent plaque honoring priests who have served the Archdiocese since its founding 175 years ago during the 175th Anniversary Closing Mass on May 4 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, drawing the year-long celebration to an end. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — What began in Galveston ended in Houston.

Often leaning on a golden crosier that belonged to Bishop Nicholas Gallagher, the third bishop of Galveston, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo celebrated the 175th anniversary closing Mass on May 3 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. The Mass drew the year-long anniversary celebration to a prayerful end.

While the Opening Mass, which Cardinal DiNardo celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Galveston on May 23, 2022, with hundreds of priests of the Archdiocese, may have felt like a distant memory, historic faith was made present at the Closing Mass. In addition to using Bishop Gallagher’s golden metal crosier, Cardinal DiNardo also celebrated the Mass while using a chalice belonging to Bishop Jean-Marie Odin, C.M. Bishop Odin, the first bishop of Texas in 1851, received the chalice as a gift from Pope Pius IX.

In Photos: Closing Mass celebrates 175 years of faith

“We have much, much to give thanks for,” Cardinal DiNardo said at the Closing Mass.

With the roots of the Catholic Church in Texas deeply planted on Galveston Island and throughout the Texas frontier, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike have gained from the efforts of those who served the Church since the Diocese of Galveston was founded.

The Closing Mass celebrated the 175th anniversary of the diocese’s founding almost to the day: May 4, 1847.

That is the official date the Vatican established the new diocese “when the number of souls” grew in the Texas frontier. Bishop Odin, along with the Ursuline Sisters, made it their mission to form Catholics in Texas in their faith and to educate Catholic children. Together they built upon the foundation laid by Franciscan missionaries in Texas since the 17th century.

In his homily, Cardinal DiNardo recognized how the Archdiocese has “blossomed, grown, and born fruit for the past 175 years.”

He lauded the “expansive vision” of the early women religious such as the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who persevered in faith to evangelize Texas in the face of war, sickness and persecution.

Cardinal DiNardo noted a hallmark of the local Church: to “love and care for the poor.” The history of the Archdiocese was founded in the efforts of the early religious communities who came to care for and educate the sick and poor, he said.

These efforts would grow and eventually become Catholic schools that “have been a brilliant example of what it means to give the handing on of the message of Jesus to all the little ones,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Looking to the upcoming Eucharistic Revival that continues through 2024, Cardinal DiNardo exhorted the congregation to take what has been the beautiful past, the wonderful present and bring it into the future because “Jesus, in His Body and Blood, is always ahead of us, inviting us and welcoming us to be close to Him.” In sending off the last 175 years and welcoming 176 and beyond, Cardinal DiNardo said, “Jesus wants us to abide with Him.”

He continued, “He has been so faithful to the Church of Galveston-Houston for 175 years that we have watched people from every language, tongue and nation come here and be nurtured and nourished at the word, a beautiful faith, cultural institutions and ultimately by the Lord’s Body and Blood each time we celebrate the Eucharist.”

At the conclusion of the Closing Mass, Cardinal DiNardo also blessed and dedicated a plaque that honored the faith and service of the more than 2,000 priests, both diocesan and religious, who were “essential to the work” of the Church, especially in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he said.

The plaque is on permanent display in the Co-Cathedral narthex.

With dramatic population growth, the diocese was re-designated as the Diocese of Galveston-Houston in 1959, and Sacred Heart Church in downtown Houston was named a co-cathedral.

Now Cardinal DiNardo leads Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, home to more than 1.7 million Catholics in 10 counties, served by its 146 parishes, seven missions, 43 Catholic schools and many ministries providing healthcare and other services for those in need.

Other celebrations during the Archdiocesan 175th anniversary included a gala on April 20 with more than 1,000 attending.