Vincentian, diocesan, and Claretian priests served the predominantly ethnic Mexican congregation at San Fernando parish in San Antonio during the century following the political separation of Texas from the Mexican nation. Bishops also had frequent ministerial contact with parishioners, especially after 1874 when San Fernando became the cathedral of the newly-formed San Antonio diocese. All of these clergy shared common features in their ministries. Their view of ethnic Mexicans was consistently ambiguous: they highlighted their parishioners' strong devotional traditions, but also their perceived ignorance of the Catholic faith and their vulnerability to Protestant proselytizing efforts. They served Spanish-speaking parishioners in their native tongue in order to enhance the effectiveness of their ministries. They were unanimous in their derision of what they saw as the twin perils of Protestantism and the lax morals of contemporary society. Their antidote to these threats was instruction in Catholic faith and morals and active participation in the church's sacramental life, often promoted through involvement in pious societies and devotions. An exploration of their ministries illustrates the historical breadth of what today is called Hispanic ministry, as well as the mutual influence of clergy and ethnic Mexican laity on efforts to foster Catholic faith and religious traditions.


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