Holy Rosary Parish was founded by the Dominican Friars in 1913 when they were invited by Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher to serve the needs of 125 families living in what was then Houston’s south side. At the time, the city had only 82,000 citizens. As soon as the parish was established, work began on a two-story building on land donated by William H. McCarthy. Upon completion, the lower floor was used for the parish church; the upper floor served as the parochial elementary school, conducted by the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart. Beginning with six classrooms and 25 children, the school grew into all eight grades by 1922 and remained open until 1963. The first Mass was held before construction was complete in a private residence at 3605 Milam Street. The first baptism in the parish was that of Joseph I. Macatee; the first funeral was for George Rick; and the first wedding was that of Charles Giraud and Mary Kittrell.
Since its inception, Holy Rosary has served as the physical foundation from which the Dominican Friars have provided spiritual care throughout the city and nurtured the faith of generations of parishioners. Rev. Raphael A. LaPlante was Holy Rosary’s first pastor. One of his first acts was to organize a chapter of the Holy Name Society. In 1920, Mrs. C. C. Cunningham was the first member of the parish received into the Dominican Third Order. About the same time, the Blessed Virgin’s Sodality was organized for young women. On the third Sunday of each month, these young ladies received Holy Communion as a group. In 1928, the Rosary and Altar Society was formed. Later organizations included the Rosarian Club for young adults and a chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Through the years, the Friars have accomplished a variety of works. Besides providing the sacraments, there has been instruction for converts and religious education, spiritual care of the sisters at St. Agnes Academy and various religious orders, sick calls that have increased with the growth of the medical center, counseling, consolation, and teaching at all levels of education. Since 1913, Houston has been home to over 100 Friars and has fostered dozens of vocations. And the parish itself has been divided several times to form from its members other parishes, including St. Vincent de Paul in 1940.
A goal that had always concerned the members of the parish since the parish’s inception was the construction of a permanent church and rectory for Holy Rosary. By 1926, the church had paid down its original debts, and the parish began to save money for a new church. After Rev. Martin McDermott became the pastor in 1930, he decided that the time had arrived to build. He engaged Maurice J. Sullivan, a respected architect and parishioner, to work on plans for a Gothic structure. Works to Sullivan’s credit in Houston include St. Anne Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Seminary, and several schools and hospitals. Plans were approved by Bishop Christopher B. Byrne and Very Rev. Terence S. McDermott, Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. Using $79,000 from the parish savings account, the Standard (now Fretz) Construction Company, under Edmund A. Fretz, took charge of the new construction of the church and rectory. Groundbreaking began on September 15, 1932. On February 5, 1933, Bishop Byrne laid the cornerstone for the church before a large congregation.
Using materials of the highest quality, the church exterior was built from Bedford stone; the interior was constructed of Texas limestone. A beautiful purple and green slate roof covered the open trusses of the church. The center of attention inside the church was the main altar, quarried near McNeil, Texas. Oswald Lassig performed the intricate carving on all of the altars. The main altar had a canopy of blue velvet trimmed with gold and yellow satin. The tabernacle was bronze; the candlesticks were carved from birch over-laid with gold leaf. The transom above the main entrance was carved in relief, depicting Our Lady of the Rosary. The vestibule was divided from the nave by a screen of wood and mottled glass. The baptistry alcove, divided from the vestibule by a wrought iron grill, contained the stone and copper font from the temporary church. On the feast of St. Albert the Great, November 15, 1933, Bishop Byrne blessed the church. The new church cost $150,000, a very low price due to depression era expenses. Even though many parishioners had suffered from the depression, they gave generously, and in only a few years, the debt of $71,000 was liquidated.
Fr. McDermott completed his term in 1936 and was succeeded by Rev. Francis H. Dugan. Unfortunately, Fr. Dugan’s work was impeded by ill health; he retired from the pastorate in 1940 and died on February 20, 1941.
Rev. Francis L. Vander Hayden was made pastor in January of 1941, and during his tenure, he accomplished several notable embellishments of the sanctuary, including the installation of the beautiful stained glass windows from the T. C. Esser Company of Milwaukee, the carved baldachino with the Appalachian white oak wainscoting, and new lighting for the church.
In 1947, Rev. Raymond E. Kavanah became pastor. During his time as pastor, he made a new addition to the church on the south side. This addition included an enlarged sacristy, an altar boy’s room, a work sacristy, and in the basement, air conditioning equipment and storage. He also added behind the side altars wainscoting, whose oaken finish enhanced the warmth of the church.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Holy Rosary grew rapidly with the city. An enormous number of Dominican Friars spent time at the parish and worked in numerous ministries around Houston. It was during this time that the Dominicans taught at St. Agnes Academy, Sacred Heart Dominican College, and St. Pius X High School among others. They were the first chaplains at Ben Taub and Hermann to name two hospitals. They cared for students at Rice and the University of Houston, and they taught and did research at the university level.
By the 1970’s and 1980’s, Holy Rosary had several hundred families. Of note during that time was that the parish, under the leadership of Rev. Gerard R. Joubert, became the first in Houston to welcome newcomers from Vietnam. The earliest priests to arrive from Vietnam lived in the parish rectory and conducted services for their countrymen in the parish church. Since then, countless services have been provided. The Vietnamese community has grown to account for about a fourth of the parish. Each May, they sponsor a procession and outdoor Mass honoring our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Lavang—a tradition that draws hundreds back to Holy Rosary from across the region—hundreds who have gone on to join other parishes.
In the 1990’s, Rev. Victor Brown led the parish community with distinction and zeal. The diversity of the parish truly began to reflect that of the city and the Catholic Church herself. Holy Rosary deepened her mission of providing the best in preaching and traditional liturgical practices, attracting Catholics from across the Houston metropolitan area.
During the leadership of Rev. Joseph D. Konkel, Holy Rosary’s fifteenth pastor, the parish undertook an ambitious capital campaign in the spirit of preparing for future generations. New parish offices and a parish hall were constructed to serve the people of the parish. The campaign also provided a new, much needed addition to the living quarters of the Dominican Friars. Since finishing his term as pastor in 2009, Rev. Konkel has remained at Holy Rosary in the role of pastor emeritus. From November 2010 to July 2011, he oversaw the renovation of the old rectory.
July 1, 2009, marked the beginning of the tenure of Holy Rosary’s sixteenth pastor, Rev. Ian G. Bordenave, O.P. The parish currently serves about eight hundred and eighty households.
|HISTORY OF PASTORS|
|Raphael A. LaPlante, O.P.||1913 – 1918|
|Walter G. Scanlon, O.P.||1919 – 1923|
|Francis B. Gorman, O.P.||1923 – 1926|
|Patrick A. Maher, O.P.||1927 – 1930|
|Martin A. McDermott, O.P.||1930 – 1936|
|Francis H. Dugan, O.P.||1936 – 1940|
|Francis L. Vander Heyden, O.P.||1941 – 1947|
|Raymond E. Kavanah, O.P.||1947 – 1953|
|Joseph B. Malvey, O.P.||1953 – 1958|
|Dominic H. Barthelemy, O.P.||1958 – 1964|
|Albert J. M. Coburn, O.P.||1964 – 1968|
|Vincent W. Bryce, O.P.||1968 – 1970|
|Gerard R. Joubert, O.P.||1970 – 1986|
|Victor Brown, O.P.||1986 – 1995|
|Joseph D. Konkel, O.P.||1995 – 2009|
|Ian G. Bordenave, O.P.||2009 –|