Rendon Retrato: Father David Garcia

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Fr. David is Director of the Old Spanish Missions for the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Administrator of Mission Concepción Parish. Photo by Al Rendon.

Fr. David is Director of the Old Spanish Missions for the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Administrator of Mission Concepción Parish. Photo by Al Rendon.

Fr. David is director of the Old Spanish Missions for the Archdiocese of San Antonio and administrator of Mission Concepción Parish. Photo by Al Rendon.

Words by Fr. David Garcia:

Our missions remind us of our fabulous heritage; they remind us of a tremendous can-do spirit in the founders of San Antonio: the Spanish, the Franciscans, and the indigenous people worked together to create these fabulous treasures that we have today, that we hope will be designated as World Heritage sites. The founders came to this area at a time when there was very little here, when San Antonio was considered the “boondocks” of New Spain because there was nothing here. From almost bare earth, they created what now, almost 300 years later, are these structures that people come the world over to see, and that the community sees.

I think the community sees in these structures not only the spirit of San Antonio, but the spirit of the deep faith that brought the founders to build these monuments of faith, and the ongoing faith of the people who have used the churches for all these centuries, the people who have come to the churches every week and participate in the life of active parishes.

So the missions represent history, they represent tradition, they represent culture, they represent faith, and they represent spirituality. They are all of those things. And for the people who come to the missions, I think they represent something personal, something unique to every individual. As they come in, they are inspired; they may feel a sense of reverence, a sense of awe. Maybe they look at the artistic quality and they admire that and appreciate that. The missions tell each person that visits a different story. That’s why I think they are so wonderful, and such a treasure for our contemporary community.

Mission Concepción is the only one that is completely unrestored in terms of the structure. These are the original walls, the original ceilings, the original towers. Concepcion was built on a site that is very rocky and firm, so it hasn’t moved. The other missions were built on soil that moved to some degree, San Juan being the one that moved the most. So, over the centuries, those missions lost their roofs. The roofs caved in and some of the walls fell down, so those missions were restored. We carefully researched and followed the original plan and how they were decorated, and tried to follow that. Some of the other three are original and some is not. But I think the fact that they are active parishes today and have been active parishes over the course of 300 years, off and on, has added a lot to the fact that people wanted the missions enough to maintain their integrity to continue to be for new generations what they were for the previous generations.

MORE RETRATOS:

Cynthia Phelps, Technologist

Rendon Retrato: Nan Cuba, Writer

Gustavo García-Siller, The Archbishop of San Antonio

Henry Cisneros, Former Mayor

Davíd Zamora Casas, Artist

3 thoughts on “Rendon Retrato: Father David Garcia

  1. The missionaries did *not* enslave anyone. The local Indians were thrilled to move in with the missionaries as they were living as refuges for numerous reasons. The collection of tribes now referred to collectively as the Coahuilatecans that had once travelled in bands of a couple hundred people now traveled in groups of 10 to 20 people. I think it was 8 out of 10 people had died. Many died from diseases that early non-missionary explorers had inadvertently brought over from Europe, but there were other dangers from which the missions offered the Coahuiltecans protection.

    1) The climate in this area had changed from a lush area teeming with wildlife to one in a severe and extended drought. The Indians were known to catch fish and set the fish out to “harvest” maggots as they ended up collecting more protein that way. The missions offered them the opportunity to learn farming with irrigation as well as ranching and general farm life raising a variety of livestock.

    2) The missions offered them protection from the hostile Apaches and Comanches that would ride down from the north to raid what little the Coahuiltecans had.

    3) The missions offered protection from the non-missionary Spaniards who were enslaving the Coahuiltecans and forcing them to work mines for them. This dangerous work was killing many of their people.

    The missionaries left their families and a comfortable life behind in Europe not in hopes of riches or fame, but to obey Christ’s instructions of spreading the Gospel message in hopes of converting people to Christianity so that these people might, too, have eternal life. In doing so, the missionaries raised the quality of life of the Coahuiltecans immensely. The Indians completely integrated into the new lifestyle offered by the missionaries and the Spaniards and Coahuiltecans living in and near the missions intermarried. In fact, many parishioners of the still active mission churches are direct descendants of the Coahuiltecan people.

    The Spanish missionaries likely saved the Coahuiltecan people from extinction.

  2. Thank you so much for this informative narrative explaining what has actually transpired in our South Texas region. And for speaking history’s truth in the hearing of those who do not know or do not want to know. Every episode of the human story has its stories of man mistreating and abusing fellow man. But above our weakness and faults, there is a loving God who works His redemptive purposes and shows mercy and kindness to all who would humbly seek Him, receive His outstretched hand and follow after Him.

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