Cassata, John Joseph (1908–1989)

By: Kathryn Fialho

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: September 11, 2019

John Joseph Cassata, the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, was born in Galveston, Texas, on November 8, 1908, the son of Vincent and Anna (Pizzitola) Cassata, natives of Sicily. He attended St. Mary's Cathedral School in Galveston and St. Mary's boarding school in La Porte and began his studies for the priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary in La Porte, the first seminarian of Italian parentage to enter that seminary. Upon completion of his studies in La Porte, Cassata was sent to the North American College in Rome, where he was ordained on December 8, 1932. He was the second native Texan of Italian parentage to be ordained a priest for the state of Texas and the first for the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston.

Shortly after his ordination he was assigned to Holy Name parish in Houston as assistant pastor. He became pastor in 1945 and served in this capacity until 1968. In 1956 he was elevated to domestic prelate. In addition to his pastoral duties Cassata was appointed vicar general of the Galveston-Houston diocese and served as the diocesan procurator at Vatican II. He was diocesan synodal judge of the matrimonial court and a member of the diocesan board of examiners, the Catholic Youth Organization board, and the diocesan board of education. He was also diocesan moderator for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; director of diocesan radio and TV programing; chairman of the diocesan building commission, development fund, and War on Poverty; and a lieutenant colonel in the Texas State Guard, Eighth District.

On March 20, 1968, Pope Paul VI appointed Cassata titular bishop of Bida and auxiliary bishop of the Diocese, of Dallas-Fort Worth. Following his consecration on June 5, 1968, he served as vicar general of the diocese, episcopal vicar for Fort Worth, vice chancellor of the University of Dallas, and pastor of St. Patrick Co-Cathedral in Fort Worth. On August 22, 1969, he was appointed bishop of the newly formed diocese of Fort Worth. He retired on September 16, 1980, due to ill health.

During Cassata's years of leadership in Fort Worth twelve new parishes were formed, and the Catholic population grew from 67,690 to 93,500. He was a strong advocate of more lay involvement in the church and encouraged strong parish councils. He established the lay assembly as a liaison between parish councils and the diocesan pastoral council. Under his direction permanent deacons were ordained, and the marriage tribunal was established. Seminarians were encouraged to learn Spanish and study Mexican-American culture to serve the people of the diocese better. In order to assure stability and quality in the Catholic schools of the diocese, Cassata established an elected diocesan board of education and elected local school boards, unified under a diocesan Catholic school system. Cassata Learning Center, an alternative school in Fort Worth, was named for him.

He was grand prior of the Southern Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem from October 1968 until November 1984. Bishop Cassata died on September 8, 1989, in Houston and was buried in the family plot at Garden of Gethsemane in Forest Park Cemetery, Houston.

Austin American-Statesman, September 17, 1989. Texas Catholic, June 29, 1968, August 30, 1969, September 14, 1989. Texas Catholic Herald, September 22, 1989.

  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • Galveston
  • Houston
  • North Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kathryn Fialho, “Cassata, John Joseph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
September 11, 2019

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