The Catholic Archives of Texas, in Austin, serves as a central depository for records and documents pertaining to the activities of the Catholic Church in the state. The holdings of the collection range from earliest sixteenth-century Spanish explorations to present-day events. The depository had its beginning with the formal organization of the state Knights of Columbus Historical Commission in 1924, when the group, with the endorsement of the Texas bishops, resolved to publish a history of the church in Texas. Soon after launching their project, the commission named as chairman Paul J. Foik, librarian at St. Edward's University, Austin, who had established the Catholic Archives of America at Notre Dame University, where he was librarian for twelve years. Carlos E. Castañeda, professor of history at the University of Texas, was selected as historiographer.
Castañeda spent years researching and collecting source materials from depositories in Mexico City and other seats of government such as Saltillo, Matamoros, and Monterrey. His work culminated in the seven-volume Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1519–1936, published between 1936 and 1958. Castañeda gave care of the collection to Bishop Lawrence FitzSimon in 1948, and it became the core of the Catholic Archives of Texas. FitzSimon transferred the materials to Amarillo and during several trips to Europe added materials. These documents include correspondence of early French missionaries, biographical information on early priests, and information on Catholic newspapers, of which the Southern Messenger collection is the most valuable.
After FitzSimon died in 1958, the collection was again transferred to Austin, where it was housed in the chancery of the Catholic Diocese of Austin. With the establishment of the Texas Catholic Conference in 1963, the bishops of Texas placed the care of the archives under its direction. Holdings include records of the Texas Catholic Conference, the Texas Knights of Columbus Historical Commission, the Texas Catholic Historical Society, and religious associations, societies, and Catholic clubs in Texas; papers of Paul J. Foik, William H. Oberste, Sam Houston, Charles S. Taylor, Francis Bouchu, and Fred Bomar; diocese and parish collections; copies of governmental and religious documents in other archives; personal papers and biographical files of the bishops and clergy of Texas; documents dealing with the various religious orders formed or stationed in the state; and newspapers, pamphlets, books, maps, photographs, artifacts, and periodicals relating to the history of the Catholic Church in Texas. The depository, owned and supported by the Catholic hierarchy of Texas, solicits records from institutions and organizations in all parts of the state and is open to researchers.