The College of Santa Cruz, the first institution for the propagation of the Catholic faith in America, was founded in 1683 in Querétaro, now capital of the state of Querétaro, Mexico, by Father Antonio Linaz de Jesús María of Mallorca, Spain, a Franciscan friar and prefect of all missions in the Indies. Of the original nineteen priests who founded the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, nine served in Texas: Antonio Casañas de Jesús María, Damián Massanet, Francisco Hidalgo, Miguel de Fontcuberta, Francisco Esteves, Antonio Borday, Antonio Perea, and José Diez. Many other Franciscans who served in Texas also came from this college. Under its direction two other colleges were founded to send missionaries to Texas, the College of San Fernando de México and the College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from New Spain, the College of Santa Cruz assumed the Jesuit missions in Sonora. In 1772, to offset that added burden, it withdrew its missionaries from Texas and turned the mission work in that province over to Zacatecas. The final transfer papers of the mission field were in the hands of the viceroy on March 10, 1773.
During its period of missionary endeavor in Texas the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro founded the following missions: San Francisco de los Tejas, which became Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas in 1716, San Francisco de los Neches in 1721, and San Francisco de la Espada in 1731; Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais, which became Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña; San José de los Nazonis, which became San Juan Capistrano; San Antonio de Valero; Santísimo Nombre de María; Santa Cruz de San Sabá; San Francisco Xavier de Náxara; Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria del Cañón; San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz; San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas, which became Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria; and San Ildefonso.