The Catholic Diocese of Dallas, previously part of the Diocese of Galveston, was established on July 15, 1890, by Pope Leo XIII. It covered all the northern part of the state; its southernmost counties, from west to east, were Yoakum, Terry, Dawson, Borden, Mitchell, Coke, Runnels, Coleman, Brown, Mills, Hamilton, Bosque, Hill, Navarro, Henderson, Smith, Rusk, and Panola. Thomas Francis Brennan, the first bishop, was consecrated on April 5, 1891. Before he was transferred in February 1893 to St. John's, Newfoundland, he established a diocesan Catholic newspaper, the Texas Catholic (see CATHOLIC JOURNALISM). This was the first diocesan newspaper published in Texas. In 1892 El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson counties were added to the diocese. At the conclusion of Bishop Brennan's tenure the Diocese of Dallas comprised twenty-five churches with resident pastors, nineteen mission churches, four hospitals, and nine academies with a combined enrollment of about 1,500 students. The diocese served a Catholic population of about 20,000, about 9,000 of whom had been born in America.
Succeeding Bishop Brennan was Bishop Edward Joseph Dunne, from the Diocese of Chicago, who was installed on January 17, 1894. During his administration (1894–1910) the Catholic population of the diocese rose to an estimated 62,000, the number of churches increased to fifty-nine, and the number of hospitals to six. Educational facilities included thirty-one parochial schools, with a combined enrollment of about 5,700, and Holy Trinity College and Academy, founded by the Vincentian Fathers in 1907. Bishop Dunne's tenure also saw the construction of the present Dallas cathedral, the Catedral Santuario de Guadalupe, which was completed in 1902.
Bishop Dunne died in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on August 5, 1910, and Rev. Joseph Patrick Lynch was appointed to succeed him. Lynch was consecrated on July 12, 1911, in Sacred Heart Cathedral. During his term of office (1911–54) the Catholic population increased to about 96,000 and the number of parishes to ninety-five. Parochial schools included nineteen high schools, with about 2,000 students, and fifty-two elementary schools, with about 14,000 students. In 1911 Holy Trinity College and Academy became the original University of Dallas, which closed in the late 1920s because of financial difficulties. The boundaries of the diocese were also redrawn as three new dioceses were formed: El Paso in 1914, Amarillo in 1926, and Austin in 1947. In 1953 the Church of Saint Patrick, in Fort Worth, was raised to the status of co-cathedral, and the diocese was renamed the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth. The diocese received an auxiliary bishop in 1942 and a coadjutor bishop in 1952, The latter office, with right of succession, was filled by Bishop Thomas Kiely Gorman.
Gorman became the fourth bishop of the diocese after the death of Bishop Lynch on August 19, 1954. His tenure (1954–69) saw the revival of the Texas Catholic and the reopening of the University of Dallas, which received its first students in the fall of 1956. In 1961 the diocese was divided again in order to form the Diocese of San Angelo. Holy Trinity Diocesan Seminary was established in 1965, and St. Jude Chapel was opened to serve downtown Dallas. Ninety-six parishes served a Catholic population of about 188,000, while eleven high schools and fifty-two elementary schools had enrollments of approximately 4,000 and 18,250, respectively. The number of Catholic hospitals in the diocese remained at six (see CATHOLIC HEALTH CARE).
Gorman resigned in 1969 and was succeeded by Thomas A. Tschoepe, who was installed on October 29, 1969. When Bishop Gorman's resignation was announced, the diocese was divided to form the Diocese of Dallas and the Diocese of Fort Worth. During Bishop Tschoepe's tenure six new missions and fourteen parishes were established. Tschoepe also oversaw the establishment of many new programs, including, among others, the Catholic Community Fund, an annual fund drive; the Diocesan Youth Ministry; the Deaf Apostolate; the Hispanic Ministry Office; the Black Catholic Ministry Office; the office of the Justice and Peace Commission; the Office for Pastoral Training; the permanent diaconate; and the Dallas Catholic Television Network. In 1976 Bishop Tschoepe renamed Sacred Heart Cathedral the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe. The boundaries of the parish were changed again in 1986 with the establishment of the Diocese of Tyler. After that division the Diocese of Dallas comprised nine counties-Grayson, Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Navarro, Fannin, Hunt, Rockwell, and Kaufman.
Bishop Tschoepe retired in December 1990 and was succeeded by Charles Victor Grahmann, who had become coadjutor bishop of the diocese in February 1990. On January 1, 1993, the diocese comprised fifty-six parishes, seven missions, and a Catholic population of 262,605 out of a total population of 2,546,402. The diocese supported one Catholic hospital, a health-care center, a home for the aged, one specialized home, three day-care centers, and three special centers for social services, as well as the University of Dallas and the seminary. It also supported three diocesan and parochial high schools, with an enrollment of 1,259; twenty-nine diocesan and parochial elementary schools, with an enrollment of 9,038; and one nonresidential school for handicapped children.