Claude Marie Dubuis, second Catholic bishop of Texas, son of François and Antoinette (Dubost) Dubuis, was born at Coutouvre, France, on March 8, 1817. He was raised on his parents' farm and received his early instruction from his devout mother. When Dubuis was ten years old, he was sent to live with his maternal uncle, the abbé Dubost, a pastor in a nearby town. Though it was thought that the abbé would provide Dubuis with the knowledge he needed to enter the seminary, he actually used the boy as an assistant to run errands for him. In 1833, when the time came for Dubuis to enter L'Argentière, a preparatory seminary, he found that he was sadly lacking in educational background, notably Greek. Therefore, after six months of frustration, he gave up, withdrew from the seminary, and returned to his home in Teche, determined that he would acquire some skill that would see him through his life. He worked as a day laborer for a short time before he decided to become a missionary. His mother again suggested that he approach Dubost for help, and this time the abbé sent Dubuis to a tutor named Fouilland in a nearby village. Fouilland taught Dubuis Latin, Greek, and French grammar for eight months, after which the young man was given another chance at the seminary. He was sent first to St. Jodard, a minor seminary, where he passed all of his courses without difficulty. He then returned to L'Argentière and graduated with honors after two years. By 1840 he had entered the major seminary of St. Irenaeus at Lyons, and, in 1844, at the age of twenty-seven, he was ordained a priest.
His first assignment was at Lyons, where in 1846 he met Bishop Jean Marie Odin, vicar apostolic of Texas. Odin had returned to his homeland to recruit missionary priests and nuns for work in Texas. He did not gloss over the hardships his followers would have to endure, but this seemed to inspire more than to deter Dubuis, who, with a small group of fellow recruits, set sail from Le Havre in March of that year. The missionaries, sent first to the Barrens, a Vincentian Seminary in Perryville, Missouri, to learn English, did not arrive in Texas until the winter of 1847, about six months after Pope Pius IX elevated the state of Texas to a diocese with Odin as bishop. Dubuis's first assignment was a pastorate at Castroville, a relatively new settlement founded by the Texas entrepreneur Henri Castro. Dubuis's ministry there included the surrounding villages of D'Hanis, Vandenburg, Quihi, New Braunfels, and Fredericksburg, and he often had to ride on horseback through hostile Comanche territory in order to carry out his priestly duties. He was captured four times by Indians. When Dubuis left Castroville for San Antonio in 1851 he left behind him a healthy, growing St. Louis parish, as well as a church building and rectory built mainly by his own hands. He is credited with developing the architectural style distinctive to Castroville, which resembles that of Alsatian structures. He was given the pastorate at San Fernando in San Antonio (see SAN FERNANDO DE BÉXAR CATHEDRAL), a church that needed more religious to attend to its scattered members. Therefore, in 1852, he was sent to France for volunteers for the Texas missions. Fourteen students and priests responded to his appeal.
When he returned to Galveston, Dubuis was appointed vicar general and was again sent to San Antonio. There he completed work on the Ursuline convent, as well as the new St. Mary's Church (now St. Mary's Cathedral). When Odin was made archbishop of New Orleans, Dubuis was appointed bishop of Galveston. He was consecrated by Odin on November 23, 1862, in Lyons. In May 1863 he entered his episcopal city, where for the next seventeen years he worked for the Catholic Church in Texas. During his tenure as bishop he brought sixty-six religious into the state, many of whom were members of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of Lyons. Dubuis was responsible for founding their order in the United States, with motherhouses in the Galveston-Houston and San Antonio dioceses.
Building upon the foundation laid during the colonial era of Texas by the Franciscans and during the 1840s and 1850s by the Vincentian Fathers and others, Dubuis was able not only to restore a church ravaged by the Civil War, but to leave to his successor a flourishing Catholic faith. As bishop he directed the building of hospitals, schools, and orphanages. By 1867 the Diocese of Galveston had fifty-five churches and chapels. By Dubuis's request Pope Pius established a second diocese in the state in 1874, that of San Antonio (see SAN ANTONIO, CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF).
By 1880 Dubuis was suffering from such poor health that he was forced to return to France, and Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher took over the administration of the see of Galveston. Dubuis still remained ordinary of Galveston until he resigned in 1892. In that year Pope Leo XIII designated him titular archbishop of Arca, a title Dubuis held until his death at Vernaison, France, on May 21, 1895. He was buried in the parish churchyard at Coutouvre, France. In 1949 Bishop Lawrence J. FitzSimon visited the gravesite and discovered that Dubuis's name on the stone was unreadable and that his tenure as bishop of Texas was not mentioned. By 1951 FitzSimon had had the body removed to a crypt inside the parish church, where a suitable monument was erected.