Roberto Julian Flores, priest, educator, and activist, was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, on January 9, 1935, to Francisco Flores and Celia (Gomez) Flores. He had three brothers and three sisters. Flores was raised in Corpus Christi and grew up in a household where his mother and grandmother were involved in politics and activism. He also regularly visited relatives in Hebbronville, Texas. In 1950 he enrolled at St. John’s Seminary (now Assumption Seminary) in San Antonio, Texas. While attending St. John’s he decided to become a Franciscan priest and chose to enter the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart and pursue his studies in Chicago, Illinois. There he encountered extreme discrimination, and during his schooling at Sacred Heart, he was among about six Hispanic students who faced the same discrimination. Fellow seminarians excluded them from sports and laughed at their Spanish accents.
Flores studied in the seminary for fourteen years and was ordained in 1965. Upon graduation from the seminary he was placed in San Antonio as the regional director for the Southwestern United States for the bishops committee’s new program for the Spanish Speaking. Under this assignment, he grew aware that the Hispanic Catholic community was underserved by the church and that many Anglos resented or even looked down on the Chicano priests as second class.
In 1969 Flores, along with several other priests, founded a national activist Chicano priests organization by the name of Padres Asociados para Derechos Religiosos, Educativos y Sociales (PADRES), or Priests Associated for Religious, Educational, and Social Rights. The intent of PADRES was to resist institutional racism, discrimination, and the continued neglect by the U. S. Catholic Church of its Mexican American members. Through unrelenting agitation, Flores and PADRES were able to pressure the church to become more involved with the Mexican Americans’ battles with social injustices. The group was instrumental in the encouragement of Mexican American parishioners to become more involved within the church, and the church in turn allowed for bilingual and Spanish-language Masses. The first Mexican American and Latin bishops were appointed.
Flores first contemplated leaving the priesthood in 1979 or 1980 and later recalled that he was exhausted at the time. He finally left the priesthood in 1986. At some point he earned a master's degree in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and he had private practices as a counselor in the San Francisco area, Houston, and San Antonio. He moved to San Antonio in 1992 and became a teacher and counselor for disabled students at San Antonio College. He retired in 2006.
Flores devoted much time to activism on behalf of the LGBT community in San Antonio. He helped found the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, served on the board of Equality Texas, and also taught LGBT sensitivity training at San Antonio Police Academy. Having served as a Democratic precinct chair in Bexar County from 1999 to 2009, Flores was elected to lead the Bexar County Democratic party in December 2009. He served in this position as the first openly-gay county chairman.
Flores was a member of the Alamo City Men’s Chorale, the Alamo Business Council, and the Rainbow Garden Club. He was the recipient of the Equality Texas Becky Cross Anchor Award and the Stonewall Democrats’ Special Achievement Award. He married Dan Graney, his partner of thirty-five years, in a civil ceremony in Vermont in 2009. Roberto Julian Flores battled lung cancer and succumbed to the disease in San Antonio on September 02, 2010. He was seventy-five.
Roberto Flores, Interview by Dr. Gilberto M. Hinojosa, July 29, 2008. Richard Edward Martínez, PADRES: The National Chicano Priest Movement (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005). San Antonio Express-News, September 3, 5, 2010.
Activism and Social Reform
Texas Post World War II
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