Holy Rosary Parish, Galveston

By: Mary H. Ogilvie

Type: General Entry

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: September 16, 2020

Holy Rosary Parish, one of the first Catholic parishes for Blacks in Texas, had its beginnings in Holy Rosary Elementary School, which was established in 1886 by Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher of Galveston and staffed by Dominican Sisters. In cooperation with the sisters, Gallagher opened a school in a one-room cottage on the corner of Twelfth Street and Avenue K in Galveston, in order to serve the Black Catholics who attended Mass on Sunday at St. Mary's Cathedral. In spite of some initial criticism of the bishop and the nuns, the school, which began with only thirteen pupils, flourished. Enrollment was soon so high that Gallagher had to build another school to accommodate all those who wanted to attend. In 1888 the students were moved to a new four-classroom building on the corner of Twenty-fifth and Avenue I. At this time Gallagher decided that the Blacks should have their own parish. Holy Rosary began as a mission of the cathedral church, with Gallagher as pastor and a variety of missionary priests as assistants, each of whom took turns celebrating Mass in the schoolhouse on Sundays. However, Gallagher soon hired a full-time pastor for the mission, the newly ordained Philip L. Keller, who had previously served only at St. Joseph's Church in Galveston. Keller had from the beginning wanted to work in the Black apostolate. Within two years he had built Holy Rosary Church, which was blessed by Gallagher on the Feast of the Holy Rosary in 1891. In 1898 a new convent was added to the parish, and the Sisters of the Holy Family, a Black order, took over from the Dominicans. They began an industrial department in the school and there taught home economics courses. Seven years later Gallagher, Keller, and Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart, superior of the Sisters of the Holy Family, incorporated themselves into Holy Rosary Industrial School and Orphan's Home.

Keller resigned his position as pastor in 1913, and the Josephite Fathers took over the care of the parish. A year later, by arrangement of Bishop Gallagher, the parish plant was moved to Thirty-first and Avenue N, since the city had bought the property on which the buildings had been located. In 1927 Holy Rosary Parish built the first Black Catholic high school in Texas; it closed only fourteen years later because of financial difficulties, and its students were sent to Central High School. By 1958 the parish had a new church, convent, and elementary school. The school's enrollment was then 280; it peaked at 300 a few years later. By the early 1970s enrollment began to drop, and the school had to eliminate the seventh and eighth grades. In 1979, with an enrollment of between eighty and ninety students, the school was forced to close after ninety-three years of service to the Black community. Holy Rosary Parish, however, continued to function.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–1958; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Galveston Daily News, May 28, 1979. Texas Catholic Herald, June 8, 1979.


  • Religion
  • Catholic

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Mary H. Ogilvie, “Holy Rosary Parish, Galveston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 17, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/holy-rosary-parish-galveston.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995
September 16, 2020