The Mexican American Cultural Center, located on the campus of Assumption Seminary on the northwest side of San Antonio, is a national center for pastoral education and language studies for Hispanic ministry, particularly ministry to Mexican Americans. Its purpose includes the preparation of pastoral leaders in the United States and Latin America, the regular interchange of theologians and missionaries from both regions, and research and response to the social and religious needs of Hispanics in the light of the Gospel and the social teachings of the Catholic Church. Its final goal is to prepare others to serve the poor in the United States and in Latin America. The center was envisioned by Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, a native San Antonian, who met at a retreat with a group of priests (PADRES) and nuns (Las Hermanas) in February 1971 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they agreed on the idea of a formation center that would prepare priests, sisters, laymen, and laywomen to minister to Hispanics. With the help of Archbishop Francis J. Furey of San Antonio, who offered PADRES the use of buildings at Assumption Seminary, and with a $5,000 grant from the Texas Catholic Conference, under the direction of Bishop John McCarthy of Austin, the Mexican American Cultural Center opened its doors in 1972. Bishop Patricio F. Flores became chairman of the board of directors and Elizondo the founding president. For PADRES and Las Hermanas the rich cultural diversity of San Antonio, its proximity to Mexico, and its cultural ties to Latin America made San Antonio the ideal place for studying and learning about Hispanic culture. Though Flores left San Antonio to serve temporarily in El Paso, he returned to San Antonio in 1979 as archbishop and continued to help in the growth and development of MACC. Elizondo, who resigned as president in 1987 and was succeeded by Fr. Rosendo Urrabazo, continued to give advice.
Though MACC is not an accredited institution, it has cooperative credit agreements with such schools as Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), Mundelein College (Chicago, Illinois), Loyola University (New Orleans), St. Mary's University (San Antonio), and Boston College. Throughout its history the Mexican American Cultural Center, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary on June 12, 1992, has included priests, sisters, laymen, and laywomen in its service to the community. In 1989 its faculty members had either taught or studied in Rome, the Philippines, Peru, Texas, Africa, Mexico, or France. Visiting lecturers to MACC have included such Chicano writers as Tomás Rivera, Peruvian liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, Argentinean Nobel laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and Leonel Castillo, former commissioner of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Visitors to MACC have included César Chávez, former presidential candidate Walter Mondale, and United States senator Joseph Montoya. Bishop James Raush, former director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, once said of MACC: "This is, culturally and ecclesiastically speaking, the capital of the Spanish-speaking community of the Southwest."
The educational programs at MACC include the Hispanic Pastoral Ministry Program, a 3½-month program for persons working in Hispanic ministry in the United States. Included in this program is a field trip to the Mexican border to see Third World conditions. The center also offers a "mini-pastoral" three-week intensive program that focuses on Hispanic expressions of faith, family issues, history, and scripture. There are also the Extensive Pastoral Spanish Program and the Latin American Program for missionaries to Latin America. The Mexican American Cultural Center makes available a wide variety of publications. It also makes available songbooks, cassettes, vestments, and religious items through its bookstore.