John Morkovsky, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, was born in Praha, Texas, on August 16, 1909, to Alois F. and Marie Theresa (Raska) Morkovsky. His father immigrated to Texas from Moravia and became a schoolteacher; his mother was the daughter of Moravian immigrants. Morkovsky was the first native-born Texas Catholic bishop of Czech descent. He attended St. John's Seminary in San Antonio from 1924 to 1930. He continued his studies in Rome. Morkovsky was ordained to the priesthood during his studies on December 5, 1933, and graduated with a doctorate of sacred theology in 1936. From 1941 to 1943 he attended the Catholic University in Washington, where he earned a master of arts degree in education. Upon returning to Texas from Rome after graduation in 1936, he first served as assistant pastor at St. Michael's Church in Weimar (1936–39), then as assistant in St. Anne's Church in San Antonio (1939–40). He was professor at St. John's Seminary, San Antonio, in the 1940–41 school term; superintendent of schools for the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, 1943–56; judge of the archdiocesan matrimonial court, 1944–56; pastor of St. Leo's Church in San Antonio, 1945–54; archdiocesan consultor, 1947–56; and pastor of St. Mary Magdalene's Church in San Antonio, 1954–56. In December 1955 he was named titular bishop of Hieron and auxiliary to Bishop Lawrence J. FitzSimon of the Catholic Diocese of Amarillo. He succeeded FitzSimon as the fourth bishop of Amarillo after the latter's death in July 1958. In the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Morkovsky served as chancellor and vicar general for five years before being named titular bishop of Tigava in April 1963. He lost the sight in his left eye as a result of a beating and robbery at his home in March 1974. In April 1975 he succeeded Bishop Wendelin J. Nold, who retired as ordinary of the diocese.
Morkovsky participated in the Second Vatican Council in Rome in 1964 and with this background sought to address, as bishop of Galveston-Houston, the wide variety of changes and needs that Catholics were facing. He founded the diocesan newspaper, the Texas Catholic Herald, in 1964; established the Seaman's Center at the Port of Houston; established the first diocesan mission in Guatemala City in 1966; helped to found a theology program at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, in 1966; established the Hospital Chaplain's Corps at Houston Medical Center, 1968; and was the first Catholic bishop to preside over the ecumenical Texas Conference of Churches, 1970–72. During his tenure, Morkovsky established African-American and Mexican-American ministries and gave special attention to low-income parishioners and Houston's large Vietnamese community. He established the annual Slavic Heritage Day of saints Cyril and Methodius in Houston in 1963; hosted the visit of Josef Cardinal Beran of Czechoslovakia in 1964; served as chaplain of local Czech societies, the K.J.Z.T., K.D., and K.J.T.; often heard confessions and preached in Czech; and served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Czech National Chapel in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, dedicated in 1983. Morkovsky retired in 1985 on his seventy-fifth birthday. He continued to live in his home on the grounds of St. Mary's Seminary in Houston. He died of a stroke on March 24, 1990, while visiting relatives in Tacoma, Washington, and is entombed at the Holy Cross Cemetery Mausoleum in Houston.
Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Robert C. Giles, Changing Times: The Story of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston in Commemoration of Its Founding (Houston, 1972). The Official Catholic Directory. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Texas Post World War II
Upper Gulf Coast
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