Mathurin J. Pairier, a French Catholic missionary priest, was in born in Redan, Brittany, around 1822. Little is known of his family and early years. As a youth he entered the Society of Mary, a missionary society noted for its work in the South Sea Islands. After completing his studies, he was ordained a priest around 1849. After his ordination he worked in New Zealand and possibly Australia for twenty years. Pairier arrived in Texas, probably in 1869, one of numerous French clerics who labored among Catholics in the state following annexation. After first assigning Pairier to St. Mary's Cathedral, Galveston, as an assistant, Galveston bishop Claude M. Dubuis sent him to minister to the Catholics connected with Fort Griffin and Fort Belknap, which were then in the Diocese of Galveston. Pairier also visited Fort Worth, where in 1870 he offered the first Mass celebrated in that city.
In 1872 he moved to Dallas and became the first resident Catholic priest there. He oversaw the construction of the first Catholic church in Dallas, Sacred Heart. It was completed in 1873 and later became the first cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas (1891). In 1874 Pairier was again on the road, caring for the Catholics around Fort Davis, Fort Stockton, and points as far east as Fort Concho. At Fort Stockton he may have begun the construction of St. Joseph's Church. When the Catholic Church in Texas was divided into two dioceses in 1874, Pairier found himself a member of the Diocese of San Antonio, in whose territory he worked. Beginning in 1877 he served at St. Joseph's Church in Mason, a pastorate that included the care of the Catholics living in the Fort Concho, San Angelo, and Ben Ficklin area. In 1884 Pairier moved to San Angelo as first resident priest and founding pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish (later called Sacred Heart Cathedral). Using land a San Antonio developer had donated ten years earlier, Pairier oversaw the construction of a church for the San Angelo congregation. Pairier weighed nearly 300 pounds; he used a hack drawn by two mules for his extensive missionary journeys. He retired from the active ministry and spent his final months in San Antonio, where he died on November 27, 1888.
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Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin.
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Mark J. Woodruff,
“Pairier, Mathurin J.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: