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GOD & TEXAS: Cavalry of Christ

“Leave nothing undared for the Gospel!” These are the challenging words of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic missions organization. The organization was founded in France in 1816 by Mazenod, and expanded to south Texas in 1849. An Oblate is an individual, either a layperson or clergy, who lives in public life rather than in a monastery. The Oblates in Texas established schools throughout south Texas, with their first efforts in Galveston and Brownsville. The Oblate School of Theology (Founded in 1903) still serves Texas today from its headquarters in San Antonio. In the early days, Oblates travelled dangerous circuits on horseback visiting border towns, herdsmen, ranches, and small villages. It was their mission to perform the primary functions of all priests which include administering the church’s seven sacraments, preaching the Word, and visiting parishioners. These traveling ministers earned the name of “The Cavalry of Christ” as they rode through south Texas and northern Mexico. To honor their sacrifices, a large, curved bronze wall has been built in San Antonio, located on the campus of the Oblate School of Theology. The sculpture depicts seven Oblate priests on horseback, with the phrases “Specialists In The Most Difficult Mission. Pope Pius XI,” and “Oblates of Mary Immaculate” on top. On the bottom of the sculpture, there are the phrases including “Strive To Be Saints,” and “Leave Nothing Undared.” These valiant men set aside their own personal comforts to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout a hostile land. Their spiritual and educational impact in the fledgling State of Texas continues to be felt today. One of the noble riders in the Cavalry of Christ was Pierre Yves Kéralum, a pioneer Catholic missionary. Born in Marseilles, France, in 1817, Kéralum was a gifted carpenter and architect. He was on the path to financial success when God called him into the ministry. He was ordained an Oblate priest in 1852, and moved to Texas to begin ministry under Friar Verdet. However, Friar Verdet died at sea, and Kéralum was charged with the responsibility of completing the building of the church. It was an overwhelming task but Kéralum more than succeeded. His design and construction of Immaculate Conception Church in Brownsville remains inspiring. His amazing construction skills can be seen throughout south Texas churches including the cathedral of San Agustín in Laredo, and in other sanctuary furnishings, nun’s convents, priest’s houses, and college buildings. Kéralum chose to live in humble poverty. He spent much of his time traveling throughout south Texas and visiting obscure villages in the rural countryside. Eventually, when he was almost completely blind, he disappeared somewhere north of what is now Mercedes, Texas. His remains were finally discovered in 1882, and he was buried in Brownsville. Kéralum is still remembered as “El Santo Padre Pedrito." What a stirring and challenging example The Cavalry of Christ and Father Kéralum left for us. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News!" (Romans 10:15 ESV)

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