Port Isabel church to bless Oblate memorial

PORT ISABEL — In 1849, the Oblates Fathers of Mary Immaculate climbed off a boat to begin their long service to this seaside community.

On horseback, the missionary priests and brothers spread the Catholic faith across the Rio Grande Valley, establishing missions and schools across Texas as well as the Rio Grande Valley.

On Monday, Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church will bless a new Oblate Memorial Prayer Garden at 705 S. Longoria St.

The ceremony will commemorate the Oblates’ arrival here on Dec. 2, 1849, from which they spread their faith as far north as Canada.

“The Prayer Garden was designed to pay tribute to the Oblate priests and brothers who served the Port Isabel community from 1849 until 2012 and to serve as a peaceful retreat for those seeking a place for quiet prayer and reflection,” the Rev. Pat Seitz, the church’s pastor, stated.

To fund the project, residents bought brick pavers which form the Prayer Garden’s walkway.

The garden features a mural of the historic silhouette of the Calvary of Christ.

“Historians of he Oblates have noted the Cavalry consisted of priests who traveled throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley on horseback, encountering war, hurricanes, revolutions, yellow fever, drought, calamities of all kinds, heroism of the Apostles, martyrs and duty and charity,” a press release stated.

Founded in France in 1816, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate launched its Texas mission with five Oblates in 1849.

By 1883, 41 Oblates served the mission, establishing schools in Galveston in 1855 and in Brownsville in 1865.

Meanwhile, they served in East Texas from 1853-1855 and in South Texas, beginning in 1849.