Bishop Vincent M. Harris papers
The Bishop Vincent M. Harris papers encompass the personal life, priestly and episcopal career of Harris, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont and second Bishop of the Diocese of Austin.
- Creation: 1888 - 1988
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are available by appointment only. Contact the archivist for details.
Vincent Madeley Harris was born October 14, 1913, in Conroe, Texas, to “old time druggist,” George M. Harris, Sr. and Margaret Madeley Harris. He attended Conroe and Houston public schools (where the young Lyndon B. Johnson was his instructor in public speaking), graduating from Sam Houston High School in 1931. Harris then attended seminary at St. Mary’s University in La Porte, Texas until 1933.
Harris won a scholarship to study in Rome, appointed by Monsignor Louis J. Reicher who had founded his family’s church, St. Christopher’s, in Houston and served as Harris’ benefactor and lifelong mentor. In October 1934, Harris accompanied Bishop Christopher Byrne to Rome, where Harris began his studies at the North American College of the Pontifical Gregorian University in the Vatican City. Harris was ordained priest on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1938, in Rome by Bishop Ralph Hayes.
Then, Harris began his studies in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, but while visiting home during the summer of 1939, outbreak of war in Europe intervened. Harris received permission to complete his graduate work in canon law at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He received his baccalaureates in theology and canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, April 15, 1940, and his licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America, June 12, 1940.
Monsignor Reicher appointment Harris in September 1940 to the faculty of St. Mary’s University (Seminary) in La Porte. Harris taught canon law and dogmatic theology until 1951. Harris also served as secretary to the Galveston Diocesan Matrimonial Tribunal (1940-1950), and as diocesan director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (1942-1948).
Harris succeeded Monsignor Reicher as chancellor of the Diocese of Galveston in 1948, moved to Galveston in 1951, and served for eighteen years in this position. During this time (1952-1963), Harris also served as notary, diocesan consultor, synodal examiner, and director of the Legion of Decency. From the Diocese of Galveston, with offices in Galveston, the renamed Diocese of Galveston-Houston was created, and a new chancery building of the diocese opened in Houston on August 25, 1963. From 1963 to 1966, Harris served in the offices above with added duties on the Diocesan Administration Council.
On July 4, 1966, Pope Paul VI appointed Monsignor Harris inaugural bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont, created from the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Consecrated on September 28 installed on the following day as the first bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont, erected the same day. Harris spent five years in that office and is the first native of the Diocese of Galveston elevated to the episcopacy.
On November 29, 1947, Pope Pius XII appointed Monsignor Reicher as the first bishop-ordinary of the new Diocese of Austin, created from the Diocese of Galveston. Bishop Harris was transferred from Beaumont on April 21, 1971, to serve as the first coadjutor bishop of Austin. On June 4, 1971, Harris presented in ceremony to Bishop Reicher and the diocesan consultors the letter of assignment by Pope Paul VI. When Bishop Reicher retired on November 15, 1971, Bishop Harris was installed as the second bishop of Austin on November 16, 1971. Bishop Harris served in Austin until retiring on December 24, 1985.
11 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The Bishop Vincent M. Harris papers are divided into the three subcategories below. Several of the photographs in the collection include annotations and descriptions written by Harris, many of the photographs in the second subseries were taken by Harris who was an avid photographer. Some of the items from Harris' early life have also been annotated by Harris prior to donation.
1. Personal, 1888-1988: this subseries consists of items pertaining to Harris' childhood and education, including his time spent attending seminary at St. Mary's University. Additionally, items in this series include personal correspondence, Harris' family, achievements and honors, Harris' dissertation, and items of his priesthood included homilies and a prayer intention journal.
2. North American Pontifical College, Rome, and Priestly Ordination, 1934-1951: the bulk of items in this collection include photographs taken by Harris of fellow seminarians and his European travels. Other items in this subseries include Harris' report cards and diplomas.
3. Priest and Chancellor, Diocese of Galveston, 1933-1986
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Bishop Vincent M. Harris donated the collection in 1987, mostly through small donations prior to his retirement. On March 19, 1987, Bishop Harris noted that he donated additional books and materials to St. Edward’s University. Materials in this collection include personal papers selected by Bishop Harris to convey a historical overview of the development of his ecclesiastical career and its relation to the development of the Catholic Church, diocesan growth, and governance in Texas.
Additional items and records created by Bishop Vincent M. Harris can be found in the archives of the (Arch)Diocese(s) of Austin, Beaumont, and Galveston-Houston.
This collection was reprocessed by Selena Aleman in March 2023.
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Part of the Catholic Archives of Texas Repository
6225 E US 290 HWY EB SVRD
Austin TX 78723 United States