Retired Archbishop Patrick F. Flores, 87, the first Mexican-American bishop in the United States, died of pneumonia and congestive heart failure Jan. 9 at Padua Place Residence for retired priests in San Antonio.
The bishop, who dropped out of school to be a migrant farmworker, was
known for his support for farmworkers, Mexican-American civil rights
and his love of his culture and heritage.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez described Archbishop Flores as
his good friend and mentor and “a pioneer and role model not only for me
but also for a generation of Hispanic priests and Latino leaders.”
He said the archbishop of San Antonio, who retired in 2004, “knew the
struggles of Hispanics in this country, and he was a friend to the
farmworker and a voice of conscience for dignity and human rights. He
taught all of us to celebrate our heritage and traditions and encouraged
us to share our faith and values proudly and to become leaders in our
Archbishop Flores, born in Ganado, was one of nine children and called “Ticho” by his family.
His younger sister, Mary Moreno, told Today’s Catholic, newspaper of
San Antonio Archdiocese, in 2004 that her brother would often walk up
and down the road in front of the family home praying the rosary. “He
was always very close to God,” she said.
He also had a light side, often winning dance contests with his sister Mary, and played a number of instruments and sang.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1956 in the Diocese of
Galveston-Houston and was appointed auxiliary bishop of San Antonio in
Eight years later, he was installed as bishop of El Paso, and in
1979, he was appointed archbishop of San Antonio.
He was a member of the Immigration and Refugee Department of the U.S.
Catholic Conference, chairman of the Church in Latin America Committee
of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and chairman of the
Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
In 1987, he welcomed Pope John Paul II to the San Antonio Archdiocese
as part of the pope’s nine-city tour.
The pope celebrated Mass for a
crowd of 330,000 people in a field that is now the site of John Paul
Stephens High School. The Mass still holds the record for the largest
gathering in the state.
In an interview with Today’s Catholic newspaper in preparation for
his retirement, Archbishop Flores said what he remembered most fondly of
his time as archbishop was simply his life as a priest.
“I’ve spent 48 years as a priest, and I have loved it all. If I had
the chance to start all over again, I would not hesitate. I might have
prepared better academically and in some other ways. But I have
literally found great satisfaction in simply being a priest — being a
bishop is simply assuming additional responsibility.”
“I have found it very challenging and very satisfying. So I’ve been happy at it and will continue to be happy,” he added.
Following Archbishop Flores’ retirement, he resided briefly at Casa
de Padres retirement center for priests of the archdiocese, but he spent
the past several years at the Padua Place residence for priests needing