Our parish is a Catholic community of almost 2,600 families located in Tyler, Texas. The parish features two churches, the Cathedral itself (423. S Broadway) and the Chapel of Sts. Peter & Paul (1435 ESE Loop 323). The Mission of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is to be a compassionate and faith-filled Catholic Christian community that lives the Gospel message through worship, education, spiritual development, and to service to others. In so doing, we become examples of God's love and compassion.
The parish is dedicated to and named for the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception. The common and constant teaching of the Christians through all ages, formally declared by Pope Pius IX, is that “…the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."
When a group of people works and sacrifices together, laughs, cries and prays together during their lifetime, they create a community with a common history and a rich heritage that becomes an essential element of their identity.
The people of Immaculate Conception Church now remember more than a century of living with the earliest memories go back to the 1870’s when the railroads came to Tyler, bringing with them a number of Catholics. To serve these Catholics, missionary priests made journeys on horseback from Nacogdoches and Palestine to minister to the steadily growing community. In 1878, this community was no longer considered missionary and Immaculate Conception Parish was established as part of the Diocese of Galveston. By 1880, the Catholic population exceeded 200 and property was purchased at the corner of West Locust Street and North College Avenue where a small wooden frame church was built.
The population of Immaculate Conception Church continued to grow and involve itself in the wider Tyler community. There were times of adversity and misunderstanding regarding their Catholic identity in East Texas. Irish, German, Lebanese and other immigrants continued to establish themselves as responsible citizens of Smith County in the best tradition of the American dream.
During the First World War and the subsequent years, it became evident, due to increased numbers, that the Catholic community had outgrown its facility. Fr. Patrick J. F. O'Beirne, pastor from 1914 to 1927, had already begun collecting funds for a new church. Before twenty years had passed, the discovery of oil brought to East Texas more people, including many Catholics, in search of employment, security and stability. It now became a necessity of the Catholic people to have a new church facility.
In 1927, Fr. Sebastian A. Samperi became pastor. After repeated attempts to repair the old church for continued use, he redoubled his efforts to build a new one. He and the parishioners corresponded with Bishop Joseph P. Lynch of Dallas regarding plans to sell the property and purchase new property at Front Street and South Broadway on which to construct a new church. Several years of negotiation followed before approval was finally received. Through great sacrifices of wealth and energy, the new Immaculate Conception Church was dedicated on March 17, 1935. In 1949 and then again in 1978, it was renovated and re-decorated.
The structure, which was designed in the Spanish style, is reminiscent of the Spanish heritage of Texas. It stands with nobility and warmth at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in Tyler. Since its dedication, the Church has stood as a symbol of those first courageous people who gave so totally of themselves so that we might experience and share their Catholic roots and traditions.
In June 1978, the parishioners of Immaculate Conception celebrated the 100th anniversary of the parish. Three days of festivities were held during which the people continually gave thanks to God and to those who had gone before. Remodeling of the parish offices was completed in September of 1984 when new offices, a library and a large meeting room were added. In December of 1986, the basement of the church was dedicated to Fr. Samperi in honor of his leadership during the construction of the Church.
In 1987, recognizing the explosive growth of the Catholic population in East Texas, the Holy See created the Diocese of Tyler from portions of the Dioceses of Dallas, Beaumont and Galveston-Houston. Immaculate Conception Church was designated as the chief church of the new diocese and thus became the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Since that time, the Cathedral parish has continued to expand. In the early ‘90s, the Cathedral Center was built, featuring meeting and banquet rooms for parish activities. In 1994, with thousands attending Masses every weekend at the Cathedral, there became a need for an additional site for the celebration of the Mass. St. Paul’s Chapel was created as a temporary facility in the Chancery Office while a permanent location was planned. The patience of the parishioners was rewarded on December 8, 2011, when the Chapel of Sts. Peter & Paul was dedicated by Bishop Alvaro Corrada.
The Catholic community in Tyler continues to grow, serving as a beacon for the Christian faith in East Texas.