Author Dr. Patrick Foley receives top honor from historical society for recent book on Bishop Odin

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

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Dr. Patrick Foley, a Catholic author and historian who has made his home in the Diocese of Fort Worth for nearly 40 years, displays two recent awards. At left is the Paul J. Foik Award, presented to him by the Texas Catholic Historical Society for his outstanding work on his book Missionary Bishop: Jean-Marie Odin in Galveston and New Orleans. The society will also name a special award in Foley’s honor starting next year. At right is an official proclamation from the Texas State Senate honoring his lifelong accomplishments. (Photo by Jerry Circelli / NTC)

Dr. Patrick Foley, one of the foremost writers and historians on Catholic history in Texas and the Southwest, is the latest winner of the Paul J. Foik Award. Presented annually by the Texas Catholic Historical Society, the award is given to the author or editor of a recent publication judged to be the most important contribution to Catholic history of the Southwest.

With the grace and humility that defines the accomplished author, Foley said of the recent award, “I was really glad ‘he’ won it.” Foley was referring not to himself, but to Bishop Jean-Marie Odin, the focus of his award-winning book: Missionary Bishop: Jean-Marie Odin in Galveston and New Orleans. The presentation was made in San Antonio.

“It’s not who wrote it that’s important,” Foley said, “but who it’s written about. I just felt proud that Bishop Odin was recognized for all the great things he did in his life. We have such great heroes in our Church and Bishop Odin was one of them.”

Foley is quick to steer the conversation in the direction of his Catholic hero, the pioneer bishop he researched and wrote about for two decades before his biography was published last year by Texas A&M University Press.

The French-born Odin arrived in America in 1822, and in 1847 became the first bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, encompassing the entire state of Texas.

Through Odin and his tireless work, Foley said, we see a man who re-evangelized Texans in the mid-1800s, brought devout priests to the state, reclaimed missions and churches, restored Catholic principles, and withstood constant hardships on the frontier.

“Bishop Odin was a man who totally gave his life to God through the Church,” Foley said. “And I just feel very humble to have been able to write about him. I’m thankful that God gave me this ability.”

The fact that Foley would rather talk about hard-working historic figures in Catholic history, rather than himself, comes as no surprise to Dr. Jesús Francisco de la Teja, professor of Southwest Studies and director of the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University in San Marcos.

“Patrick was always about the subject matter and the people doing the work, not about himself,” de la Teja said. “Patrick has always been very honest about who he is and what he believes, so the humility is an honest part of his personality.”

The professor continued, “His biography of Bishop Odin is, of course, a major accomplishment for him in that it represents both a lifelong pursuit and, hopefully, a reinvigoration of broader studies in Texas Catholic history.”

Dr. Thomas W. Jodziewicz, history professor at the University of Dallas, passed along this observation about Foley and his award-winning book: “Bishop Jean-Marie Odin has found his biographer … and our historiography, Texas and Catholic, is the grateful beneficiary.”

For his dedication and contribution to writing and teaching about Catholic history, Foley was also honored by the Texas Catholic Historical Society as the namesake for an annual award given for the best article submitted to and published in Catholic Southwest: A Journal of History and Culture.

Foley also received a recent framed document titled, “Proclamation No. 369” from the Texas State Senate. It states, “This eminent scholar is truly deserving of recognition for his many achievements and his many contributions to his field.” The proclamation also contains the official seal of the Senate of Texas and is signed by Texas Senator Jane Nelson.

The proclamation honors Foley for his book on Bishop Odin and a long list of other accomplishments, including:

  • Founder and editor emeritus of Catholic Southwest: A Journal of History and Culture.
  • Longtime educator who taught at universities across the country, including the University of San Francisco, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Tarrant County College, where he taught history for 27 years and retired as professor emeritus.
  • Published work appearing in numerous scholarly journals and books.
  • Journalistic Achievement Award of Merit for Excellence in Print Media from the Texas Historical Foundation.
  • Papal Medallion from Pope John Paul II for his distinguished work on the Catholic heritage of Texas.

In addition to these and other recognitions, Foley was also knighted by King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 2007, and was commended for his exhaustive research and insightful writing about Spanish Catholic history.

Going forward, Foley said it is his hope that truth and accuracy are at the forefront of the work for anyone endeavoring to write about the history of the Catholic Church in Texas and the American Southwest. It is a rich and vibrant history that can bring peace and help deepen the faith for area Catholics, Foley said.

“The most important institution in the world is the Catholic Church,” said Foley. “The Texas Catholic Historical Society has really advocated the study of the truth in history. And we need that. We need to discover more deeply the truth and history of our Church.”

See also

Rediscovering the Missionary Bishop

Foley-Button.jpgFor more than 20 years, Dr. Patrick Foley has been solidly formed in his faith by one of the most remarkable bishops ever to set foot on the North American continent. A Catholic historian who has made his home in the Diocese of Fort Worth for 38 years, Foley has spent the past two decades researching and writing about the life of Jean-Marie Odin, the first bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, which once spanned the entire state of Texas.

Foley-Button-2.jpgJean-Marie Odin’s heroic travels laid the foundation for the Church in Texas

Any images you may hold of the life of a bishop will never be quite the same after you read Dr. Patrick Foley’s Missionary Bishop: Jean-Marie Odin in Galveston and New Orleans. The life of a missionary bishop, which Jean-Marie Odin was the very embodiment of — was a rough and tumble affair in the American frontier he came to from his native France in the 1830s, and where he served until his death as the Archbishop of New Orleans at the end of the 1860s.

Jerry-Dr--Foley-2-awards-BUTTON.jpgDr. Patrick Foley, one of the foremost writers and historians on Catholic history in Texas and the Southwest, is the latest winner of the Paul J. Foik Award. Presented annually by the Texas Catholic Historical Society, the award is given to the author or editor of a recent publication judged to be the most important contribution to Catholic history of the Southwest.

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