Franciscans carried out the mission efforts among the Indians of Texas. A mendicant order of friars, preferring practical application of their beliefs to theological debate, the Franciscans served the Church as protectors of the Indians. They entered the area early on, accompanying explorers, acting as their chroniclers. Their primary task was to spread Christianity and to extend Spanish culture to whatever lands the Crown granted them as their field.
Colegios, or colleges, were founded as bases of operation and training for the missionaries. Those providing missionaries for the Texas field were located in Querétaro and Zacatecas, Mexico. The Querétarans were the first to start missions in Texas. Father Antonio Margil de Jesús, a prominent missionary in the founding of early missions in eastern Texas, came to believe the field of work was so great that another college was necessary. He helped found the College of Zacatecas and, as its representative, began Mission San José, the only community on the San Antonio River at that time under its jurisdiction. In 1767, when the Jesuits, whose missions to the west in Baja California, Sinaloa, and Sonora, were expelled from the Spanish empire, the Franciscans of the College of Querétaro were called upon to take over those fields.
Did You Know?
The Yanaguana Trail at Mission San Juan takes visitors to a small section of the San Antonio River that has not been channelized over the years. The trail is 1/3 of a mile in length and is accessible.