The Missions: A brief overview of their history.
The old Spanish Missions of San Antonio are a chain of five Spanish Colonial era compounds. They are located in a southern line from the center of downtown San Antonio to the southern edge of the city. They were established in the 18th century as an outreach of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church. The Franciscan Fathers founded each mission to evangelize the indigenous natives, teach them skills to help them adapt to Spanish ways, and minister to their needs. In addition to that, effort was made to make them active citizens of the Spanish province of Tejas. Spanish military forces were often stationed near each mission in order to offer protection. While they were at the height of their influence, the missions were economic leaders in trade and agriculture. They paved the way for San Antonio to become a city. Today, the missions remain active parochial communities and centers of tourism. They draw people from around the world to experience this glimpse into another life. Their interests run the gamut from spiritual to historical to anthropological to archeological. No one leaves untouched or unmoved by these special places. They know they have seen something important.
Misperception versus Reality!
Las Misiones is the ONLY non-profit fundraising organization that is in charge of preserving the church buildings of the missions.
We do not receive any federal funds for preservation and restoration of the churches since they are all active religious communities. The federal government and civic groups such as Missions Heritage Partners fund the rest of the park buildings and grounds. They are our partners in preserving the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.
The churches themselves are the responsibility of Las Misiones. We ask you to consider helping us preserve, restore and maintain these beautiful spiritual treasures.
A few more details about the organizations associated with the Missions.
The four missions are Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada. They function as active Catholic parish churches.
They are operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio under the name of Las Misiones. This is an umbrella non-profit organization that provides for their maintenance, preservation, and restoration of only the church buildings themselves. The Archbishop of San Antonio appoints the Director of Las Misiones, who is responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the mission churches.
Mission San Antonio de Valero—more commonly known as The Alamo—is owned by the State of Texas. It does not function as an active parish church, and it’s not part of Las Misiones.
Today, the National Park Service operates the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in collaboration with the Archdiocese.
The Park Service is responsible for all the secular elements of the four compounds, including buildings, landscape, and visitor centers.