The city of Victoria has deep roots in the Episcopal communion. The first Episcopal church in Victoria, Trinity Episcopal Church, was founded in 1867 and is currently located at 1501 North Glass in Victoria’s historic downtown district. In the spring of 1958, the groundwork was laid for the beginning of a new Episcopal mission in Victoria. Bishop Everett Holland Jones appointed Mr. Robert Campbell, The Hon. Frank Crain, Mr. Kerry McCan, Mr. David Vest, and Mrs. Emily Womack as an organizational committee. The Rev. Gerald McAllister, later Bishop of Oklahoma, was appointed Priest-in-Charge. On May 18, 1958, the first worship service of the “Victoria Episcopal Mission” was held at the Odd Fellows’ Hall on Nueces Street. At that service, 108 persons signed the charter for the new congregation. That charter now hangs in the Guild Room. On July 1, 1958, The Rt. Rev. Earl Dicus, Suffragan Bishop of West Texas, presided over the first congregational meeting. At that meeting the “Victoria Episcopal Mission” was named St. Francis Episcopal Church.
A building fund was started immediately by the congregation and on June 15, 1961, the ground-breaking ceremony was held at the present parish location on Miori Lane. Construction began on the sanctuary, outdoor altar, office wing, and Sunday School building. On July 1, 1962, The Rt. Rev. Everett Jones dedicated the new buildings. At that time, under the leadership of the Rev. McAllister the church had grown to 185 communicants and more than 300 baptized members. In 1963 the Rev. Robert H. Bonner was appointed Priest-in-Charge. The Rev. Bonner would go on to serve as rector of several churches in the Diocese of Texas before becoming Director of Stewardship for the National Episcopal Church. At the Annual Council of the Diocese of West Texas in 1964, St. Francis Episcopal Church was admitted as a parish of the diocese. Construction began on the Parish Hall which was completed July 1, 1965. In 1967 the Rt. Rev. James E. Folts, who later served as Bishop of West Texas, served at St. Francis as Assistant Rector.
In August, 1969, the Rev. Rayford B. High became the third priest of this congregation. In the same year, all debt for the congregation was retired, and The Rt. Rev. Harold C. Gosnell consecrated the church and set it aside for the use of Prayer and Praise. The Rev. High served as rector until 1977. Rev. High would later serve as Bishop Suffragen of the Diocese of Texas.
The Rev. David D. Wendel, Jr. was called to be rector in January 1978. He served until 1986. During this period St. Francis entered into a missionary effort in Brazil where he had previously served several years as a missionary Priest.
On May 4, 1987, The Rev. David M. Reed was called to be rector. His first service as Rector was held on Mother’s Day, 1987. During his tenure as rector, St. Francis began a new building project, and in November, 1994, a new Youth Center and adult classroom (The All Saints’ Room) was dedicated and paid for. The Rev. Reed was married during his time as rector, and the congregation celebrated the birth of David and Patti’s two children. Following his tenure at St. Francis, Rev. Reed went on to serve as Bishop Suffragen and Bishop in the Diocese of West Texas.
On June 1, 1995, the Rev. David G. Read began work as the fifth rector of St. Francis. His first service was celebrated on the Feast of Pentecost. On July 1, 1996, Ms. Ada Sutherland joined the staff of St. Francis and Trinity Churches as Episcopal Youth Minister. Scott Brown was hired as the first Christian Education Director at St. Francis in August, 1998. Father Read and Scott together started an innovative Sunday School program titled “The University of St. Francis.” A celebration of the 40th Anniversary of St. Francis Episcopal Church was held on November 7, 1998. The Reads accepted a call to St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Boerne, Texas, November 15, 1998.
The Rev. Jonathan Folts was called to be the next rector of St. Francis and assumed his duties August 1, 1999. The Rev. Kim Folts was selected as Christian Education Director when Scott Brown resigned to attend seminary in August, 1999. Father Folts introduced two new worship services – a sung Contemplative Service celebrated during Sunday evenings in Lent and Advent as well as on the first Sunday evening of each month, and a contemporary service held on Wednesday evenings. Under his leadership a lay ministry council was formed which meets with the Vestry every other month. He also began a series of Christian Discovery Courses. In May of 2004 the Rev. Folts accepted a call to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, Connecticut.
On October 1, 2005, the Reverend Faith Bledsoe assumed the duties of rector of St. Francis. The Reverend Bledsoe came to Victoria from the parish of All Saints’, Corpus Christi, where she served as Associate Rector for three years. She served as Rector until October 2011 when she left to join the Order of St. Helena, a religious order in the Episcopal Church for lay and ordained women.
The Rev. Stephen W. Carson was called as rector of St. Francis and began working on October 1st, 2012. He attended seminary at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN from 2007 to 2010. Upon Graduation he served as Curate at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio, TX from June, 2010 to September, 2012