St. Mary's Established 1879
The Catholic Church came to Cooke County in 1879, the same year the railroad came to Gainesville. Father S. Granger, a missionary priest, said the first Mass in Gainesville in the home of Dr. J.E. Gilcreest, using the top of a square piano as the altar. (Dr Gilcreest was a longtime leader in the church and in the city. He died March 18, 1926).
With the increasing number of Catholics coming to Cooke County, Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher of the Diocese of Galveston to which Gainesville and most of Texas belonged, formally established the parish and named it St. Mary in 1879. The next year the Diocese of Dallas was founded and St. Mary's fell under its jurisdiction until the founding of the Diocese of Fort Worth in 1970.
In 1920 St. Mary's church building was destroyed by fire caused by a faulty gas radiator. Father James A. Kealy, pastor, took immediate steps to build a new church. Cornerstone of the new building was laid September 25, 1920. With brick structure, priceless stained glass windows from Germany and Stations of the Cross from England, the church has served the faithful well these many years.
St. Mary’s parish became part of the Diocese of Fort Worth Texas on August 9, 1969 after being a part of the Diocese of Dallas for almost 80 years. The present church building was dedicated by Bishop Joseph P. Lynch of Dallas on May 22, 1921.
In the summer of '84, the church received its first major remodeling. Besides a new roof, the church received new oak pews, lights, carpet, sanctuary furniture, new doors, a new vestibule and sacristy restructured to provide for a bathroom.
St. Mary’s Parish observed its 125th Anniversary on October 17, 2004. It is the second oldest parish in the Diocese of Ft. Worth.
The parish was administered by the Benedictine Fathers from Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas from 1978 to 1993; and the Augustinian Fathers from the Chicago Province served the parish from 1993 to 2008. Since 2008 the parish has been administered by priests from the Diocese of Fort Worth. St. Mary’s present pastor, Fr. John Pacheco, arrived on July 1, 2016.
Three other parishes have been established in Cooke County since St. Mary's was founded: Sacred Heart of Muenster, Est. 1889; St Peter's, Lindsay, Est. 1892; and St. John, Valley View, Est. 1946. St. John was later closed; the altar and and other fixtures from St. John are now in the chapel in the St. Mary Pastoral Offices.