Father David Garcia, the well-known priest who has been instrumental in protecting and gaining worldwide recognition for San Antonio’s historic missions and churches, is retiring from his ministry as pastor of Mission Concepción, the Archdiocese of San Antonio said Tuesday.

Garcia’s name was included on a list released by the Archdiocese of San Antonio of appointments and retirements for its pastors and parish administrators.

Reached for comment Tuesday evening, Garcia confirmed he is retiring from assigned ministry.

“As of July 1st, I will not be in charge of the Old Spanish Mission office nor will I be serving any more as Administrator of Mission Concepción,” he said in an email. “Of course, I am still a priest, which means I will assist other parishes when they might need a substitute priest for Masses.”

Known to many as “Father David,” Garcia served in ministry in San Antonio for 44 years, most recently as pastor of the active parish at Mission Concepción. Starting in 2003, he spearheaded the $21 million restoration of San Fernando Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese and the seat of the archbishop, and assisted with the redevelopment of Main Plaza.

Garcia, 69, also played a key role in the city’s bid for the UNESCO World Heritage designation for the San Antonio Missions in 2015 and is the archdiocesan director of the Old Spanish Missions office.

Garcia was born August 4, 1949, in San Antonio, and ordained March 21, 1975, by Archbishop Francis Furey, after having completed seminary studies at St. John’s and Assumption Seminaries, the Oblate School of Theology, Moreau Seminary, and Notre Dame University, where he earned master’s degrees in theology and institutional administration. He has served as a pastor in four parishes: Immaculate Conception San Antonio, San Fernando Cathedral, St. Agnes San Antonio, and Mission Concepción.

While at Immaculate Conception in the late 1970s, Garcia was involved in the founding of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), a grassroots organizing effort to deal with issues such as drainage, quality of schools, parks, and infrastructure on San Antonio’s South and West sides of town. The early efforts by Garcia and COPS helped transform the area around the parish through millions of dollars in government spending on housing, streets, sidewalks, and other infrastructure.

From 1980 to 1988, Garcia was secretary, serving as chief of staff, to Archbishop Patrick Flores and led construction of the current Catholic Chancery as well as the reorganization of the offices and services there. He served on the formation faculty of Assumption Seminary from 1981-1988 and briefly as rector. He was vocation director for the archdiocese from 1988 to 1994 and helped to significantly increase the number of seminarians for the archdiocese.

As mass site chair for the visit of Pope Saint John Paul II to San Antonio in 1987, Garcia helped secure and prepare a 250-acre hillside setting for a papal Mass attended by 350,000 people.

Garcia said the Oblate School of Theology has offered him office space and he plans to spend a few hours a day there writing about his experience in the ministry. “I hope what I write might be helpful to others now or in the future in ministry. I may also do an occasional lecture if asked,” he said.

He also plans to continue serving on several boards and committees of various church and other nonprofit groups in San Antonio. Last summer, Garcia “retired” from one of his jobs, as senior advisor for clergy outreach for Catholic Relief Services globally.

Garcia said he will spend some of his time in retirement traveling to visit relatives and friends and pursuing his hobbies of exercise, reading, and gardening. “I am sure I will keep myself active,” he said.

For the full list of Archdiocesan retirements and assignments effective July 1, click here.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.