Father Juan Zavala founder of Sociedad Católica Mutualista

San Diego, Texas 1934
Fr. Juan Zavala was born in the Vizcaya region of Spain on July 11, 1890. He was educated in the priesthood at the Dominican College in San Esteban, Salamanca, Spain.

Fr. Zavala first came to the U.S. about 1925 when he was assigned to a parish in Cuero, Tx. In 1931 he was transferred to San Diego, Texas where he remained until 1945. In January of '45 he was assigned to a parish in Alice until 1950. From there he went to Mexico where he worked until 1957 when he returned to San Diego where he remained until his retirement in 1960.

Fr. Zavala accomplished many things during his first stay in San Diego. The Parochial Hall and Catholic school were opened during his tenure, along with additions to the rectory which included the second floor. The present church in Benavides, Santa Rosa de Lima was also built during his tenure. He also established a chapel in Freer. The Catholic Mutual Society which still exists today in many area cities was one of the first local Catholic organizations started by Fr. Zavala.

When Fr. Zavala returned to San Diego in 1937, he had a young assistant by the name of Fr. Epi Rodriguez who was attending the missions and who is the present day priest in Benavides.

In June, 1960, Fr. Zavala retired from the priesthood and the townspeople of San Diego and the surrounding ranches turned out for one last celebration for their beloved priest as Fr. Zavala was returning to Spain. He had accomplished many firsts in the area of Duval county and the surrounding counties.

When he returned to Spain, Fr. Zavala served as chaplain for the nuns of Guipazcoa until his death on July 10, 1974.

On September 10, 1989 the Catholic Mutual Societies which he founded came together in San Diego to unveil a monument honoring their founder, Father
Juan Zavala, a priest who indeed left his mark in South Texas.

Note: Most of the information was obtained from the program made for the monument dedication.

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