St. James Parish, named in honor of the Apostle St. James The Greater, was established on October 12, 1929. Construction began on a frame church building one month later. On January 30, 1930, Bishop Christopher E. Byrne dedicated the church, and Father James M. Kirwin was named its first pastor. In September of the same year, the church opened a convent school, staffed by Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, with one hundred children in its initial attendance.
As the church and the school continued to grow, St. James opened a high school in the 1940s, and enrollment grew to over one thousand students. In 1948, the high school combined with St. Mary High to form Bishop Byrne High School. They continued to operate from the school buildings in their respective parish property until a new building was constructed in 1965.
Monsignor Kirwin retired as pastor on April 1, 1970. He served St. James Parish for forty-one years, the priesthood for fifty. On July 7, 1977, Kirwin Hall was established and named in his honor.
The present church building, dedicated in the fall of 1939, is a replica of All Saints Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Inspired by Grecian-Roman architecture,
St. James was the first octagon-shaped structure to be constructed in Southeast Texas, and is a distinct departure from the long, narrow, European-style churches. The octagon represents the eight beatitudes Jesus Christ gives in his Sermon on the Mount. The five circular stained-glass windows depict five religious themes: The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Birth of Christ, The Assumption and The Baptism of Jesus.