MISSIONARY CATECHISTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
MISSIONARY CATECHISTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. The Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence was founded by Elizabeth (Sister Mary Benitia) Vermeerschqv of the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence of San Antonio. In 1915 Sister Benitia was assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Houston. Enrollment was low, and many children were playing in the streets without any schooling. Sister Benitia was especially concerned for the children of the Hispanic community, many of whom had difficulty not only with the English language, but also with maintaining an interest in education. She set out to visit the families around the parish school, stressing the importance of education. During these visits Sister Benitia found that many families who had fled from Mexico when President Plutarco Elías Calles began his persecution of Catholics were suffering from problems of poor housing, scant clothing and food, and poor medical care, as well as religious neglect. She sought the help of businessmen and private citizens of Houston to alleviate their needs. In 1930 she established a group of young ladies to seek out Catholic children not attending the Catholic school and teach them the basics of Catholic doctrine. In 1935 a house was built for the Catechists so that they could live under a religious rule. Three years later Sister Benitia was assigned to San Antonio, where she started the catechetical work with two Catechists from the Houston group. A small house was rented by the Sisters of Divine Providence. Within a few months a larger house was bought near the downtown area of the city and with easy access to several parishes where the Catechists exercised their ministry without pay.
When Robert E. Lucey became archbishop of San Antonio, he saw the need of catechetical work not only in the city but in the whole archdiocese. He applied for approval of the group as a filial branch of the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence, and, on February 7, 1946, the Sacred Congregation of Religious granted the approval. The Sisters of Divine Providence immediately provided personnel for the canonical novitiate, further education, and a building program to supply adequate living facilities for the growing group. In the 1960s, in keeping with the dictates of the Second Vatican Council, the sisters allowed the Catechists to elect their own administration, while remaining a branch of the Congregation of Divine Providence. The fifty-four Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence continue to work in catechetical and social services, but also now in parish ministry and diocesan offices-mainly with poor Hispanics in Texas, New Mexico, and California.
Today's Catholic, June 20, 1980. Sister Mary Paul Valdez, M.C.D.P, History of the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence (Archdiocese of San Antonio, 1978).