Louise (Mother Madeleine) Chollet, pioneer in health care, cofoundress and first superior general of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, was born in Roanne, France, on February 7, 1846. She grew up in a devoted family and entered the Monastery of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Lyons, France, in 1867. She received the habit and with it was given the name of Sister Marie St. Madeleine of Jesus.
In December of the same year she arrived in Galveston; she made her profession of vows on May 31, 1868, in the Galveston Incarnate Word community. In March 1869, accompanied by two companions, she arrived in San Antonio at the request of Bishop Claude Dubuis, who appointed her superioress of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, a position she held until 1872. She began a life dedicated to the sick, the orphans, and the poor when San Antonio was a mere frontier village. There were few doctors, and city and county hospitals were inadequately staffed and funded. The polluted riverwater and mud-soaked streets bred disease. In December 1869 Mother Madeleine opened the first private hospital in San Antonio. This hospital, which was probably also the first in San Antonio with a professional nursing staff, is known today as Santa Rosa Medical Center. In 1990 it was the largest Catholic hospital in the United States (see CATHOLIC HEALTH CARE).
Again serving as superioress from 1894 until 1906, Mother Madeleine oversaw the expansion of Santa Rosa, the founding of a number of schools in West Texas, the building of a permanent convent in 1899 on property purchased from George Washington Brackenridge, and the opening of Incarnate Word Academy, today known as Incarnate Word College. She died in San Antonio on July 20, 1906, after a long illness. Before her death the congregation had grown from three to 452 members and had established more than fifty religious institutions in five states, including thirty-four academies and schools, twelve hospitals, two orphanages, and two homes for the aged.