Rev. Henry A. Constantineau, first provincial of the second American province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and first president of Our Lady of the Lake University, was born in 1861 in Lowell, Massachusetts, and educated in the public schools there. After his graduation in 1879, he began a business career. After three years in banking, however, he went to the University of Ottawa, Canada, under the jurisdiction of the Oblate congregation, to study theology and philosophy. He was admitted to the Oblates on September 30, 1883, and ordained a priest on May 26, 1888. After his ordination, Father Constantineau taught at the University of Ottawa in the Commercial Department. By 1892 he was named secretary of the university and six years later was appointed its rector. At this time Laval University conferred on him the degree of doctor of divinity.
Ill health compelled him to resign in 1901, and the Oblate provincial sent him to San Antonio, Texas, with the hope that a warm climate would restore him to health. Because of his business acumen Constantineau was commissioned in 1902 by the Oblate provincial of the United States to purchase property on McCullough Avenue, San Antonio, to build a seminary. The San Antonio Philosophical and Theological Seminary (see OBLATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY) was opened in 1903. A year later the second American province of the Oblate congregation was established, with San Antonio as headquarters and Constantineau as provincial.
As early as the summer of 1903 he began his lifelong work for the Sisters of Divine Providence of San Antonio. At that time he gave a series of lectures at the summer normal school of Our Lady of the Lake. The superiors of the Congregation of Divine Providence realized their need for such a priest to aid them in financial matters and especially to assist them to be recognized as a congregation by the Sacred Congregation of Religious in Rome. By 1904 Constantineau and Father Albert Antoine, O.M.I., were working with the sisters on a new constitution to be sent to Rome for approval. The approval was obtained provisionally in 1907 and finally in 1912. During this period, Father Constantineau was named delegate superior of the sisters by the bishop of San Antonio. When the congregation came under the jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation of Religious in 1912, Constantineau was appointed business advisor for the sisters.
The Congregation of Divine Providence opened Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio in 1911, and Constantineau was named president. He held the position until his death. During his tenure the college built four new buildings, between 1920 and 1937, and gained recognition from such accrediting agencies as the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of American Universities. As an expert in finance Constantineau helped the college and the congregation to become financially sound.
As provincial and later as provincial procurator, Father Constantineau also served the congregation of Oblate missionaries. One work is especially noteworthy. Oblate priests had served the Catholic Church in the southern part of Texas and northern Mexico since the time of Bishop Jean M. Odin. As early as the middle of the 1870s they had planted bananas and grapes in the Texas Valley, but without sufficient water to produce much. Father Constantineau saw that the Rio Grande could supply a system of irrigation for this section of Texas so as to raise citrus and other fruits. With the help of John J. Conway, a wealthy citizen from the Midwest, he worked out a system of irrigation on the 17,000 acres of La Lomita Ranch (see LA LOMITA MISSION).
In 1913, when a violent persecution of the church began in Mexico, Constantineau, in an attempt to keep the Mexican clergy from being completely wiped out, obtained permission from the Congregation of Divine Providence for the use of the Oblates' Castroville properties as a seminary for Mexicans. Father Constantineau died on July 9, 1940, at Our Lady of the Lake College, where he had lived almost as an invalid during the last months of his life. He was buried in the Oblate Cemetery, San Antonio.
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University Archives, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio.
University Presidents and School Administrators
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Sister Mary Generosa Callahan, C.D.P.,
“Constantineau, Henry A.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
December 1, 1994