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Convent of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament

Alicia A. Garza General Entry

The Convent of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, in Brownsville, was established on March 20, 1853, when the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament laid the cornerstone of the first convent of that order in America. The four sisters first assigned to do missionary work in the United States were Sister Mary St. Clare (Frances Valentine), Sister Mary St. Ange (Euphemie Barre), Sister St. Ephrem (Peroline Satin), and Sister St. Dominic (Benoit Ravier), who left Lyons, France, on March 18, 1852. Their assignment was to do missionary work and teach in South Texas. They arrived in New Orleans on May 11, 1852, then traveled to Galveston, where they were instructed in English and Spanish by Ursuline Sisters and Louis Claude Marie Chambodut, vicar general of Bishop J. M. Odin. While in Galveston a Miss Martignat entered the order as Sister St. Joseph.

Upon their arrival in Brownsville in 1853 the sisters moved into an unfurnished former warehouse to begin their school while their first convent was being built. For their bilingual pupils they translated from French and printed textbooks on a small hand press. In 1854 they were joined by sisters Stanislaus Deideu, Mary Louise Murray, and Mary of the Cross Murray. The sisters taught without interruption through Indian raids, yellow fever epidemics, and the Civil War until 1867, when the convent was destroyed by a hurricane.

Donations of land and money for a new building persuaded the bishop to reopen the convent and school, and by December 25, 1868, a New Orleans French-style convent, built at a cost of $20,000, was ready for occupancy. The convent, which served as a day and boarding school for girls, received its charter from the state of Texas in 1885. The sisters opened a school for boys near the female academy in 1890. The academy had two departments, one in Spanish and one in English, until 1902, when the Spanish department was closed. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate asked the sisters to teach at their parochial school in 1905. When St. Francis School was established in 1916 the sisters were asked to teach there as well. Because the two parochial schools caused a reduction in attendance at the Boy's School of Incarnate Word Academy, that building was used for Our Lady of Guadalupe School, an institution for poor girls. In 1967 the sisters moved to Villa Maria. An official Texas historical marker has been placed at the former site of the convent on East St. Charles Street in Brownsville.

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Sister Mary Xavier Holworthy, I.W.B.S, Diamonds for the King (Corpus Christi, 1945).


  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Education
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s


  • South Texas
  • Valley Area
  • Brownsville

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Alicia A. Garza, “Convent of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 06, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
September 11, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: