Louise (Mother St. Andrew) Feltin, foundress of the Sisters of Divine Providence in Texas, was born to Jean Claude and Marie (Seiter) Feltin of Alsace on December 27, 1830, and educated in the villages of Geispolsheim and La Walk. At nineteen she entered the convent of St. Jean de Bassel, situated in a Lorraine village of the same name; this convent was the home of the Sisters of Divine Providence, founded by Jean Martin Moye in 1762. Sister St. Andrew taught in several schools in Lorraine after her formation.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis needed parish schools for his huge diocese, the whole of Texas (see CATHOLIC CHURCH). He went to his native country for religious teachers and recruited two sisters at St. Jean de Bassel, Sister St. Andrew Feltin and Sister Alphonse Boegler. Besides the incentive to be a missionary, Sister St. Andrew was motivated by reports from her brother, Father Nicholas Feltin, a prominent San Antonio and Austin priest. Bishop Dubuis sent the two sisters to Austin to establish the first parish school in Texas.
This school opened in the spring of 1867. By this time two native Texans had entered the Austin convent. The following year, however, Bishop Dubuis decided to establish in Austin the Holy Cross Fathers and Sisters (see CONGREGATION OF HOLY CROSS, HOLY CROSS SISTERS) from Notre Dame, Indiana. He asked Mother St. Andrew to move to Castroville, a village of Alsatians. She requested that the establishment in Castroville be permanent, and so she and Dubuis signed a contract on September 8, 1868.
In Castroville the parish priest, Father Peter Richard, moved into the sacristy of the church and gave the priests' residence to the sisters. By October a school was opened for the children of Castroville. In 1870 only three teaching sisters were in Castroville: Mother St. Andrew, Sister Mary Agnes Wolf, and Sister Mary Theresa Schultz. By August of the same year, however, the number of Sisters of Divine Providence in Texas had increased to nine, enabling Mother St. Andrew to open schools in D'Hanis, Fredericksburg, and New Braunfels.
From 1870 to 1878, as the number of religious grew, more schools were opened in Texas towns, and because the need for teachers increased, Mother St. Andrew returned for help to Lorraine, which was now part of Germany. The Sisters of Divine Providence at St. Jean de Bassel were uncomfortable under German rule and were looking to Texas for a settlement. Consequently, Mother St. Andrew returned to Texas with ten subjects. She visited St. Jean de Bassel three more times, bringing at least sixty-nine and perhaps as many as ninety-two religious back to the Castroville convent.
The latter part of her service in Texas was clouded by a long conflict with Jean Claude Neraz, bishop of the new Diocese of San Antonio. Neraz wanted to separate the Texas Sisters of Divine Providence from the motherhouse in Lorraine, a separation that Mother St. Andrew refused to countenance. Bishop Neraz consequently tried to rid Castroville of Mother St. Andrew and supported Sister Florence Walter as her successor. Mother St. Andrew resigned as mother superior in 1886 and, after further conflict with Neraz, moved in 1887 to California to live with her motherless nieces and nephews. When Bishop Neraz died, she put on her religious habit and returned to the Castroville convent. There she lived in retirement until her death in February 1905. She was praised at her burial Mass for undergoing "hardships, trials, and humiliations . . . known to Him alone for whose sake they were borne so generously."
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Sister Mary Generosa Callahan, C.D.P., The History of the Sisters of Divine Providence, San Antonio, Texas (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955). Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. University Archives, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio.
Founders and Pioneers
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.,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 14, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 29, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: