The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now

Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Holy Cross Sisters

Although members of their order had arrived several years earlier, the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Saint Mary's, Notre Dame, Indiana, began serving in Texas as a community in 1874, when Saint Mary's Academy was founded in Saint Mary's parish, Austin. The academy operated until 1972. The sisters undertook a special ministry to Hispanics in 1919, when they opened a school in Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in south Austin under the direction of Sister M. Leonidas (Sarah Rooney), who remained there until 1936. Many leaders of the Hispanic community in Austin received their early education there. A shortage of sisters contributed to the closing of the school in 1970. Holy Cross sisters also staffed other schools in Austin: St. Mary's Cathedral School, 1918–77; St. Ignatius Martyr, 1940–74; and St. Louis, beginning in 1956.

Although Austin remained the center of Holy Cross activity in Texas, the sisters established schools in other places. Sister Euphrosine withdrew her small community from Sacred Heart Academy in Clarksville in 1879, but the Sisters of the Holy Cross operated the school until 1883, when poverty and a small enrollment forced its closing. Holy Cross nuns founded St. Mary's Academy and St. Joseph's School in Marshall in 1880; the former continued until 1957, the latter until 1959. The sisters began to teach at Our Lady of Sorrows School in McAllen in 1946 but were forced to withdraw in 1983 because of the shortage of teaching sisters. Two sisters, however, continued there in parish ministry. St. Paul the Apostle School in Richardson opened in 1957 and continued in operation in 1991, though the sisters had departed.

When the congregation was divided into provinces in 1931, the establishments in Texas were made part of the Eastern Region. In 1979, after a trial period as a vice region, the Texas establishments were made a separate province, the Southern Region. Afterward the order began a number of new ministries, some in Louisiana and Mississippi. Two of the most notable in Texas are the administration of St. Mary's Parish in San Saba and the health care of the rural poor in the Valley Home Health Agency in Raymondville.


Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–1958; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Sister Joseph A. Dederichs and Sister Rose Mary Cousins, Catholic Schools: Dawn of Education in Texas (Beaumont: Beaumont Printing and Lithographing, 1986). Franklin C. Williams, Bicentennial and Beyond: The Catholic Experience in Texas (Palestine, Texas: Diocese of Galveston-Houston, 1984).


  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Women

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

Sister M. Campion Kuhn, C.S.C., “Holy Cross Sisters,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 5, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: