Nazareth Academy

By: Sister Amata Hollas, I.W.B.S.

Type: General Entry

Published: May 1, 1995

In 1852 four members of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament left their convent at Lyons, France, where their order had been founded by Mother Jeanne de Matel in 1625, to go to Brownsville at the request of Bishop Jean M. Odin, the first bishop of Texas. In Brownsville on March 7, 1853, the sisters opened the second Catholic school in Southwest Texas. Father Augustine Gardet, pastor of St. Mary's in Victoria, learned of the sisters' work and asked Bishop Claude M. Dubuis, who had succeeded Odin, to find sisters to open a school in Victoria. Mother St. Ange, who in 1861 had replaced Mother St. Claire Valentine as superior of the Brownsville convent, did not see how sisters for a second convent could be secured in a place where the personnel was hardly sufficient for one. Therefore, it was decided that Mother St. Claire should go to Europe to recruit sisters for the Brownsville community and the establishment of a Victoria community. On December 21, 1866, five sisters arrived from Brownsville-Mother St. Claire and sisters Paul Goux, Mary Louise Murray, Mary of the Cross Murray, and Justine Fonvielle-and were joined by Sister Regis Chavassieux, who had come directly from Lyons. They founded a convent that day at Father Gardet's house, which was on property previously owned by Martín De León. A carpenter named Thiebaud Sengele added a classroom onto this building. The convent was called the Monastery of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament. The school, long known as the Convent School, opened in January 1867 with fifty-five students. Through the years, as the enrollment increased, additional buildings were added. In 1880 the institution was renamed Academy of Nazareth, after Académie de Nazareth, the name given by its foundress, Mother St. Claire. It was among six institutions in Texas recognized "for the superior instruction of women" in an 1883 report from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education. By 1917 the institution offered twelve years of education consisting of elementary, intermediate, and high school levels. The school was renamed Nazareth Academy in 1921 to reflect common usage, and a new school building was constructed in the 1940s. In the late 1960s the Brothers of Mary moved to withdraw from St. Joseph's High School in Victoria, and the Incarnate Word Sisters began a merger of the high school department of Nazareth Academy with St. Joseph's. The process was complete by 1975, and the new institution, run by the sisters under a lay board, was known as St. Joseph's High School. Nazareth Academy became a coeducational elementary and junior high school in 1976 and school uniforms were adopted. The following year the institution introduced day care and preschool. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the school continued expansion of classes and classrooms and in 2001 began construction on a new athletic complex. In 2003 the school offered grades from prekindergarten through eighth and was accredited by the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department and approved by the Texas Education Agency.

Sister Mary Xavier Holworthy, I.W.B.S, Diamonds for the King (Corpus Christi, 1945). Nazareth Academy website ( accessed December 2, 2003. Sister Mary Paul Regan, I.W.B.S., Nazareth Academy: Diamond Jubilee, 1866–1941 (Victoria, Texas, 1941). Joseph William Schmitz, The Society of Mary in Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1951). Victoria Advocate, September 28, 1934.
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Catholic

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

Sister Amata Hollas, I.W.B.S., “Nazareth Academy,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995