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

Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston

Sister M. Loyola Hegarty, C.C.V.I. General

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, a nonprofit Texas corporation, originated in the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, founded in 1866 by Claude M. Dubuis, second Catholic bishop of Galveston. Its mission was the care of the sick, of the aged, and of orphaned or abandoned children in the Diocese of Galveston, then coterminous with the state of Texas. The congregation was chartered in Texas in 1910. In 1945 the word Houston was added to its title. St. Mary's Infirmary, Galveston, the first hospital of the congregation, was also the first Catholic hospital in Texas; it was founded in 1867 (see ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL). The founding sisters were Mother Blandine Mathelin, Sister Joseph Roussin, and Sister Ange Escudé, volunteer missionaries who had previously served in a large city hospital in Lyons, France. St. Mary's Orphanage, Galveston, was established in 1869. Until 1928, St. Mary's Infirmary was the principal convent (motherhouse) of the congregation. From there foundations, principally hospitals, were established in San Antonio, Houston, Temple, and Beaumont. The sisters also established hospitals in Arkansas and California and hospitals and orphanages in Louisiana. In 1928 the central administration of the congregation was transferred to Villa de Matel, Houston, and from here additional foundations were made in the United States and missions were established in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Kenya.

In 1970, in order to adapt to changes in health-care delivery and to improve coordination of its services, the congregation built the CCVI Shared Services Office on the grounds of Villa de Matel and stationed experts in planning and development and in legal, financial, and other services there. Until that time, a single corporation, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, governed all the works of the congregation. In April 1975 a new civil-law corporation was formed, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas, to serve as the civil-law corporation for the religious aspects of the congregation and for missions and foundations outside the health-care system. The new corporation was to own and control the religious congregation's assets and liabilities, while the existing corporation, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas, retained ownership or control of all health-care assets and liabilities. The general superior and Council of the Congregation are the Corporate Member of SCH and possess certain reserved powers, e.g., responsibility for the sisters' Catholic mission, ethics, and values, election of the Board of Directors and appointment of the president of SCH, and decisions concerning the alienation of property. The SCH Health Care System owns and operates eleven acute-care hospitals, four long-term care centers, and numerous related entities, with a total of 5,320 beds. Since 1988 the corporate offices have been located at 2600 North Loop West, Houston. The Texas health-care centers of the SCH System are St. Elizabeth Hospital (Beaumont), St. John Hospital (Nassau Bay), St. Joseph Hospital (Houston), St. Mary's Hospital (Galveston), St. Mary Hospital (Port Arthur), St. Michael Healthcare Center (Texarkana) and the long-term care Regis-St. Elizabeth Centers (Waco). In addition, the system operates two hospitals in California and three in Louisiana, and long-term care facilities in Louisiana, Utah, and Ireland.

In the rapidly changing health-care environment of the mid-1990s, the SCH sought to be a leader and catalyst in the development of integrated community-health networks to improve the health of the communities served. In fidelity to the founding call of Bishop Dubuis, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word are dedicated to continuing the healing mission of Jesus Christ, working throughout the SCH System and with compatible partners to serve the sick and promote wellness, with special concern for the economically disadvantaged and the underserved. Outside the SCH system, the congregation continues its mission in education, in spirituality, and in involvement in peace and justice and environmental issues in the United States and in Central America, Africa, and Ireland. See also CATHOLIC HEALTH CARE.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Sister Mary Loyola Hegarty, C.C.V.I, Serving with Gladness: The Origin and History of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1967).


  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II


  • Houston

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

Sister M. Loyola Hegarty, C.C.V.I., “Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 25, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: