Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament

By: Sister M. Carmelita Casso, I.W.B.S. and Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P.

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 5, 2019

The Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, founded in 1625 in Lyons, France, was the second group of Catholic educators to move to Texas. When Bishop Jean Marie Odin asked for volunteers to work in the Texas missions, four sisters offered their services, and with Frances (Sister Superior St. Claire) Valentine they arrived in Galveston on June 29, 1852. They remained with the Ursuline Sisters for several months studying English and Spanish before going to Brownsville in March 1853. The sisters' first house was a small one-story warehouse; later they secured the loan of a four-room house. By November their first convent was completed, and a boarding and day school was conducted. At the request of Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis Sister St. Claire, along with volunteers from Europe, opened an independent house, Nazareth Academy, in Victoria on January 7, 1867. The sisters took part in a "community system" from 1874 to 1895, when parents petitioned for a public school in their community. When a demand was made for the nuns to wear secular clothes, the arrangement with the sisters ended. During this time they also opened a school for African Americans, which was forced to close because of protests by black Protestant ministers. Recruits from France and Ireland as well as native Texans enabled educational efforts to expand. A commercial school was added to Nazareth Academy in 1911; accreditation from the state was received in 1917. After 1900 the sisters taught in parochial schools established in Cuero (1916), Falls City (1924), San Antonio (1928), and La Grange (1930). At the request of Bishop Dubuis, Sister Superior M. Ignatius McKeon of Brownsville and three sisters from Victoria opened a school in Corpus Christi on March 19, 1871. This foundation became the motherhouse of the Brownsville and Corpus Christi sisters, who have operated Christopher College of Corpus Christi and several parochial schools in the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Brownsville. In 1873 an independent institution in Houston was formed from the Victoria Community. The Houston sisters operated a motherhouse, a high school, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Junior College, Incarnate Word Academy in the Houston area, Bishop Byrne High School in Port Arthur, and other parochial schools in the Galveston, Houston, Beaumont and Austin dioceses. Two other communities formed from the Victoria house were Shiner (1879) and Halletsville (1882); they joined with the Victoria group in 1939 to form the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of San Antonio, with their motherhouse in Victoria. Besides academies and parochial schools, these sisters operated Burns Hospital in Cuero and Huth Memorial Hospital in Yoakum. From its independent, self-supporting centers the sisters were able to evangelize and educate youth in rural parishes of Texas at the request of pastors. Since then the order has spread throughout Texas and beyond. Not only have the sisters contributed greatly to Catholic education on all levels of instruction, but their convents, particularly those of Brownsville and Corpus Christi, have been places of refuge for religious women fleeing persecutions in Mexico. One small group settled in Ohio in 1926, after crossing the border from Mexico to Texas, where they received assistance. In the 1990s the order had four independent United States foundations: Houston, Corpus Christi, Victoria, and Cleveland, Ohio. Five independent centers are maintained in Mexico; these branched across the border from Brownsville. In December 1981 the nine independent congregations in the world assembled to sign a document expressing their common spiritual heritage, mission, and purpose.

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Catholic Archives of Texas. Mother M. Patricia Gunning, I.W.B.S., To Texas with Love (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1971). Sister Mary Loyola Hegarty, C.C.V.I., Serving With Gladness (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1967). John M. Lozano, C.M.F., Jeanne Chezard de Matel and the Sisters of the Incarnate Word (Chicago: Claret Center for Resources in Spirituality, 1983).

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Women

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

Sister M. Carmelita Casso, I.W.B.S. and Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P., “Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 5, 2019

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