Frances (Mother St. Claire) Valentine, founder of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Texas, was born in Coeurs, France, on September 8, 1829. Four daughters from her family entered the Incarnate Word Monastery in Lyons, and two of these volunteered for apostolic work in Texas. At age seventeen Frances entered the monastery. She was later sent to Belmont, France, for her health. There she made her religious profession on September 8, 1848, and volunteered for the Texas missions in 1852. Sister St. Claire and her companions arrived in Galveston in 1852 and spent several months as guests of the Ursuline Sisters. In March 1853 Bishop J. M. Odin sent them to the Brownsville area. At the time, Brownsville was the most densely populated spot in Texas where Catholicism was nominal. Although the sisters faced many hardships and difficulties, Sister St. Claire regarded her situation as an opportunity to extend her faith to another part of the world. On March 7, 1853, the sisters opened Villa Marie of the Incarnate Word, a school for girls. A convent was finished in November, and Sister St. Claire became its superior; she was known thereafter as Mother St. Claire. Despite many obstacles, the school grew in numbers and quality, in large part due to Mother St. Claire's energy and dedication. In 1866 she was sent to Victoria as founder of Nazareth Convent and Academy; there many families were clamoring for education for their daughters. The school made rapid strides, and non-Catholics sought entry. Nazareth Convent soon increased in personnel. Mother St. Claire sent out sisters to make independent foundations in Houston, Hallettsville, and Shiner. Later, instead of making foundations, the sisters assumed charge of parochial schools. This eased financial problems, since the parishes were responsible for providing homes for the sisters. Mother St. Claire fulfilled the role of mother, guide, and model to the sisters and students at Nazareth for thirty-four years. When her golden jubilee was celebrated on February 15, 1898, she received many testimonies of esteem and love in Brownsville and Victoria. After the celebration she was taken to Corpus Christi to recuperate from a heart problem. There she died on October 11, 1898, in the presence of her sister, Mother Angelique Valentine, superior of the monastery in Corpus Christi. Her body was transferred to Victoria for burial. See also NAZARETH ACADEMY.
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Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–1958; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). 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: The Origin and History of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1967). Sister Mary Xavier Holworthy, I.W.B.S, Diamonds for the King (Corpus Christi, 1945). Sister Mary Paul Regan, I.W.B.S., Nazareth Academy: Diamond Jubilee, 1866–1941 (Victoria, Texas, 1941).
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.,
“Valentine, Frances [Mother St. Claire],”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
August 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: