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MAGEVNEY, MARY AGNES (1841–1891). Mother Mary Agnes Magevney, foundress of the Dominican Congregation of the Sacred Heart in Houston, was the first child of Eugene and Mary (Smyth) Magevney, Irish immigrants to Memphis, Tennessee. The first Catholic Mass in Memphis was celebrated in the Magevney home at 198 Adams Avenue in 1839. A year later the first Catholic marriage in Memphis, that of Eugene Magevney and Mary Smyth, was celebrated in the same home, and the following year their first child Mary received the sacrament of baptism there on February 14, 1841. The Magevney home was the center of Catholic worship for Memphis and the surrounding area, and every sacrament except confirmation and holy orders was celebrated there. The Magevneys gave generous financial support to the church and to numerous charitable organizations. Eugene Magevney opened the first school in Memphis and taught there for five years, but neither Mary nor her sister, Catherine, attended. They were educated at home by their parents until the Dominican Sisters opened St. Agnes Academy in Memphis in 1851. In 1855 Mary completed school there and then attended St. Mary's Academy in Somerset, Ohio. Four years later she graduated with the highest honors. Catherine, a noted Memphian humanitarian, attended the same schools.

On June 16, 1863, with her father's permission, Mary joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary's, Somerset, Ohio. There she held important offices and distinguished herself for her piety and religious spirit before founding the Congregation of the Scared Heart in Columbus, Ohio, in 1874. She opened Sacred Heart Select Day school on January 8, 1874, with an enrollment of seventy-students. Eight years later Nicholas Aloysius Gallagher, bishop of Galveston, made known to Mother Agnes the need for religious teachers in Texas, and in September 1882 she and nineteen Dominican nuns left Ohio to establish a convent and school in Galveston. Sacred Heart Academy opened on October 9, 1882, and the fledgling school developed into a system that spread to southeast and central Texas, southern California, and Guatemala and continues to serve in those areas today. Mother Agnes died on March 4, 1891.


Sheila Hackett, Dominican Women in Texas: From Ohio to Galveston and Beyond (Houston: Armstrong, 1986).

Sister Sheila Hackett, O.P.


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

Sister Sheila Hackett, O.P., "MAGEVNEY, MARY AGNES," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed August 30, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.