Orientation Module 1

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History and Heritage of the University of the Incarnate Word

The mission of the university derives from the history and spirit of its founders, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who came to San Antonio in 1869, shortly after the close of the Civil War.  The first sisters, Sisters Madeleine Chollet, Pierre Cinquin, and Agnes Buisson, came at the request of the Catholic bishop of Texas, Claude Marie Dubuis, to care for the victims of an epidemic of cholera and to establish the city’s first hospital, now known as CHRISTUS Santa Rosa.

These sisters were young women in their 20’s who spoke very little English and knew little about the people and culture of Texas.  Yet, they were willing to answer Bishop Dubuis’ call: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering in the persons of a multitude of the sick and infirm of every kind, seeks relief at your hands.”  They left their native land to serve people in need of their help.

Bishop Dubuis had been approached by the city councils of Galveston and San Antonio to know if he could procure a Congregation of Sisters who would help meet the needs of the sick and suffering in their cities which had no hospitals at the time.  Dubuis, originally from France, appealed to his friends back home and received a response from Mother Angelique Hiver in the monastery of the Incarnate Word in Lyons, France.  She was willing to train young women if Dubuis could recruit them.  This initiative gave birth to the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word begun in Galveston and to the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word founded three years later in San Antonio.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word is an apostolic, religious congregation of pontifical right.  The first Sisters received their preparation in the Lyons monastery of the Incarnate Word founded by Jeanne Chezard de Matel (

  There they were formed in the spirituality of the Incarnation which animated her.  Bishop Dubuis strengthened them in this spirituality, called them to the works of mercy, and inspired them with missionary zeal (Constitutions).


The congregation has as its charism the call to make the love of God as shown in the Incarnation a real and tangible presence in the world today (Constitutions).

The mission of the congregation is to actualize the saving and healing love of the Incarnate Word by promoting human dignity (Constitutions).  See:

Read Promises to Keep, Vol. 1, Chapters 1, 2 and 3, by Sister Margaret Patrice Slattery, for founding details. [ On reserve in UIW Library ]


Reflections:  In your journal, write about three points that caught your attention as you read the foundation story.  How does the original spirit of the founders continue to animate the ministry of UIW?

Orientation Module 2

Founding of the University of the Incarnate Word

On May 31, 1897, the congregation purchased the estate of George Brackenridge on which to establish its motherhouse.  On October 15, 1899, the cornerstone for the motherhouse was blessed and the building was ready for occupancy by 1900.  The building was called the Motherhouse and Academy of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word because, in addition to it being a home for the Sisters, part of the structure was intended to be a boarding and day school for young women.  The chapel of the Incarnate Word was added in 1907.

Read Promises to Keep, Volume 1, Chapter 6.

Read Promises to Keep, Volume 2 excerpt, found at

Review photo essay of UIW history at


Reflection:  In your journal, write three significant points about the history of UIW and how they impact us even today.

Orientation Module 3

The Mission of UIW

The first Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, three young French women motivated by the love of God and their recognition of God's presence in each person, came to San Antonio in 1869 to minister to the sick and the poor. Their spirit of Christian service is perpetuated in the University of the Incarnate Word primarily through teaching and scholarship. Inspired by Judeo-Christian values, the University aims to educate men and women who will become concerned and enlightened citizens.

The university is committed to educational excellence in a context of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. It promotes life-long learning and fosters the development of the whole person. The faculty and students support one another in the search for and the communication of truth. The university is open to thoughtful innovation that serves ever more effectively the spiritual and material needs of people. The curriculum offers students an integrated program of liberal arts and professional studies that includes a global perspective and an emphasis on social justice and community service.

The University of the Incarnate Word is a Catholic institution that welcomes to its community persons of diverse backgrounds, in the belief that their respectful interaction advances the discovery of truth, mutual understanding, self-realization, and the common good.

View the mission video that appears on this page:

The Mission of the University of the Incarnate Word is based on the Congregation’s charism and mission, its foundation of faith and commitment to serving others through teaching, research and community outreach.  The Mission calls us to help form the ideal image of the human person, to provide academic excellence in a context of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.  It is an Incarnational Mission.  By your living of this Mission today, you carry on the heritage of Bishop Dubuis who spent his life on the Texas plains ministering to the needs of those suffering poverty and disease; of Sisters Madeleine and Pierre; of the visionaries and doers who settled the Congregation on the Brackenridge land and who built the Incarnate Word Chapel whose spire has become our beacon; of the countless people like you who continue in faith to serve God through serving others even to this day.   See, e.g.,


Reflection:  In your journal, reflect on the following:  what are the foundational principles of our Mission?  How does your role manifest the Mission?  How do you participate in the university’s promotion of social justice and carrying on the spirit of Christian service exemplified by our founders?  How are we/you being faithful to the original call to be “extensions of the Incarnation and gospels of love”?  What must we do to ensure that the Mission continues into the future?



Submit journal responses to Assistant to President for Mission Effectiveness

Core Values