This year, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of their arrival to San Antonio. In 1869, the Sisters were responding to Bishop Claude Dubuis’s call to help the victims of a rapidly spreading cholera epidemic.
Since then, the Incarnate Word Sisters have responded to many different calls. Here are some of their stories.
The Mission of the University is derived from the history 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, who were from France, came at the request of the Catholic bishop, Claude M. Dubuis, to care for the victims of an epidemic of cholera and to establish the city's first hospital, the Santa Rosa Infirmary.
Sisters Madeleine Chollet, Pierre Cinquin and Agnes Buisson were three young women in their early 20s who spoke very little English and knew nothing about the people and culture of Texas. They were willing to leave their native land and to overcome all obstacles, however, to serve people in need of their help.
From its earliest days, Santa Rosa cared primarily for the poor people of the city and was often referred to as "the charity hospital." It is not surprising, therefore, that the Sisters were called upon to extend their work to the care of orphans and to establish the first homes for children in San Antonio, St. Joseph's Orphanage for Girls and St. John's Orphanage for Boys.
Their ministry in child care led to the opening of schools in San Antonio and other cities of Texas, as well as in Louisiana, Illinois, Missouri and even across the border in Mexico. They extended their ministry in health care also, opening the first hospitals in Fort Worth, Amarillo, San Angelo and Corpus Christi.
In 1893, the Sisters established Incarnate Word School on Government Hill in San Antonio. When they purchased the George Brackenridge estate and constructed a motherhouse on the property, the elementary and secondary school was transferred to the new location. Because San Antonio had no college for women at the time and many parents were not eager to send their daughters away to study, college courses were added to the curriculum. The school became known as the College and the Academy of the Incarnate Word. The original state charter, dated 1881, gave the Sisters the power to operate schools on all levels and to confer baccalaureate degrees.
Throughout their history, the Sisters have demonstrated their strong commitment to service. Their founding of hospitals, their establishment of homes for children, their opening of schools and of Incarnate Word College were all responses to the needs of others. Their service was based upon their belief in God, their love of God and their desire to serve God's people. The Mission of the University of the Incarnate Word is based on this same foundation of faith and commitment to service.
To learn more about the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, please visit their website.