Incarnate Word, Sisters of Charity of the

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The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI) was founded by Bp. Claude Marie Dubuis of Galveston, Tex., to exercise the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in that state, ravaged by the Civil War. In 1866 he went to Europe seeking help, especially for the many victims of yellow fever in his diocese. Unable to persuade any European community to sponsor a branch house in Texas, he secured three volunteers from among the sisters in the hospital of L'Antiquaille, Lyons, France, and with them he established a new congregation. Mother Angélique, superior of the Monastery of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Lyons, agreed to train these mission-minded French girls. From 1866 to 1869 she formed 19 young women for mission work in Texas. For their habit, she replaced the white garb worn in her own cloister by a black one, modified to fit the active apostolate. She gave them the rule of her order, recommending adaptation to the exigencies of missionary activity, and selected their title: Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. In 1867 Dubuis requested the first three sisters who arrived in Galveston to found St. Mary's Infirmary, the first Catholic hospital in Texas. Two years later he sent three sisters to open Santa Rosa Infirmary in San Antonio. From these two independent centers, two distinct congregations evolved.

Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston. (Official Catholic Directory, #0470). This group developed from the foundation at St. Mary's Infirmary, Galveston. In July 1867, three months after the opening of the infirmary, an epidemic of yellow fever took the lives of more than 1,100 people in Galveston, among them Mother Blandine, one of the pioneers. The two remaining religious, Sisters Joseph and Ange, continued to care for the sick in their crowded and understaffed hospital, and also provided for the children orphaned by the epidemic. From 1867 until the opening of St. Mary's Orphanage in 1874, the children were cared for on hospital property. During the storm of 1900 in Galveston the congregation lost 10 sisters and 91 orphans. The constitutions of the congregation received the approbation of the Holy See in 1912. In 1904 the motherhouse and general administration was established at St. Mary's Infirmary, Galveston. Since 1928, however, the motherhouse and novitiate have been located at Villa de Matel, Houston, Tex.

Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio. (Official Catholic Directory #0460). This group began with the three sisters who founded Santa Rosa Infirmary in 1869. When they admitted their first postulants in 1870, Dubuis appointed Mother Madeleine as the first superior and Mother Pierre as novice mistress. Considered the foundresses of the congregation, these two pioneers gave, between them, more than 30 years of leadership to the community. Under their direction the new congregation rapidly expanded its work to meet contemporary needs. In 1874 Mother Pierre opened St. Joseph Orphanage and San Fernando parochial school, the first of many to be added in Texas in the succeeding decades. In 1881 the congregation became a chartered body under the laws of Texas, empowered to conduct nonprofit institutions and to grant diplomas. The work assumed national scope when, in 1889, Mother Pierre sent sisters north to staff the Missouri-Pacific Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. In the years that followed, schools and hospitals were opened throughout Missouri, and in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Simultaneously, the apostolate spread south beyond national boundaries as the sisters successively pioneered 17 foundations in Mexico, stretching from Oaxaca in the south to Chihuahua in the north. In 1910 the congregation received final papal approbation of their rule, based on that of St. Augustine. The general administration is located in the motherhouse in San Antonio.

Bibliography: m. h. finck, The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, Texas (Washington 1925). l. v. jacks, Claude Dubuis: Bishop of Galveston (St. Louis 1947).

[m. l. hegarty/

a. power/eds.]