CDP sisters have served Archdiocese since 1866

September 27, 2022

The Sisters of Divine Providence of San Antonio ministered several schools in the Houston area, including Immaculate Conception. Pictured is their First Communion in 1939. (Photo courtesy of the Sisters of Divine Providence of San Antonio)

HOUSTON — For 156 years, the Sisters of Divine Providence of San Antonio have served in a variety of ministries within the current Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. In 1866 Bishop Claude Dubuis, bishop of all of Texas, extended an invitation to the non-cloistered sisters at Saint-Jean-de-Bassel, France, “to found everywhere rural schools for girls” in Texas. Sister St. Andrew Feltin and Sister Alphonse Boegler accepted his request and arrived in Galveston on Oct. 25, 1866.

In 1867 the sisters opened their first school, St. Mary’s in Austin. Bishop Dubuis then sent the sisters to Castroville in 1868, where they established their first motherhouse and another school. Within its first 20 years in Texas, the congregation opened or staffed more than 25 schools not only in rural areas but also in Austin, San Antonio and Galveston.

St. Joseph’s Academy in Galveston (1876-1926) was the first school opened by the sisters in what is now the Archdiocese. Larger schools where they ministered in the Houston area include Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Anne and St. Pius V in Pasadena.

Other schools in Houston included St. Stephen, St. Benedict and St. Patrick. Schools in other towns were Guardian Angel, Wallis; Immaculate Conception, Industry; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rosenberg; St. Joseph, New Waverly; and St. Mary’s Schools in Frydek and Sealy.

Initially, sisters ministered primarily in education. Later they diversified their works to include parish and diocesan ministries, social work, health care, community organizing and retreat and spiritual direction in not only Catholic but also in secular institutions. Sisters, for instance, ministered at the Catholic Chancery, the Baylor College of Medicine Midwifery Service, Our Lady of Guadalupe Clinic (Rosenberg), The Metropolitan Organization (community organizing) and St. Mary’s Seminary. They also served in parish ministry in Houston parishes such as Assumption, St. Jerome, St. Michael, St. Mary of the Purification and St. Theresa.

While in Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Sister Benitia Vermeersch, CDP, mentored a group of lay catechists that eventually developed into an independent congregation, the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence.

The Sisters of Divine Providence’s response to Bishop Dubuis’s request 156 years ago is still ongoing.

Although their mission has extended beyond teaching children, today, sisters in the Archdiocese minister as pastoral assistants and licensed professional counselors. In San Antonio, the sister’s sponsored ministries include McCullough Hall Nursing Center, Providence Catholic School and Our Lady of the Lake University. As sisters who went before them, they work to further the mission of Jesus in our time.