Congregation to celebrate 150 years of history in Archdiocese

November 8, 2022

The Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament came to Texas in 1852 and established Incarnate Word Academy, the oldest Catholic High School in Houston. (Photo courtesy of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament)

HOUSTON — From their French roots that began in Lyon, France, in 1625, Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament came to Texas in 1852, invited by Bishop Jean-Marie Odin, C.M., the first bishop of Texas. His goal was to invite religious women to teach the Catholic faith to the growing Texas population. The sisters joyfully answered the call.

A small band of sisters made the journey in faith to the great unknown, Texas, knowing they would not be returning to their homeland. Their first foundation was in Brownsville, then Victoria, and the third foundation in Houston, arriving in 1873.

Their mission, to spread the love and devotion to Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, through education has remained steadfast, though it has been expressed in different ways through the years as they shared the talents that God has given them. They served tirelessly in educating youth in the Archdiocese and in the Dioceses of Austin and Beaumont.

They opened and served in eight parish elementary schools in Houston and established Incarnate Word Academy, the oldest Catholic High School in Houston, which is located in downtown Houston. In those days, streets were not even paved. It was before streetcars. The school and the sisters shared the facilities, so the sisters lived above the store, so to speak.

Later, in 1932, the sisters built a new motherhouse on what was considered “prairie land” on Bissonnet Street in Bellaire. In 1945, the sisters were invited to serve at Bishop Byrne High School in Port Arthur, Texas.

In 1954, Marian High School was established at the request of Bishop Wendelin Nold and in honor of the Marian year. Though both schools are no longer in existence, the sisters have many fond memories and lasting friendships with former students. In the 1980s, the sisters moved to their current motherhouse on a property down from the Texas Medical Center.

Over the years, the sisters responded to the call of bishops and pastors to extend their Catholic school ministry to other cities beyond Houston, to schools in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Baytown, Hitchcock, Bryan, Temple, La Grange and Conroe.

Responding to the call of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, the sisters opened a mission in Guatemala and served in other church ministries such as religious education, social services, aging ministry, pastoral care, ministry, hospital ministry, retreat ministry on both the parish and diocesan leadership level.

As the Incarnate Word sisters prepare to celebrate their 150-year anniversary in 2023, they proudly look back at their contribution to helping shape the 175 years of the proud history of the Archdiocese.