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First House Opened in Brownsville, Texas in 1853

Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament

“I ask you to place all your hope in God alone…Look to God as the Primary Mover, as the Center and End of all our plans.” ~ Jeanne Chézard de Matel

Although the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament was founded in 1625 by Jeanne Chézard de Matel, it wasn’t until 1852 when Bishop Odin visited France to seek Sisters for the mission territory in Texas, that God transported the Order to the New World. A small group of Incarnate Word Sisters responded, and the first house was opened in Brownsville, Texas in 1853.

The Bishop of Tula, Mexico, visited the house in Brownsville and requested help for his mission. Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Hord, Mother Vincent Helena O’Herlihy, and Sister Theresa O’Keefe went to Tula, Tamaulipas in 1903, where they ministered for a short time. They moved their monastery to Gòmez Palacio, Durango, México in 1906.

Persecution and political unrest caused the Sisters in Gómez Palacio consternation for many years. Finally, the religious persecution in Mexico under General Plutarco Elias Calles in 1926 forced the Sisters to leave their monastery. They either returned to the homes of their families in México, or escaped to the United States where those who were not Mexican citizens sought asylum.

Congregations in Texas offered hospitality to the Sisters from March until August 1926. After this, seven Sisters received permission from the Superior of the monastery in Gómez Palacio to begin a new foundation in the United States: Sisters Mary Columba Byrnes, Mary Thecla Sullivan, Mary Baptist Fitzgibbon, Mary Brendan Fitzgibbon, and Mary Thomas O’Herlihy, and two novices, Sisters Mary Gabriel O’Regan and Mary Raphael O’Connell.

St. Michael School in Sioux City needed teachers and these seven women responded to an appeal by the Bishop of Omaha, Nebraska. This was not meant to be a lasting home, since Nebraska permitted only American citizens to teach in their schools. The Sisters were of Irish descent and had not yet applied for naturalization papers in the United States.

Trusting in God, Sister Mary Columba Byrnes and Sister Mary Brendan Fitzgibbon sent letters of introduction to various Bishops. Archbishop Joseph T. Schrembs was the first to reply, inviting the Sisters to the Diocese of Cleveland in the State of Ohio.

Believing this was a sign from Divine Providence, the Sisters proceeded to Cleveland. They arrived in Cleveland on Mother’s Day, May 8, 1927. Here they established their home, served in schools and other ministries, and founded Incarnate Word Academy, which continues today as a grade school sponsored by the Sisters of the Incarnate word and Blessed Sacrament in Parma Heights, Ohio.


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