May 5, 1873 is "Foundation Day" for the Houston Congregation of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, for it was on that day that Mother Gabriel Dillon and her Sister-companions first experienced the joy of having Mass offered and the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Chapel of the former Franciscan Monastery where they were living, across from the "Old" St. Vincent's Church at Franklin and Caroline.
It was not until November 15 of that same year, their number increased by three, that the Sisters moved into the partially finished new convent on Crawford Street, by Annunciation Church. In January of 1874, Incarnate Word Academy opened, and, a few months later, pupils were accepted as boarders. The noble work of Catholic education continues to flourish at this location today, without boarders, and Incarnate Word Academy has the distinction of being the oldest permanent Catholic School in the city of Houston.
It is amazing how much our first Sisters accomplished in Houston, a young growing city of some 10,0000 people, in a very short time. With more Sisters arriving from France and Ireland, they opened and staffed schools, and in some cases, even paid for the buildings which would later become parish property. By 1919, the Sisters were ready to staff St. Mary's School in Temple, Texas, the first "mission", to be followed shortly by several others throughout the state.
The courage and vision of the early Sisters coupled with the enduring grace of God has continued to energize the Congregation over the years. In addition to staffing elementary and high schools, we moved the motherhouse and novitiate in 1932 to a 38-acre tract of land in Bellaire. There we also built a co-educational high school in 1955, and a junior college in 1957, the latter for our Sisters in formation.
Another move occured in 1982 with the sale of the Bellaire property and our relocation to Bradford Place in the city of Houston. This time, the Church next door is the "New" St. Vincent's.
In response to the request of our Holy Father, we established a convent as a base of operation in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, and from 1965 to 1981, a number of our Sisters worked there.
Later, this undertaking became the responsibility
of the Mexico City Incarnate Word Sisters.
In the 1980's our ministry focus expanded to include many levels and areas of education, as well as pastoral and social services -- all this in accord with the talents and gifts of individual Sisters and the needs of the times.
In recent years, it has become easier to satisfy our desire to know better Jeanne de Matel and the history of the Order. This is due, in great part, to the untiring efforts of the Sisters who continue to make the writings and early history more accessible than formerly.
We strive to walk faithfully in the footsteps of our forebears, in order that the Incarnate Word may be adored and praised by all generations to come. Truly, in the spirit of the hymn we can say that "grace has brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home."