Celebrating Incarnate Word History During SA300

by Jan 25, 2018Blog, Our Stories, What we do

As San Antonio celebrates a 300th anniversary, we celebrate the Incarnate Word ministries that have been part of almost half of that history.

The roots of compassionate care for the sick, the orphans, and the uneducated that started in 1869 when the first three Incarnate Word Sisters came to San Antonio in response the mayor’s plea for help strengthen us. The history of Incarnate Word is a direct response to the needs of the city. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word continue their Mission today by caring for creation and developing innovative and compassionate service in light of today’s pressing needs.

At the Headwaters at Incarnate Word, a 53-acre nature sanctuary we celebrate much more than 300 years. The sanctuary, located adjacent to the University of the Incarnate Word is home to the Blue Hole, the source spring of the San Antonio River. Indigenous people have been around this source of the water for approximately 11,000 years. The headwaters, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, remain a powerful symbol of the literal and spiritual life-giving essence of water. Flowing or not, they remain, to many, the sacred springs. To find out more about the Headwaters at Incarnate Word visit https://www.headwaters-iw.org/.

Oak trees fill our property that are more than 300 years. Before the Spaniards spoke the name “San Antonio” for the beautiful wooded area by the glistening water, the oaks near the headwaters of Yanaguana, the river, provided a cover for Native Americans. The Franciscan Fray Damián Mazanet (or Massanet) and the first Spanish governor of the new Spanish province of Tejas visited this beautiful area of trees and water on June 13, 1691, which was the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua so they named the river and the valley San Antonio. Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa, UIW historian, created a video reflecting the impression of another missionary, Fray Isidro Espinoza, when he first arrived in the San Antonio River Valley in 1716 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu-lDIyoSKo&t=45s). Later, in 1718, Fray Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares, the Governor of Coahuila y Tejas, and a contingent of soldiers-settlers founded the town that has grown to be San Antonio. Hence our Tricentennial celebrations!

The American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM) presented their 2017 Mission Heritage Award to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word on December 2, 2017 at their Second Annual Pecan Harvest Gala. AITSCM recognized the Sisters because of their contribution to our community through the preservation of the Blue Hole, a site sacred to the Coahuiltecan People and because of the Sisters’ investment in the health and education of San Antonio through the founding of Incarnate Word High School, the University of the Incarnate Word, Santa Rosa Hospital and other ministries. Recently, the members of the organization were grateful to the Sisters and especially Sr. Michele O’Brien, CCVI for working with them to rebury human remains of their ancestors disturbed during the construction of a prayer garden at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio in 2016.

Incarnate Word Sisters at the Pecan Harvest Gala: Sr. Jane Farak, Christy Sanchez, Marileth Cabrerra (women preparing to become Incarnate Word Sisters), Sr. Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, Elaine Ayala (San Antonio Express-News writer and former recipient of the Mission Heritage Award), Joe Little Hawk Garcia, Sr. Michele O’Brien, Sr. Mary Margaret Bright, Sr. Teresa Maya, General Coordinator of the Incarnate Word Sisters, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, (BA ’68) (back row), Sr. Bette Ann Bluhm, and Ramon J. Vasquez, the Executive Director of the American Indians in Texas-Spanish Colonial Missions. (Photo: Allison Baez)

Incarnate Word Sisters at the Pecan Harvest Gala: Sr. Jane Farak, Christy Sanchez, Marileth Cabrerra (women preparing to become Incarnate Word Sisters), Sr. Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, Elaine Ayala (San Antonio Express-News writer and former recipient of the Mission Heritage Award), Joe Little Hawk Garcia, Sr. Michele O’Brien, Sr. Mary Margaret Bright, Sr. Teresa Maya, General Coordinator of the Incarnate Word Sisters, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, (BA ’68) (back row), Sr. Bette Ann Bluhm, and Ramon J. Vasquez, the Executive Director of the American Indians in Texas-Spanish Colonial Missions. (Photo: Allison Baez)

In addition to the many SA300 celebrations, a Tricentennial festival and symposium, Mi Casa es Suya, will be held at Incarnate Word on Sunday, April 15, 2018. This celebration will be led by members of the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions. For more information on the festival and symposium. This mission of this organization is to work for the preservation and protection of the culture and traditions of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation and other indigenous people of the Spanish colonial missions in south Texas and northern Mexico. Incarnate Word graduate Jesse Borrego, along with other UIW alumni including Isaac A. Cardenas, Dr. Alison Baez and current students, are active in the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions organization continuing the work that the Sisters began so long ago.

Descendants of native peoples lived and studied at Espada Mission School. Some of the people attending the Pecan Harvest Gala have connections with the children in this picture of the students at Espada. (Photo: Archives of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word)

Descendants of native peoples lived and studied at Espada Mission School. Some of the people attending the Pecan Harvest Gala have connections with the children in this picture of the students at Espada. (Photo: Archives of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word)

To learn more about the San Antonio Tricentennial Celebration – click here San Antonio 300 to view a video, narrated by Borrego, which shows the rich diversity and culture of San Antonio and the importance of the celebrations surrounding this momentous occasion.

Below are important links to Incarnate Word events and information:

  • For more information about programs planned by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate during 2018, visit sa300ccvi.org.
  • A historical tour remembering the Incarnate Word Sisters history and the history of San Antonio is scheduled for March 24 and will be repeated October 6, 2018. The tour, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., will begin and end at the Chapel of the Incarnate Word (4503 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209.) The tour is free for those with their own transportation. Participants may purchase or bring their lunch. Please register by writing eccl@uiwtx.edu. For more information on the tour, visit CCVI Historical Tour.
  • To find out more about the history of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, visit the Heritage Center exhibit next to Chapel of the Incarnate Word. The exhibit is 2,300 square feet, presented through the stories of the hundreds of Incarnate Word Sisters and the lay collaborators who have served side-by-side in our ministries of healthcare, education, and social and pastoral services. For more information, call (210) 828-2224 or visit CCVI Heritage.
  • A Historical Timeline of the Congregation can be viewed at CCVI Timeline.

By Sister Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI

This article was originally published on the University of the Incarnate Word’s website here.


Header photo caption: This photograph of Espada School students and Mother Alma Neilan, 1941, is in the room, which it shows. This classroom is now the Mission Espada museum. The Missions are UNESCO World Heritage Sites https://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm (Photo: Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Archives, San Antonio)

 

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