Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and Headwaters at Incarnate Word sign a Conservation Easement agreement with Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas

by Jul 24, 2020150 Anniversary, Blog, Press, What we do0 comments

PRESS RELEASE, Friday, July 24, 2020.

Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and Headwaters at Incarnate Word sign a Conservation Easement agreement with Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and their Headwaters ministry closed their Sesquicentennial celebration with a commitment to care for the Earth by signing a conservation easement with Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas on July 22, 2020. The conservation easement will preserve in perpetuity a 50-acre natural area encompassing the headwaters of the San Antonio River in the heart of San Antonio.  The nature sanctuary has both ecological and historical significance for the Sisters and all their ministries.

The Sisters are heeding the call to ecological conversion issued by Pope Francis in his landmark encyclical Laudato Si. We trust that in caring for our common home, we are living Jesus’ mission of love and service to future generations. The Headwaters at Incarnate Word will steward the only Nature Sanctuary in the urban core of San Antonio as a place of connection with the sacredness of nature. We value the relationship with Greenspaces Alliance of South Texas and welcome partnerships with other organizations and individuals hoping to preserve the beauty God has created for all.


History of the Headwaters

The Sisters recently celebrated 150 years of responding to the needs of the times, since our founding in 1869 by Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis in San Antonio, Texas. In 1897, they purchased 280 acres on the outskirts of San Antonio from Col. George W. Brackenridge.  There they established their original Motherhouse and a school, which would become the University of the Incarnate Word and The Village at Incarnate Word. By 2007, 53 acres of green space remained, surrounded almost entirely by urban development. In 2008, they created their Earth care ministry, Headwaters at Incarnate Word, to preserve and protect the forested property as a nature sanctuary.


A Mission to Preserve the Earth

Preserving the Earth’s resources is foundational to Catholic social teaching, as most recently expressed through Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, and is crucial to safeguarding our long-term future. San Antonians desperately need more wild spaces to foster the understanding and experiences that compel us to care for our water, air, land, and wildlife.  The Headwaters Sanctuary protects the source of the San Antonio River: the famous artesian Blue Hole Spring, 1/3 mile of Olmos Creek, and a spring-filled forest that buffers the river from urban runoff.  The sanctuary is an urban oasis for resident birds and migratory songbirds;  almost 90 species have been documented here, and the list is growing.


Headwaters at Incarnate Word

No other spot like this exists in the city center.  About 400,000 people are within a 30-minute bike, bus or car ride, and 1.7 million are less than an hour away.

  • The headwaters of the San Antonio River is contiguous to the property upon which the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word established their original Motherhouse. The property remains both the physical, cultural, community, and spiritual center for the Sisters, represented in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word.
  • The property possesses a relatively natural habitat for fish, wildlife, plants, or similar ecosystem.  Scenic open spaces are of great importance to the Sisters and Headwaters ministry, the people of Bexar County, and the people of the State of Texas,  the preservation of which will provide a significant public benefit.
  • The Headwaters property and its Blue Hole spring have been a sacred pilgrimage site for indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The land rests on the Camino Real, the King’s Road, that brought people from north of what is now Texas into Mexico. The property’s Blue Hole is one of four fountain springs in Texas, once gushing more than ten feet high from the pressure in the Edwards Aquifer.
  • The Headwaters property is part of the Olmos Basin, considered by some to be one of the most archaeologically rich areas of South Central Texas. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric Paleo-Indians lived at the Blue Hole and surrounding lands as early as 12,000 years ago.

For more info, please contact:  

Martha Quiroga, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Director of Communications

Pamela Ball, Executive Director, Headwaters at Incarnate Word



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