In 1869, Bishop Claude Dubuis, in response to the urgent appeals of the people of San Antonio, decided to send three Incarnate Word Sisters from Galveston to open a hospital in San Antonio. People in the city were literally dying in the streets because of the outbreak of cholera.
On March 31, 1869, Sisters Madeleine Chollet, Pierre Cinquin, and Agnes Buisson left Galveston by stagecoach for the long journey to San Antonio. The trip would take three weeks and could be a dangerous one as they travelled through the wide open spaces of Texas.
Even before they left Galveston, the sisters had some warning of the hardship and trouble that lay ahead. As the sisters made their final preparations for the trip, word came that the place being prepared for them to live had burned to the ground. The news didn’t delay their departure for the new mission; they had come from France to serve the needs of the people of Texas, and San Antonio needed help. As Sister Pierre said:
They glory would be for God, the utility for other, and the trouble for ourselves.
They arrived in San Antonio sometime in April of 1869, greeted by a small town with a population of a little over 12,000, set in a vast open prairie where life was rugged and even dangerous at times. One can only imagine the shock of these three young women as they caught their first sight of the dusty, unpaved and filth-infested streets lined with adobe houses, saloons, and rough and ready Texans as they heard the unfamiliar sounds of both English and Spanish.
Although these three Sisters had little preparation for their work, they were eager to learn not only nursing but also the language and culture of the people. Nothing was too much trouble for them. They were following in a long tradition of dedicated service to their fellow men and women as an expression of their love for the Incarnate Word. With that passion, faith, and courage, the Santa Rosa Infirmary was opened in December of 1869, promising to care for anyone who came to them, regardless of race or creed or ability to pay.
From SISTER MARGARET PATRICE SLATTERY, CCVI. “Promises to keep: A History of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas”, Vol. I & II.