“Find what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” This is the way Sr. Maria Goretti Zehr (1931–2001) expressed how she felt about her life in music teaching and playing. Sr. Goretti (“Goretti” to everyone who knew her) taught hundreds of musicians at every level. She also composed, performed, and assisted at the organ with uncountable liturgies, rituals, and celebrations. Sr. Maria Goretti loved God, religious life, and people more than she loved music and was truly present to every person she encountered. She was loving and compassionate and extended God’s hospitality to everyone.
Sister Adelaide Widemann (1904–2003) was responsible for many years for the musical training of the Sisters, and preparing the choir for liturgies. “[Sr. Adelaide] assessed our voices individually, placed us in particular sections of the choir, and patiently practiced each piece of the liturgical music until we were all on key, in perfect rhythm, and confident.”
Sister Bernarda Goedtken (1908–1982) studied at the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago and taught music theory at the College (University). Sr. is holding a music manuscript book in her hands.
Fr. Albert Lohmann (1879 – 1954) spent 47 years on the campus of Incarnate Word College as composer, organist, and teacher. He is remembered by the Congregation through his many beautiful liturgical compositions. Fr. Lohmann also taught music in the Convent, was organist for the Congregation, and prepared the choirs of Sisters for the singing of liturgies in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word.
Pictured, left to right, are Sisters Mary Hanick (Agnesine), Mary of the Incarnate Word Avellis, Maria Goretti Zehr, and Dolores Marie Murphy. Not only did the Sisters teach in the music department, they also taught a full studio of young elementary age students in a pedagogy program.
Music and singing was part of formation when young women entered the congregation. Novices formed the choir for liturgies. Pictured here is the Sisters’ Choir, at the Centennial Mass in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word.
The Sisters’ Choir still comes together to sing for special liturgies. Pictured here is the choir singing for a Jubilee in 2015, in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word.
Sister Patricia O’Donnell (1924–1988) was an accomplished opera singer. She taught at Incarnate Word College (now University) for many years and also served as Chair of the Music Department.
Sisters performing in ensemble, Palestrina Recital Hall, Music Building, early 1970s.
In 2007, as part of the renovation of the Chapel of the Incarnate Word, a new 27-rank Schoenstein pipe organ was installed, signifying the primacy of place that music holds in the Congregation’s communal worship.
Sister Rosa María Montiel (b. 1931) designed and furnished many of the Congregation’s schools, chapels, and living spaces in Mexico, including the Provincial House (Casa San Ángel), Mexico. Her works also include many paintings that she has given to others over the years. “My career was wonderful, because it allowed me to fulfill myself as a religious, and as an artist, where I see God.”
Sr. Avelina Nava (1910-2001) taught piano at many different schools in Mexico and in the early 1960s headed the music education department at the Institute Miguel Ángel in Mexico City. Petite Sr. Avelina had a sly sense of humor, asking St. Joseph to grant her fame so she didn’t have to sing in a room with a leaky roof. In retirement, she loved playing piano to the Sisters in the nursing home to brighten their days.
In 2015, The University of the Incarnate Word carried forward the Congregation’s commitment to music and arts when it dedicated the new 15 million dollar arts complex. Pictured left to right is General Coordinator of the Congregation, Sister Teresa Maya, Col. and Mrs. Betty Kelso, benefactors, and Dr. Louis Agnese, President of the University.
Part of the new fine arts complex is the newly renovated auditorium, now concert hall.
The new fine arts complex holds art galleries for permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as state of the art classrooms dedicated to all of the disciplines.
Sr. Mary Elizabeth (1916–2004) loved creating fashionable clothes! She served most of her life at Incarnate Word College (now the University of the Incarnate Word). She taught classes in fashion and interior design and directed fashion tours to New York, California, Paris, London, Milan, Rome, and Switzerland to give her students an inside look into what she termed the “temples of chic.”
Sr. Mary Elizabeth was commissioned in 1989 by the University of Texas to re-create the costumes, in exact design and fabric, from the movie Gone With the Wind for the commemoration of the movie’s golden anniversary. Pictured here is Scarlett O’Hara’s wedding dress. The dress is made of 31 yards of French silk satin and took Sr. Mary Elizabeth and her team 340 hours to sew.
Sister Germaine (b. 1935) has served the Congregation as teacher of theater and drama, and as an administrator of Incarnate College and University. In 1996 she founded the “Extended Run Players,” a reader’s theater that performs at the University and elsewhere. Sr. Germaine is pictured at the far right, directing a production of the Players.
Sister Rita Prendergast (b. 1931)—a poet, professor, and missionary—was schooled to be an English professor, which she was at Incarnate Word College, and at the Incarnate Word School in Dunmore, Ireland. Throughout her life she has written poetry; her book Gleaning was published in 2016.
Sr. Socorro (1893–1956) was an accomplished artist and taught art at Incarnate Word College, up until a year before her death. Born and educated in Chihuahua, Mexico, Sr. Socorro helped develop the college’s art program and was known for her sense of humor. She lobbied for an art building, saying, “please God, keep me separate from the music department with the daily holy running of the scales.”
Sr. Socorro’s most sophisticated paintings feature blue bonnets, probably because they once covered the property of the College (University). Sr. Socorro loved Texas passionately and maintained that the state was the inspiration for many of her paintings.