After serving as a nurse, in hospital administration, and as a congregational leader, Sr. Juanita Albracht felt called to work with the Peruvian people. She was inspired by how “they could be happy in such extreme poverty. This called me to want to experience their lives with them.”
Sr. Juanita moved to Chimbote in 1997 and became director of the Congregation’s clinic in Santa Clara. She oversaw the construction of the clinic, established the first hospice in all South America, and in 2015 guided the creation of the Incarnate Word Health System in Chimbote.
In 1964, in response to an appeal from the Church, six Sisters left San Antonio for Chimbote, Peru. Pictured in a special gray habit are Sisters Charles Marie Frank, Mary Mark Gerken, Maria Felicitas Villegas, Rosalina Acosta, Louis Katharine Schuler, and Gwendolyn Grothoff. Mothers Mary Clare Cronly and Mary Calvary Le Page accompanied the Sisters to the airport.
Sister Mary Mark Gerken teaching in Peru in 1965.
Sembrando Infancia—Sowing Seeds for a Healthy Childhood—focuses on improving the health of children under five years of ages, as well as that of pregnant mothers.
The first five Sisters to go to the mission in Zambia were (left to right) Leticia de Jesús Rodríguez, Bertha Elena Flores, Rosa Margarita Valdés, Grace O’Meara, and María Cristina Vargas.
In 2000, the Congregation opened a mission in Zambia. The Mother and Infant Care Program was established by the Sisters to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Since its inception, the program has been extremely effective in achieving its goal. Sr. María Cristina Vargas (left) and Sr. Rosa Margarita Valdés (right) were the first to go to Zambia.
The first social services center in San Antonio was initiated in 1940 in Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in San Antonio, led by Sr. Mary of Victory Lewis (pictured).
In the 1950s, Sisters in Mexico opened and operated social service centers in Mexico City and other cities. The centers provided clinics, but the Sisters also taught business classes, sewing, and religion. Sr. Rosalia Montes (center, with blue shawl, wearing glasses) worked in Oaxaca.
In 1973, Sisters in Mexico started a new form of ministry called Pastoral Popular. Sisters sought out, lived with, and ministered to the underserved, focusing on daily contact with the people at their work and in their homes. Here, Sr. Ofelia Lozano visits a parishioner in Mexico City.
Pastoral Popular serves indigenous people in remote parts of Mexico. The first pastoral communities were established in the Mezquital Valley and in Cuernavaca, Torreon, Tehuantepec, and Veracruz. Sr. María Teresa Fernandez was selected as the first coordinator of the Pastoral Popular Communities
Since 1973, more than 100 Sisters from Mexico have created and worked in numerous pastoral communities in Mexico. They assist the indigenous, displaced, and underserved.
Sister Elizabeth Murray Campbell worked in Cuernevaca, Mexico, with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.
The Cooperativa de Café Tienmelonia Nich Klum, Chiapas, is a coffee cooperative that serves the indigenous people of Chiapas. By cultivating and trading organic coffee, men and women generate income and provide a better quality of life for their families.
Since the cooperative was founded, hundreds of people have been trained to work in the organic coffee industry. This has a positive impact on nearly 1,500 families.
Sisters Peggy Bonnot, Margaret Snyder, and Marianne Kramer founded El Puente in 1999 to connect Spanish-speaking immigrants in the mid-Missouri area to church and community resources. While serving as El Puente’s Executive Director, Sr. Peggy also accompanied clients on doctor visits and translated for them.
Sr. Margaret Carew spent half her life ministering to inmates at the Bexar County (San Antonio) Jail. In 2010 she was recognized for her 40 years of service—30 as the jail’s first female chaplain and 10 as a volunteer.
Trained as a clinical psychologist, Sr. Mary Cunningham established a residential center in Limerick, Ireland, for adults with learning disabilities. She worked in San Antonio at the Patrician Movement, a drug and alcohol treatment center, for more than 30 years.
Sr. Louise Mair (center) worked for many years as a cook at the Provincial House in St. Louis, Missouri. She later served in Cambio Puente, Peru, living in a simple house the Sisters built themselves. Sr. Louise baked bread to share with her neighbors; she was very much loved by the people of Cambio Puente.
Sr. Rita Prendergast, after a long career teaching college English, went to Peru. In 1985 she helped establish 1985 the mission in Huancané. She learned Spanish and ministered to prisoners.
Pictured is Sr. Anne Marie Burke in Huancané. The area had been abandoned by the Peruvian government, allowing terrorist groups to threaten local residents. The Sisters nonetheless taught and trained catechists, organized programs for the youth, and visited prisoners in jail.
In 1981, three Sisters opened a mission in Cambio Puente, Peru, where they worked with exploited campesinos on the outskirts of Chimbote. Sr. Rosaleen Harold (pictured holding a baby) was one of the three Sisters who went to Cambio Puente. Sr. Rosaleen served in Peru for more than 30 years.
At the beginning of the millennium, Sisters from Mexico opened an educational center in Ixcan, Guatemala, at the invitation of the local bishop. The region is multi-ethnic, made up of displaced persons who sought refuge some fourteen years earlier from conflicts in Central America. Pictured is Sr. Emilia Gracia.
Sr. Martha Josefina Rea (left) González, concerned that the elderly were not being treated with dignity, co-founded the Center for Care of Older Adults in 1996 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sr. Martha Josefina and Sr. Delfina María Moreno Verduzco gave older women and men tools to live with courage and acceptance. Sr. Martha Josefina also trained hundreds of caregivers, geriatric specialists, and family members to minister to the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the elderly of Guadalajara.
During the 1960's, many sisters in both the United Sates and in Mexico began working in institutions not directly related to the Congregation. Parish ministry was introduced in the United States in 1968 when Sisters Helen Ann Collier, Alice Maria Rothermich, Joan Holden, and Jane Frances McGrail served as assistants to pastors in two parishes in St. Louis, Missouri. Pictured are Srs. Annette Pezold and Helen Ann Collier.
Sr. Guadalupe Moreno, Michigan. Sr. Lupita has served the migrant farm work population in Michigan for many years.
After teaching and serving for many years as principal in Catholic elementary schools, Sr. Brigid Marie Clarke became Director of the Catechetical Center for the Archdiocese of San Antonio and a consultant and facilitator of the Catholic Consultation Counseling Center. Later, she ministered as a spiritual director and facilitator for individuals, parish groups, and other religious congregations.
Visitation House Ministries was founded by Sisters Neomi Hayes and Yolanda Tarango in 1985. Homeless mothers with young children are empowered through housing, education, employment, and a caring community as they become self-sufficient members of society.
Sr. Cindy Stacy ministered at Visitation House for more than 20 years. Visitation House has extended into the broader community with La Casita Learning Center. Her work has empowered women through education, thus changing lives of future generations.
Women’s Global Connection was founded by Sisters Dorothy Ettling and Neomi Hayes. Women’s Global Connection strengthens families and communities and works for transformative change. The organization fosters innovative partnerships that support projects linking women and girls to education, technology, and business opportunities. (co-founder, Sr. Dorothy Ettling, far right)
Local high school girls plan the Women’s Global Connection Girls’ Summit. They look at what it means to be a global citizen and ways they can empower women at home and worldwide.
The Congregation established Cooperativade Mujeres Tampamolon, San Luis Potosí, to train indigenous women to do needlework that will enable them to produce garments and jewelry that can be marketed and sold. This enables them to provide for their families and gain some financial stability. Pictured is Sr. María Cardoso and one of the program’s clients.
The Congregation founded Centro Mujeres Tonantzin, Juarez, in 1998 to lift migrant women out of the poor quarters in Ciudad Juarez. Sr. Petra Peña, second from left, works alongside other women, making their own composting toilets.
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Sr. Mary Hanick (1915–2009) loved people. From teaching music to high school and college students in Texas and Missouri, to walking with the poor elderly in the African American community in St. Louis, she did so with love, understanding, compassion, and enthusiasm. Sr. Mary grew up during the Depression, and that experience influenced the way she lived her life: simply, and with a trusting dependence on God and God’s love. At age 59, Sr. Mary Hanick began serving the poor elderly in the African American communities of St. Louis, at St. Edward and later St. Augustine parishes. She visited them in their homes, helped them with medical and legal services, drove them to church, and sang in the choirs.
Sr. Patricia Anne Kelley (1936–1987) was a daughter of St. Louis and died serving the city she loved. A teacher and pastoral minister for 25 years, Pat returned from a year in the desert, determined to devote the rest of her life to helping the poor and elderly. Sister Pat became a dynamic voice for the poor, establishing the independent nonprofit, Energycare, Inc. and with the St. Louis gas company, Dollar Help. Her work on the local, state, and national levels earned her the St. Louis Globe-Democrat’s Humanities Award in 1984, the only woman so honored in the twenty-six year history of the award. On September 27, 1987, Sr. Pat Kelley was murdered by someone she let into her office to help.
Sr. Mary of Jesus Noirry was part of the first community of Sisters, arriving in San Antonio in 1869. In 1875, when a separate orphanage was established, Sr. Mary of Jesus was part of the small community of Sisters responsible for the orphans’ care. Wearing a soldier’s overcoat that reached to her ankles and armed with a brace of pistols, Sr. Mary of Jesus toured outlying towns, begging for food and clothing. She usually returned with a few hundred dollars plus plenty of eggs, butter, bacon, and potatoes.
Sister Stephen Dombey also sought funds for orphans. Sr. Stephen called on a San Antonio businessman and asked for a donation. He responded to her plea by spitting in her hand. Undaunted, Sister looked at him directly and said, “Thank you, sir. That was for me. Now would you please give me something for the orphans?”
The Sisters, at the General Chapter of 2014, approved the Congregation’s opening of an Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. Srs. Margaret Snyder and Cathy Vetter protest outside the School of Americas.
Sr. Katty Huanaco, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, is pictured with children in Chimbote, Peru.
Sr. Martha Ann Kirk has made numerous trips to the Middle East and has worked for and spoken about the need for education, peace, and reconciliation among people, especially for the benefit of women and children. Sr. Martha Ann and Dr. Fatma Arslan, of the Women’s Association of the Raindrop Turkish House in San Antonio, have led many interfaith programs together.
Sor Bernadette Azuela (1931–2008) believed in social justice and lived what she practiced: the poor, the ill, and the homeless always had a place at her table. Seeking to provide a way for the poor to live in their own homelands, she developed the Ecological Center in Hidalgo, Mexico, teaching sustainable practices such as organic farming, cooking with solar ovens, and drawing on local knowledge of medicinal plants.
Anticipating Pope Francis’ call to stewardship of the Earth in his Laudate Si, this ministry reminds us that ecology, peace, and justice are inseparable and that we must live in right relationship with all of creation.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sisters grew vegetables and had milk cows.
The barn located at the Motherhouse was the center for farming activity carried on through the 1950s. In 1991, the structure was restored for use as the Center for Spirituality and the Arts.
Sisters grow their own food even in the city. This urban garden at Incarnate Word Neighborhood House in St. Louis, Missouri, was planted and tended by a community of Sisters.
In retirement, Sr. Margaret McCormack planted and maintained a flower garden at the Village at Incarnate Word. It lives on after her death, carefully tended by others, as a celebration of God’s gift of creation.
Sr. Mary Kay McKenzie worked for Habitat for Humanity in St. Louis for almost 15 years, first as a volunteer, and later full time, as a construction supervisor.
In 2015, inspired by how her dying brother felt better eating organic food, Sr. Elizabeth Smith opened an organic, self-sustaining soup kitchen in Kingsville, TX. The soup kitchen gets its vegetables from the community organic garden that Sr. Elizabeth created at the same time.
The headwaters of the San Antonio start their journey on the Congregation’s property. In 2008, the Sisters set aside 53 acres of congregation land from their original property purchased in 1897 and created the Headwaters Coalition, a ministry dedicated to Earth care and to living in right relationship with God’s creation.