Lyons, France – circa 1850. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word trace their origins to this historic city, the capital of France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Claude-Marie Dubuis, Bishop of Galveston. Bishop Dubuis appealed to Mother Marie Angelique, superior of the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Lyons for religious women who would care for the sick and orphaned children of his diocese.
Sr. Madeleine Chollet and Sr. Pierre Cinquin. In March of 1869, Bishop Dubuis chose these two sisters, and one other, to travel from Galveston to San Antonio to open the first Catholic hospital in that area.
The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word at Brackenridge Villa (1898), their first motherhouse in San Antonio.
Having Sisters in the area since 1899, Saint Louis was chosen as the location for a provincial house. In October of 1928, the large 4-story Incarnate Word Convent in Bel-Nor became the home of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in St. Louis.
Sister Peter Nolasco Keenan, St. Louis Provincial Supervisor and foundress of Incarnate Word Aademy in 1932.
Students (in their now-familiar blue jumpers) enter the gates of Incarnate Word Convent, which housed most of the Academy’s classroom space until 1949.
The first of the Academy’s classroom buildings separate from the convent was dedicated on August 5, 1949.
The Theater Building, shown here shortly after its completion in 1969, was originally known as Centennial Hall in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.
The Incarnate Word Academy campus as it stands today.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering in the persons of a multitude of the sick
and infirm of every kind, seeks relief at your hands.” Claude-Marie Dubuis, Bishop of Texas, 1866.
These immortal words were written in a letter to Mother Angelique, Superior of the Monastery of the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Lyons, France. Bishop DuBuis’ letter initiated the founding of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, in 1869.
The first Sisters who arrived in San Antonio encountered many hardships, including the mastery of a new language, the complete destruction of their convent by fire, and a cholera epidemic. However, with trust in God, the Congregation survived those initial setbacks and continued to spread its healing ministry far beyond Texas.
As early as 1899, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word were serving as nurses at the Missouri Pacific Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Interested in expanding their ministry in the Midwest, St. Louis was chosen as the location for a provincial house. In 1921, the Sisters purchased eight acres of land from the Lucas Estate, followed by an additional eight acres the following year. On October 28, 1928, Archbishop Glennon blessed the large 4-story Incarnate Word Convent in Bel-Nor.
Although they had no thoughts of opening a high school in the St. Louis area, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word soon became convinced of its need. Sister Peter Nolasco Keenan, Provincial Supervisor, took up this challenge in the midst of the Depression, when the building of a new school was an impossibility. The Sisters decided to open their convent facilities to young women seeking a Christian education. Incarnate Word Academy opened on September 6, 1932.
“The waiting and wondering of that morning will always remain with me.
I think all of us relaxed when we saw the first automobile
dislodging its occupants – our first pupils, thirty-five in all” Sister Peter Nolasco Keenan, Foundress of IWA, 1932.
Immediately academically successful, Incarnate Word Academy became fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. While the Sisters struggled to maintain the school during the Depression, their hard work was blessed and enrollment grew. The current Administration building was added in 1949 and the current Chapel Building was ready for occupancy in August, 1956. Centennial Hall (the current Theater Building) was completed in 1969 in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in the United States.
A 2-story addition to the Theater Building was added in 2003, housing: the library, dance and music classrooms, science laboratories, and a weight and fitness facility. In 2015, the library space was re-imagined and became what is now known as the Learning Commons – a contemporary, collaborative and technologically advanced commons space that is no longer just a place to check out books. With the addition of the MakerSpace Lab in 2016, the Learning Commons is a place where Incarnate Word Academy students can learn and thrive in an environment more conducive to their future collegiate career.