Sister Dorothy Anhaiser
Sister Mary Leila Aquilar
Sister Stella Barrientes
Sister Christina Bradley
Sister Marian Bradley
Sister Catherine Brehony
Sister Colette Brehony
Sister Maria Elizabeth Brehony
Sister Denise Cassidy
Sister Elizabeth Close
Sister Esther Dunegan
Sister Anna Marie Espinosa
Sister Patrice Floyd
Sister Caroline Fritter
Sister Rose Miriam Gansle
Sister Mary Lucy Garcia
Sister Maria Irma Gonzalez
Sister Camelia Herliny
Sister Lou Ella Hickman
Sister Mary Paul Hon
Sister Jude Janecek
Sister Mary Ann Korczynski
Sister Juliane Kuntscher
Sister Michelle Marie Kuntscher
Sister Rosemary Lichnovsky
Sister Helga Leija
Sister Kathleen McDonagh
Sister Barbara Netek
Sister Raquel Newman
Sister Theresa Nguyen
Sister Martha O’Gara
Sister Rosa Maria Ortiz
Sister Agueda Oviedo
Sister Mary Anne Pagano
Sister Therese Ann Ridge
Sister Jo-Ann Saenz
Sister Judith Marie Saenz
Sister Anne Brigid Schlegel
Sister Martha Ann Snapka
Sister Marilyn Grace Springs
Sister Emma Marie Stillman
Sister Agnes Marie Tengler
Sister Brenda Thompson
Sister Vianney Uyeno
Sister Annette Wagner
Sister Annette Wagner, a native of Oklahoma, moved to Texas in 1949; she graduated from Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi. She continued on to earn a BA in English from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. This was followed by certification in Pastoral Counseling from Emmanuel College in Boston. She has taught on all levels including adult classes for the Pastoral Institute of the diocese of Corpus Christi.
Over her career, she has been involved with numerous occupations: she served as Vicar for Religious for the diocese and as RCIA director for St. Pius Parish in Corpus Christi. Many of her writings have appeared in the diocesan newspapers of Corpus Christi and Brownsville. She has often been a presenter at workshops, conferences and retreats for faculty and parish groups. Within the congregation, she has been elected to several of the general councils and in 2015 she was elected as superior general of the congregation and in this capacity she is a member of several boards of directors.
During all of this involvement, Sister Annette is working on a St. Peter upon the Water Spiritual Direction Program to further enhance her many talents. She enjoys reading, gardening, and walking the dogs around the old Motherhouse. She has a great sense of humor and is always available to help others. In 2017, she celebrated her fiftieth year of religious profession with family, friends and the sisters.
Sister Vianney Uyeno is a native of Hawaii who came to Texas in 1952 to join the Sisters of the Incarnate Word . Her first response to a vocation was: “it’s impossible.” And now she has celebrated her 60th anniversary as a religious. Once in Corpus Christi, she became one of the first groups of IW sisters to attend St. Edward’s University in Austin where she received a Bachelor’s Degree; she then followed many of the sisters on to Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio where she received her Master’s Degree.
She has taught at several schools in the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Brownsville and served as principal of several other schools. Within the community she has offered her assistance and graceful humor to committees and has served on the committee preparing for general chapters; she has also held the post of sister-in-charge of the Brownsville convent. One of her greatest joys was celebrating the sesquicentennial of the arrival of the first four French sisters in Brownsville.
Some of her greatest talents have come in the physical care of sisters and friends through reflexology and in the care of the countless animals that have come her way in the convent. Her veterinary skills have saved many young animals that were left in the yard at the convent. Sister Vianney is one of the group of eight sisters who always seemed to be getting in trouble in their early years; that twinkle in her eye and the sound of her joyous laughter are the results of those young years.
Sister Brenda Thompson was born in Dublin, Ireland and came to the United States, to Texas, to join the Sisters of the Incarnate Word; she says that she was greatly inspired by the visit of Sister Claude McManus and felt the call to follow.
A graduate of Incarnate Word Academy, she then received her BA from St. Edward’s University in Austin. She then received a Master’s in counseling from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Over the years of her career, she has held a wide variety of positions including counselor, teacher, principal, Alumni director, and Formation leader within the Congregation. As both counselor and Alumni director, she was instrumental in raising money for scholarships and tuition assistance for the campus.
Upon her retirement, she became the Archivist for the Sisters and was responsible for moving the entire archives and library from the old Motherhouse to the new convent. Also, in her retirement, she volunteers for the Alpha Program at St. Philip’s Parish and also at the information desk at Spohn South Hospital. In this latter position, she helps with the Alzheimer and Heart Health Fundraisers and with the sales run by the volunteers that benefit the hospital.
She is very faithful to walking and enjoys the new park across from the Convent. Over the years, she has enjoyed and helped many animals in and out of the Convent. She has a lovely soprano voice with which she sang the leading roles in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas. When she is not shattering crystal, she is in the choir and especially enjoys the Christmas and Easter choir work.
Sister Emma Marie Stillman is a native Texan born in Alice and raised in Corpus Christi. Her parents moved to Corpus Christi so that their children could receive a Catholic education; Sister Emma Marie went through Corpus Christi Cathedral School, Christ the King School and Incarnate Word Academy. After graduation she entered the sisters and began her college career. Her BA and MA came from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio; she also received an MA in theology from St. Mary’s University, also in San Antonio, and then continued on to train as a Catholic Chaplain. In her early career, Sister taught at a number of elementary schools and served as a coordinator of the CCD program in Kingsville and Alice.
When she moved to Brownsville, she became the Pastoral Assistant at St. Luke Parish and coordinator of retreats at the Incarnate Word House of Prayer. For several years, she worked as a Diocesan Chaplain at Edinburg Regional Hospital. In 2007, she assumed the office of Director of Spiritual Development at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan. Currently, she is involved a numerous ministries: she is the director of Adult Spiritual Development and Pastoral Counseling at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen and she conducts classes in English and Spanish for adults. She is joined by Sister Therese Ann Ridge in giving “Healing the Family Tree through the Eucharist” retreats in many locations. Additionally, both Sister Emma Marie and Sister Therese Ann make the time to lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other holy places several times a year.
Sister Emma Marie Stillman is a native Texan born in Alice and raised in Corpus Christi. Her parents moved to Corpus Christi so that their children could receive a Catholic education; Sister Emma Marie went through Corpus Christi Cathedral School, Christ the King School and Incarnate Word Academy. After graduation she entered the sisters and began her college career. Her BA and MA came from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio; she also received an MA in theology from St. Mary’s University, also in San Antonio, and then continued on to train as a Catholic Chaplain. In her early career, Sister taught at a number of elementary schools and served as a coordinator of the CCD program in Kingsville and Alice.
When she moved to Brownsville she became the Pastoral Assistant at St. Luke Parish and coordinator of retreats at the Incarnate Word House of Prayer. For several years, she worked as a Diocesan Chaplain at Edinburg Regional Hospital. In 2007 she assumed the office of Director of Spiritual Development at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan. Currently she is involved in numerous ministries: she is the director of Adult Spiritual Development and Pastoral Counseling at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen, and she conducts classes in English and Spanish for adults. She is joined by Sister Therese Ann Ridge in giving “Healing the Family Tree through the Eucharist” retreats in many locations. Additionally, both Sister Emma Marie and Sister Therese Ann make the time to lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other holy places several times a year.
Sister Marilyn Grace Springs is a native New Yorker, being born in Buffalo; after completing high school she decided to follow her brother to San Antonio, Texas, where he was studying at Trinity University. Marilyn wanted to attend a Catholic college and was accepted at Our Lady of the Lake University. Marilyn was an artist, but she didn’t want to be a starving artist, so to have a marketable skill, she studied both art and elementary education, graduating in 1981 after which she taught for five years in San Antonio public schools. Marilyn entered the Incarnate Word House of Discernment in Corpus Christi. She made her final profession in 2001. Sister Marilyn taught at Incarnate Word Academy Middle and High school. She taught art and coached the junior varsity girls’ basketball team. She was then made principal at Incarnate Word Elementary School in Brownsville and began working on her Doctorate at that same time. She has served on numerous commissions and committees of the congregation, as well as being a delegate to the General Chapter of the congregation. In 2012, Sister Marilyn was elected as a Counselor to the General Council of the Congregation.
At the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) Region XII, 2016 meeting Sister Marilyn was elected Chair of the Convening Team (3 members responsible for the regional business and meetings). As the Chair, she will be a member of the National Board of the LCWR, representing out region. In July of 2017 Sister became a member of the Board of Directors for the National Black Sisters Conference. We are delighted to have Sr. Marilyn bringing an Incarnate Word presence to the national meetings. She continues her studies with St. Thomas University, Miami.
Sister has been elected to the NBSC Board. Established in August 1968, the National Black Sisters' Conference (NBSC) is an inclusive Catholic organization of vowed Black Catholic Women Religious and Associates from many congregations of religious across the United States. When she has spare time, she paints, sings and plays the guitar. Marilyn finds joy in everything she does.
Sister Martha Ann Snapka, a native Texan born in Abbott, is a member of an old Czech family and is greatly involved in family celebrations of this great heritage. She is always in the front of the line for the dance that assembles all the family members. Her family moved to Corpus Christi when Sister was in the first grade and it is here that she became acquainted with the Sisters of the Incarnate Word where she graduated from the high school. Her BA in history came at St. Edward’s University in Austin and she earned her MA from Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio. She entered the convent in 1952 and was one of the eight famous novices who laughed and enjoyed life in the Motherhouse.
Over the last sixty-five years, Sister Martha Ann has given tirelessly of her many talents and gentle nature as teacher, principal and counselor. After serving as Superior General for eight years, she had a tenure as the first president of the IWA campus in Corpus Christi. Naturally she has received much recognition from the local community and in 2001 she was honored as one of ten “Shining Stars in Texas Skies”—Women in Careers Award.
Her gentleness and great spirit are put to good use when she works with Alumni and families at Incarnate Word. In place of a well-deserved retirement, she is now helping with the opening of the Spirit Center which will serve as a retreat area for the youth of the diocese. And, of course, she is one of the leaders for all her nieces and nephews and their upcoming children as they learn about their Czech inheritance.
Sister Anne Brigid Schlegel was born in Oklahoma but has spent most of her life in Corpus Christi, Texas. She enjoys thinking about how she accidentally “backed in” to teaching and then religious life only to find them the greatest joys of her life. She received her BA and MA in history from two different Texas A&M campuses and continues to be an avid reader in history, biography and political science.
As teacher and principal, Sister Anne introduced computers into different schools and built a computer program for students of all ages. She enjoys helping the sisters and others learn about computers and electronics in general; she is generous with her time. Over her forty-seven years of teaching, she introduced chess to her classes and as principal was able to develop a chess program for all grades that produced local, state and national chess champions. In addition to these activities, Sister Anne has done a tremendous amount of work in rescuing animals; she also serves as assistant convent ornithologist to Sister Caroline Fritter.
Within the convent, she has served on numerous committees and as sister-in-charge of the Motherhouse. When an ailing sister had to relinquish the convent garden, Sister Anne took over the care of the garden and found a new interest. Now, as the sisters have moved to a new convent, she is enjoying the buildup of a new garden area. After retiring recently from teaching, Sister Anne was asked to work in the Congregation Archives and help with the history of the Congregation going back over four hundred years to Jeanne Chezard de Matel, the Foundress. She takes great delight in her many interests and is deeply grateful to God for the many talents she has been given.
Sister Judith Marie Saenz was born in Rio Grande City, Texas, in 1941. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 1964, and made her first profession of vows on June 1967, and made final profession in 1971. Sister Judith Maria had always wanted to be a Sister. Her parents were her greatest models of faith and service. “I was attracted to their spirit of simplicity, joy, and hospitality.” During her years with the community she has been involved in teaching, in formation ministry, retreat and vocation ministry, and liturgical planning and celebration. Her love of interior decorating and liturgical décor is evident in her service. Sister Judith Marie earned her B.A. in Home Economics Education from Texas A&I University in Kingsville, and her Master’s Degree in Religious education from St. Mary’s University, San Antonio.
She was appointed to teach liturgy for the Permanent Diaconate class in the Diocese of Corpus Christi. From 1979-1980, Sister Judith Marie taught a scripture class for St. Mary’s University as an extension program here in Corpus Christi. She also presented workshops on the diocesan level on scripture and the liturgical year. She has been an elected delegate and member of the Steering committee for the General Chapter of the Congregation. She has served on numerous commissions and committees of the congregation. She taught at Sacred Heart Elementary School and Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi and Villa Maria High School and Middle School. Sister continues teaching religion classes at IWA in Corpus Christi and works with the Incarnate Word Academy Mission Team.
In August of 2016, Sister Judith Marie was appointed congregational promoter of the Cause for beatification of Jeanne Chezard de Matel. She celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of her religious profession in 2017.
Sister Jo Ann Saenz is a native of Texas being born to a large family in Robstown; she says that her first contact with the Incarnate Word Sisters was through Sister Nancy Angel, Sister Rosemary Lichnovsky and then Sister Catherine Brehony, who helped her further in discerning her call to serve the Incarnate Word. The “at home” feeling was one of Sister Jo Ann’s first reactions as she arrived at the Incarnate Word Motherhouse. Sister Jo Ann attended the Texas Agricultural Extension Services of Texas A&M University and was awarded certification for the Expanded Nutrition Program in Culinary Arts as Cook/Baker. At Del Mar College, she graduated with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Restaurant Management. She was certified as a Foodservice Supervisor and Manager. She completed the Diocese of Corpus Christi Pastoral Institute Course of Study prescribed for a diploma in Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Sister Jo Ann worked at St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Alice for two years where she taught religion and was music and youth minister. She was Food Manager for Incarnate Word Convent and took courses in the Del Mar Restaurant Management program. Sister Jo Ann volunteered with the Hospice Program at Christus Spohn Hospital. She was nominated Volunteer of the Year in 2011. Sister also was in music ministry at St. Patrick Church, Bishop Garriga Middle School; St. Joseph Church and Our Lady of Pillar Church. She also is the out-of-town driver for the Sisters. She worked with youth at Camp Corpus Christi in Medina, Texas for six summers.
When speaking about her goals in life, Sister Jo Ann says: “God has given me many talents and I am very grateful and always willing to share them. She sees herself and the Incarnate Word community witnessing as women religious in the world today, in classrooms, youth ministry, CCD, parish work, social work, and most of all through their visible presence to the people of God.
Sister Therese Ann Ridge was born in Panama into a family of the Panama Canal builders; all of her early education took place there. It was only when her father retired to Texas that Sister Therese began her graduate studies; she received a Bachelor of Music degree which she followed with training as a teacher. She then returned to the Canal Zone to teach music at a number of elementary schools there. In 1981, while she was studying at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio she was invited to a vocation retreat with the Sisters of the Incarnate Word in Corpus Christi. She later reflected: “I cannot explain it, but I knew when I came into the Motherhouse that I was called to this Congregation, my niche.”
Sister Therese has taught at Incarnate Word Academy and has shared her very capable office skills with the high school; she became involved with the diocesan Office of the Disabled for the Deaf and Mentally Challenged. In Kingsville, she served as Director of Religious Education and RCIA Coordinator. It was during this time in Kingsville that she began giving healing seminars for families. In 1998 she achieved the certification as a hospital chaplain and began working at Doctors’ Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburgh, Texas. Currently she continues to give seminars with Sister Emma Marie Stillman on “Healing Your Family Tree through the Eucharist” and she is always invited to give parish talks on numerous subjects.
In April, 2013, she was diagnosed with a double cerebral aneurysm and transported by air to St. Luke’s Hospital in Houston where the doctor told her it was a miracle that she survived. Sister Therese said of this experience:
Sister Mary Anne Pagano is a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, and is one of five children. She is also the niece of Sister Mary Anne Roddy for whom she was named. She graduated from Incarnate Word Academy and knew many of the sisters but decided to follow a career in business. In this, she worked at M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston and also at the Methodist and Twelve Oaks Hospitals. In 1972, she moved to San Antonio where she worked in Bexar County Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base. Returning to Corpus Christi to be near her family, she began employment at Southwestern Bell Telephone.
In all of this time, she said that she felt something was missing; she attended a Cursillo Retreat which she credits with changing her mind. She then called on the vocation director at Incarnate Word and made the decision to become a sister. Throughout all of these events, she offered her great skill of music to parishes wherever she lived. She has served as organist to many parishes throughout south Texas and she is a longtime member of the American Guild of Organists. Her musical skills extend into choir directing, guitar, accordion, and piano. In the sisters’ new convent she serves as community organist as well as driver for the older sisters.
Sister Mary Anne is extremely skilled at needlework and her finished products are donated to Incarnate Word Academy and used for the auctions to help with tuition assistance. She can be found many times doing phone duty while working on a new masterpiece. She also enjoys traveling and visiting with her family.
Sister Agueda Oviedo was born in San Juan, Texas; Agueda claims St. Joseph Parish in Donna, Texas, as her home parish. There she attended religious education classes and received her initiation sacraments. Desiring an education at a Catholic college, Agueda attended St. Edward’s University in Austin and completed requirements to earn a BS in Biology at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Her experience in the biological-medical field included work at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. She was part of a team to commercialize a breast cancer drug. For 12 years she worked in plant cell research and development both as a manager and also she did research in the area of plant cell tissue to treat many patients.
The Holy Spirit put Sister Emma Marie Stillman in Agueda’s path in her work as Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. She ended up taking up a spirituality class with Sister Emma Marie and she got to know her and Sister Therese Ann Ridge well. Sister Emma became her spiritual guide during the early phase of her vocation discernment.
Agueda entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 2009 and is now teaching full time at Incarnate Word Academy Middle Level. She is also in studies with the Catholic Distance University. In June of 2017, Sister was elected as a Local Counselor to Sister Martha O’Gara, Sister-in-Charge of the Motherhouse community.
Sister Agueda is chair of the community’s Social Justice Committee which deals with deals with human issues from before birth to the end of a full life. Sister sees the future of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament as one of extending the Incarnate Word to the world united as one with other Incarnate Word congregations and in our living in the Divine Will of the Incarnate Word.
Sister Rosa Maria Ortiz was born in Laredo, Texas, in 1962; she was the oldest of her siblings, two brothers and a sister. Her family later moved to Orange Grove. Rosa is from Saint John of the Cross Parish in Orange Grove. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 1990. Rosa graduated from Pan American University in 1986 with a degree in Music Education with specialization in instrumental music. When she was asked what influenced her to consider religious life, she responded, “Two things. First, I was deeply impressed with my first grade teacher, Sister Adelaida Sada, an Incarnate Word Sister. I remember wanting to be a Sister that far back when I went to Saint Theresa School in Corpus Christi. Second, Father McGowan, the pastor of my parish, inspired me with his life of Service.”
An act of service that changed her life and that she has exposed her students at Incarnate Word Academy to is feeding the homeless who live on the streets of Corpus Christi. Many Saturdays and Sunday mornings Sister Rosa brings a group of student volunteers to the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House of Corpus Christi to serve a breakfast. Sister Rosa believes, “It makes a big difference in the lives of the kids and hopefully in the lives of the parents. It aids in breaking down the walls of prejudice. We are called to feed the homeless, not judge them.” Sister Rosa came to Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi to teach religion and band classes at the Middle and Secondary Level. She was Vocation Director for the Incarnate Word Congregation for some time before going back to Incarnate Word Academy Secondary Level as Campus Minister. She has taken the Mission Team into the poorest areas in Mexico, Laredo and Corpus Christi to assist the poor in rebuilding and painting their homes.
In July of 2016, Sister Rosa began her new ministry of Faith Formation at St. Phillip the Apostle Parish. She is in studies with St. John University, Collegeville. In her free time Sister Rosa enjoys the outdoors—hiking, camping, animals, and the many faces of nature, the beaches, hills, mountains and desert.
Sister Martha O’Gara, the oldest of six children, grew up in Sligo, Ireland, and came to Texas in 1949 to join the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. She received her BA from St. Edward’s University in Austin and then completed an MA from Texas A&I in Kingsville. In her early years, she taught in several elementaries in South Texas and in both congregational high schools in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. She has served as principal at several schools as well as registrar and class and club sponsors. Within the congregation she has served on the general council and as sister-in-charge of the motherhouse. In 1984, she was elected to two terms as superior general.
During her long career, she has been on advisory and development boards for the schools, the diocese, and the city and county; additionally she has been a member of countless committees and conferences. She was on the team which rewrote the constitution for the sisters following Vatican II and her great skills in mediation have been requested by many people. Within the congregation, she has served in the formation of the young sisters. She has always proven to be a calm and reassuring presence to everyone. After leaving office as superior general in 1992, Sister Martha traveled to East Africa where she taught at St. Xavier High School in Nakuru, Kenya.
In her retirement from active duty, she has kept busy at the convent with helping others and making contributions of her needlework to the school auctions. She enjoys reading and keeping up with current events within the country and the Church. Traveling and sightseeing are always fun for her and she has a fondness for antique shop browsing.
Sister Theresa Nguyen comes from a family of eight children in Dal Mil, Vietnam. She came to the United States in 2004 as a Catholic Worker; in this way, she was introduced to the sisters of the Incarnate Word in Corpus Christi. She resided in the convent while working at Mother Teresa Day Shelter for the Homeless. During this time, she realized she was drawn to the sisters and then applied and was accepted into the formation program.
Theresa brought so many talents to the convent and was an able and willing helper to everyone. With her great artistic ability, she created beautiful flower arrangements for the dining room and the chapel. She mastered so many skills as a new American citizen; she learned to read and write in English very quickly and she took up computer skills and excelled at them. She received a BS degree in Computer Information Systems from Incarnate Word in San Antonio and now teaches computer skills at Incarnate Word Elementary in Brownsville.
When in Corpus Christi, Sister Theresa participates in liturgical worship with the Vietnamese communities in local parishes. When she made final vows in 2014, her mother and sisters traveled from Vietnam to celebrate with her and the community and she was able to have a long family reunion. Like so many of the sisters in the community, she has found new and often very different talents that come to the fore and she is completely open and willing to share what she has learned with everyone.
Sister Raquel Newman born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1959. She graduated from Incarnate Word Academy in 1977; she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 1986, and made her first profession of vows on January 23, 1988. In 1992 she earned a B.A. degree from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, graduating with a major in religion and a minor in business management; she continued her education with a graduate course in current theological issues at Incarnate Word College in San Antonio.
Sister Raquel has many interests: she is an avid reader and a Star Trek fan; she has mastered computer skills doing programming and setting up websites for the congregation and Incarnate Word Academy; she collects writing pens; and longs for enough time to do wood carving, which she finds a very prayerful activity. Sister has worked and chaired numerous commissions and committees for the congregation and she has been secretary and active delegate to general chapters, and she served as Sister-in-Charge of the Motherhouse.
Sister Raquel has taught religion and yearbook classes at Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi. She is a great fan and supporter of Incarnate Word Academy sports teams, and has directed her students in the production of excellent yearbooks documenting the growth and spirit of IWA as an exceptional Catholic school centered in the person of Jesus, the Incarnate Word. In August of 2016, Sister Raquel continued to work as a religion teacher and sponsor.
Sister Barbara Marie Netek was born in Taft, Texas and she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 1965, and made her first profession of vows on June of 1968. She states that her very first memory is of standing in her baby bed, looking out the window at her family’s green farm lands and the cattle in the pasture. She is grateful for her 18 years on the farm, where her parents, two brothers, two sisters and she prayed together, worked together and played together. It was there that she learned to be responsible, share in the family work and in family prayer. “Like all farm families, we relied on our hard work and the weather for the bounty of the crops, the livestock and the family garden. Barbara Marie followed her older sister Bernice to Incarnate Word Academy as a boarder at the convent. There she came to know the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament Sisters. She told her family that she was going to become a nun.
Sister Barbara attended Christopher College in Corpus Christi, Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, and the Universities of San Francisco and Dayton. She earned her Bachelor of Science and then Master’s degrees with fields of study in health, physical education and religion. She was gifted as what she describes as being a “handy woman” in her community. She dabbled in minor plumbing, electrical repairs, carpentry, and auto mechanics. She continues to enjoy the outdoors; growing plants, mowing the yard, trimming trees, and helping in God’s work of beautifying the earth.
Sister was appointed Co-Director of Incarnate Word Associates, and as a member of the Facilities Committee for Incarnate Word Academy Corpus Christi. She was appointed to the FBNRC Board of Directors, and as a full time Director of Religious Education, Acts of Charity, Safe Environment for St. Pius X Parish. Sister is a member of the Socially Responsible Investment Coalition.
Sister Kathleen McDonagh once commented that her two math degrees were “cold” compared to the warmth and beauty of the MA in Theology she achieved at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. It was this degree that enabled her to write prolifically for the community, the diocese, and in the translations and canonization process for our Foundress, Jeanne Chezard de Matel. For several summers in the nineteen-eighties, Sister worked in Rome on the canonization; her skills in English were matched by the Italian and French she mastered. Changing from the teaching of math to that of theology for both students and adults gave her great delight.
Sister was born in Ireland and was one of five vocations in her immediate family and seven others in her larger family. In addition, she was the organist and then choir director for the congregation. In addition she became something of a television star of a monthly series on Scripture and prayer. The archives of the convent are full of her writings and her translations and yet, even though she kept herself very busy with this work, she was never too involved to stop and help anyone asking for her assistance. She also served on the General Council and worked closely in the formation of the younger sisters.
In her retirement years, she has slowed down but she is always friendly and gentle and continues to inspire us with her quiet patient suffering and her faithfulness to prayer and the Liturgy.
Sister Helga Leija was born in Cameron County, Texas, on October 21, 1978. Helga graduated from Pace High School in Brownsville; she then earned her BS in Translations from the University of Texas at Brownsville. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 2004, and made her final profession on July 30, 2011, at St. Mary’s Church in Brownsville, Texas. Speaking about her vocation story Sister Helga says: “One day, as I prayed in the college’s little chapel, I just knew that I wanted to belong completely to God just like the Sister of Divine Providence that I had once met. Several months later I told a priest that I wanted to be a Sister and asked him what I needed. “A vocation,” he said. At the time I was sure I did not have a vocation, but I prayed for one. I pleaded with God, “I want to love you and serve you. If you give me a vocation, I will be yours forever.”
Sister Helga has served in ministry at Incarnate Word Academy Secondary and Montessori Levels in Corpus Christi, Saint Joseph’s Academy in Brownsville teaching world religions, and at Incarnate Word Academy Preschool in Brownsville. In 2013, she received a Master’s in Theology from Incarnate Word University in San Antonio. Sister Helga has taught at SS Cyril & Methodius Catholic Elementary School and at Incarnate Word Elementary School in Corpus Christi.
In July of 2017, Sister Helga Leija was missioned to Nairobi, Kenya. She will be working on translation to English of documents of the Tlalpan Sisters for the Initial Formation community and also for their Lay Associate program. She will also provide Spanish classes for the Sisters. “I see our Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament present on all continents, spreading the gospel of love, and our being extensions of the Incarnation.”
Sister Rosemary Lichnovsky was born in West, Texas in 1942 and after completing elementary and secondary studies, she worked at her father’s grocery store and at the McLennan County district clerk’s office in Waco. During her freshman year at Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, she discerned a call to religious life. Her family encouraged and supported her in her discernment. Rosemary entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament on August 30, 1963, and made her first profession of vows on June 4, 1966 and perpetual vows on August 15, 1970. Sister Rosemary holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, and a master’s degree in religious education/adult faith formation from Sr. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Her teaching experience includes teaching in elementary and secondary schools in the dioceses of Brownsville and Corpus Christi; teaching adult classes for the Pastoral Institute of Corpus Christi; and teaching extension courses for Incarnate Word College and Saint Mary’s University. She was Choir Director at St. Theresa’s School in Corpus Christi, St. Thomas in Brownsville, and St. Gertrude’s in Kingsville.
In 1990, she was appointed Bereavement Coordinator for the Valley Baptist Medical Center Hospice Program. In 1999, Sister was named Bereavement Coordinator of the Year by the Texas and New Mexico Hospice Organization for her work with the Hospice Team. When she was asked what draws a person to such an emotionally charged and demanding work, she said, “It really becomes a way of life to us. We become a family team giving of ourselves to our ‘End of Life’ patients; we also continue providing for those who survive.
On April 2, 2016, Sister Rosemary celebrated her 50th anniversary of religious profession at St. John the Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. Sister was joined by many members of her family and friends at the new convent on Lipes Blvd. for a reception and dinner. After 50 years in consecrated life she still assists with love and compassion in the ministry of care of the spiritual and physical needs of the Sisters in St. Ann's healthcare section at Incarnate Word Convent Motherhouse.
Sister Michelle Marie Kuntscher, a native Texan from Vattman, followed her aunt and older sister into the Incarnate Word Convent in 1960. Following her graduation from high school, she earned a BA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and an MA from Texas A&M University in College Station.
Having taught English in several schools in both Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Sister Michelle became our first “foreign missionary” in Oaxaca, Mexico. With a great flair for writing and poetry, she has been involved in communication work, directing the Associates of the Incarnate Word, in working with new vocations, and has generously served on countless committees and General Chapters.
Additionally, Sister has been elected Superior General of the Order for four terms and has attended to the sisters in a loving and gentle way. Her name is listed among those who have helped at The Ark, Metro Ministries, and Mother Teresa Homeless Shelter and numerous boards for the diocese, the school and the congregation.
Currently, she is preparing to open a Spirit Center in Bluntzer, Texas, which will serve as a retreat site for the youth of the diocese. Living in a ranch house next to the Spirit Center has given her the opportunity to work with animals of all kinds, a skill she has nearly perfected. She has been gifted with a lovely voice and has often joined with her brothers and sisters to sing for the community as well as family get-togethers. Jovial, with a keen sense of humor, she is a great leader for the positive.
Sister Juliane Kuntscher is the second of ten children born in Vattman, Texas; she began her early education in Vattman and was introduced to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word by her aunt, Sister Ange Remlinger. She came to Corpus Christi for her senior year at Incarnate Word Academy; she was in the first class to graduate from the Alameda campus and from there she entered the convent in 1956.
Sister Juliane earned a BA degree from Webster College in Webster Groves, Missouri, and a Master’s degree from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, attending the latter institution on a National Science Foundation grant. Sister’s teaching experience includes the following schools: Cathedral, Sacred Heart, St. Patrick and Christ the King elementary schools in Corpus Christi; St. Gertrude School in Kingsville; Incarnate Word Academy Junior High and High School, and Archbishop Oscar Romero School in Corpus Christi; Villa Maria High School and Incarnate Word Elementary and Junior High Schools in Brownsville. Sister was also involved in CCD ministry in Corpus Christi, Violet, Brownsville, Port Isabel and Beeville. Summer programs included Foresight for youth in the Diocese of Brownsville, conducted in San Juan, Texas; Bible Study Programs in Door County, Wisconsin; and the Migrant Program in Renville, Olivia, and Redwood Falls, Minnesota, in service to the Texas migrant population there.
Within the community, she has been an elected delegate to the congregation’s General Chapter. Sister worked as a member of various committees and commissions of the congregation – Community Life, Health, Public Relations, Apostolate, Vocation, Formation, Communications and Ongoing Formation. She has served as Secretary General of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament from June 2008 to June 2016. After that, Sister assumed some of the internal duties needed at the Motherhouse.
Sister Mary Ann Korczynski was born in Corpus Christi and raised and received her early education in George West, Texas. She entered the Sisters of the Incarnate Word in 1963. She then graduated from Incarnate Word College with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and a Master of Natural Science with specialization in mathematics from the University of Oklahoma.
Sister taught at St. Patrick School and Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi, and at Incarnate Word Academy and Villa Maria High School in Brownsville. From 1968 to 1984 she served as treasurer on school campuses in Brownsville and Corpus Christi, before becoming Treasurer General of the Congregation. She served as vice-president and president of the Council of Religious Treasurers (CORT) Region X11. She served on the Board of Directors and as Treasurer of the Fannie Bluntzer Nason Renewal Center, Inc., (dba The Spirit Center) since its inception, and was vice chair of the Members Board. She was Treasurer and Trustee of the Incarnate Word Academy Foundation.
Sister Mary Ann has a great love of her community and a deep sense of stewardship of God’s spiritual gifts as well as the material resources God has bestowed on the congregation. She has experience, understanding and knowledge of financial and legal matters of the congregation and the ability to collaborate, negotiate and think strategically. She has practicality with a view to long-range outcomes. In 2016, Sister celebrated her golden jubilee of religious profession with sisters, friends and family. She is currently serving as local treasurer for the Motherhouse.
Sister Jude Janecek was born in Victoria, Texas and grew up in Corpus Christi where she graduated from Incarnate Word Academy and then entered the Sisters of the Incarnate Word, following her own sister into the Order. She earned a teaching degree from St. Edward’s University, a Master’s degree in administration and drama from Texas A&I University in Kingsville, and a Master’s in theology from St. Mary’s University. She also holds a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Youth Ministry from St. Mary’s University, Baltimore, Maryland. During her internship for her counseling degree, she worked at the Women’s Shelter of South Texas and Christus Spohn Hospice. This valuable experience she brings to her parish ministry, creating a welcoming and caring faith community.
Upon being asked to share something about her experience as a Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament on the occasion of her 50th Jubilee, Sister responded, “My jubilee year is an opportunity for me to pause along this labyrinth journey which I share with my family, my Sisters in religious life, and the many friends who have gifted me with shared ministry and friendship. I rejoice and give thanks for fifty years of being blessed, and I place my trust in the Word Incarnate, as together we continue this journey, connecting ‘His –story’ with our story.”
Currently Sister Jude is Adult Faith Formation Coordinator and Pastoral Counselor in Sacred Heart Parish in Rockport. She is also a member of the Diocesan School Board for the Diocese of Corpus Christi. She is a great lover of nature and animals and is always willing to share in laughter and good times at the Motherhouse convent.
Sister Mary Paul Hon comes from a large family in Brownsville, Texas where she graduated from Villa Maria High School and then entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 1958. She earned a BA from St. Edward’s University in Austin and an MA from Loyola University in New Orleans. Her studies also took her to Texas A&I University in Kingsville and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
Sister served as teacher and then principal at several schools in Corpus Christi, Brownsville, and San Antonio. She also took part in a mission to Mexico to work among the poor. Within the community she has served as councilor to the superior general, as delegate to the several general chapters and on numerous committees that serve the community. She has acted as a Eucharistic Minister and for many years traveled to the Texas State Prison system to work closely with the prisoners and minister to their spiritual needs.
In 2017, she was surprised by Bishop Michael Mulvey with the Evangelii Gaudiem recognition for her ten years of prison ministry; this was an award initiated by the Bishop to honor those who lives radiate the joy of Gospel Living. Pastors are asked to nominate parishioners for this award; Bishop Mulvey himself nominated Sister Mary Paul. Now that she is retired from active ministry, Sister enjoys visiting with her family and keeping up with current events in the world and in the Church; she is always ready for a hearty discussion of issues with anyone and anywhere.
Sister Lou Ella Hickman was born in Brownsville, Texas and attended Texas Southmost College where she was involved in many clubs; while attending Texas A&I University in Kingsville, she was Poetry Editor of the Literary Magazine. In subsequent years, she has taught at various schools around the Diocese of Corpus Christi including Christ the King and Cathedral schools in Corpus Christi and St. Gertrude School in Kingsville, Texas. During these same years she was involved in CCD at a number of parishes in South Texas. As a poetess, Sister Lou Ella traveled to Myanmar with a groups of poets and stayed in an Asian home sharing food and customs. She returned with a greater sense of the value of all religions and people saying: “God’s presence can be found in the truth treasured by all faith.”
Upon coming to Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi, she began working in the libraries of the elementary and high school levels. Her love of reading flowed over into helping students gain a love of books. During all of this time, she was writing poetry and prose for magazine publication. Many of her articles of research and theology have been published over the years. In 2016, Sister Lou Ella had her first book of poetry published—“She: Robed and Wordless.”
She also became interested in giving spiritual directions and began attending a formation program at St. Peter upon the Water, a Center for contemplative and prayerful spiritual direction and formation. She graduated from this program in 2012 and began taking in patrons for spiritual guidance.
Living at the new convent, Sister Lou Ella helps out generously with all sorts of duties around the house and she has developed a lush garden of plants in and around the new sunroom. She also works quietly collecting clothing and school supplies to help those who are in need.
Sister Camelia Herlihy was one of three children in her family born in New York City; she is one of six relatives who came to Texas to join the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. She was only fourteen when she made that journey; she finished her early education at Incarnate Word Academy. From here, she received a BA from St. Edward’s University in Austin and an MA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She also accomplished a certificate in counseling from the Texas Education Agency. For many years she taught in schools in both Corpus Christi and Brownsville and while in the latter she also worked at the Newman Center at Texas Southmost College.
In 1971, Sister Camelia was appointed Diocesan Supervisor of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Corpus Christi where she pursued the goal of insuring that all twenty-eight diocesan schools surpassed the accreditation goals of the state; as a result of her work, the Diocese of Corpus Christi became the second diocese in the state to become fully accredited. Bishop Drury then appointed her as Superintendent of the Catholic Schools. After then serving for another twenty years as principal of Incarnate Word Elementary and fifty-four years in education in general, Sister retired—or so she thought. She was then asked to assume the administration of another school from which she retired after another year of service. When the principal of Incarnate Word Elementary became ill, Sister Camelia was called back to handle the duties for another year.
Now, she has retired for a third time and sometimes looks at the phone expecting another call back to duty. She helps out with all sorts of activities at the convent in preparation for jubilees, funerals, and special occasions. She—so far—is able to enjoy walking, reading, and keeping up with events in the world and in the Church. But, if you need her, she will be ready to help.
Sister Maria Irma Gonzalez was born in Brownsville, Texas in 1947 and she attended Brownsville High School from where she entered the convent of the Incarnate Word in 1967. Her early studies as a sister include a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&I University in Kingsville. She continued her studies at Corpus Christi State University and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Sister began her teaching at Immaculate Conception School and then moved to Villa Maria School, both in Brownsville. She then taught at Bishop Oscar Romero Junior High School in Corpus Christi before returning to her home town. Here, she accompanied the Villa Maria High School students who relocated to St. Joseph Academy where she taught math and computer science. It is at St. Joseph that she served as Assistant Principal for Academics.
In 2000, Sister Irma was elected Superior General of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and was re-elected in 2004. Additionally, she has served as councilor to the superior general for several terms. Within the congregation, she has been on numerous committees and has been a delegate to the general chapter; she also held the position of sister-in-charge of the Brownville convent. As the congregation works toward reunion with other Incarnate Word Congregations, Sister Irma has served as representative and translator in all of the work needed for the success of this reunion.
As another sister said about Sister Irma, “she is the first one to jump in when help is needed on whatever the project may be and she is always one of the most jovial and fun-loving in the group". Her musical abilities, especially with the flute, are on display any time the sisters come together for fun or Liturgy.
Sister Mary Lucy Garcia is a native Texan, born in Brownsville as one of six children. Thinking God would give her a striking sign of His desires for her, she waited for three years before entering the sisters of the Incarnate Word; she finally realized that God had spoken to her but very quietly and she acquiesced. Over the early part of her career, Sister Lucy earned three masters’ degrees and worked very diligently in the education of the young people of South Texas. She also traveled to McKinney, Texas where she helped to start the first Job Corp program for women in 1966; interestingly, she had to forego the habit during this tenure and at a time when lay clothing was still not used by religious sisters.
In 1990, the Incarnate Word Congregation in Mexico asked Sister Mary Lucy to go to Nakuru, Kenya, where she became Head Mistress of their St. Xavier High School. The Sisters there needed teachers who spoke English. She started in January of 1991. Of her time in Kenya, Sister Mary Lucy said, “It was paradise. During my time there, St. Xavier was one of the top 100 high schools in Kenya for five years". She might have remained in Africa for many years but cancer gave her a new direction.
Now in her nineties, Sister Mary Lucy is not ready to slow down. She remains a great source of information and continues to share knowledge of God’s love. She only recently retired from teaching adult Bible classes and now is serving the Incarnate Word and her Sisters where needed at the Motherhouse. She is extremely glad “for the grace of perseverance. Vocations are a call from God. If we can persevere, then it is God’s gift because we humans can get in the way.”
Sister Rose Miriam Gansle is a native Texan, born in Corpus Christi. Growing up she knew she was to be a sister and was attracted to the Incarnate Word sisters who had taught her from pre-kinder through high school. Because she loved music along with education, Sister majored in the two subjects and received two BA degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She then went on to teach for almost thirty years in Brownsville, Kingsville and at several of the elementary Catholic schools in Corpus Christi. For years she sang in the Corpus Christi Chorale and has directed many choirs both on a high school and diocesan level. She was a member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.
Within the community she has served on various committees including the Steering Committee for the general chapters. While at St. Patrick’s School, she was the sister-in-charge of the convent. She has helped with vocation work for the community and has had two stints as Secretary General for the congregation. From 2009 to 2015, Sister Rose Miriam lived and worked with the Incarnate Word Sisters in Cleveland and served as their secretary to the General Administration.
In her leisure time, Sister enjoys games and puzzles and loves to read. In the evenings, she is one of the loyal members of the gaming table in the community. She enjoys jokes and teasing and loves to laugh and share good times with her family and the sisters.
Sister Caroline Fritter is the chief ornithologist of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. Upon moving to the new convent, she has been able to enjoy watching the activities of so many birds which come to the feeder outside her window. She takes great delight in sharing her observations, always with such humor, of the antics of her “neighbors.” She was and is a most dedicated person no matter what the task has been over her many years. In moving to the new convent, she quickly learned how to use the new heavy-duty dishwasher and single-handedly takes care of the breakfast dishes as the other sisters dash off to various duties. Make no mistake: she is gifted with a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh and has been the instigator of many a practical joke over the years. In addition to that, she is also a lover of animals; for her 50th jubilee, she received Max, a black poodle, who waits for her at the Rainbow Bridge.
Born in Corpus Christi, Sister Caroline first met the sisters as a student at Incarnate Word Academy. Upon graduation, she entered the community and began a religious and educational career that has now passed the 70th anniversary.
During those early years she completed a BA at Incarnate Word in San Antonio and went on to complete an MA at Notre Dame. Like most sisters everywhere, she has not retired from service; she is no longer in active ministry, the list of which would take several paragraphs touching on administration in both school and convent, teaching at all levels and in many of the local schools, and then becoming the high school librarian for fourteen years and the convent librarian for an even longer stint.
Mixing humor and dedication with enjoyment of life and fidelity to prayer and the sacraments has made Sister Caroline one of the many memorable Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.
Sister Patrice Floyd is a native Corpus Christian, born here in 1938. She attended Christi the King Elementary and then graduated from Incarnate Word Academy where she became acquainted with the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. She entered the convent in 1962 and began her studies. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and stayed for a Master’s Degree in Education. She also completed graduate work in counseling and theology at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
Sister Patrice had served in three different dioceses over the course of her career: in Corpus Christi she served as both teacher and administrator of Cathedral, School, Christ the King, Most Precious Blood, St Pius and Incarnate Word Junior High. She spent several years at St. Ann’s School in San Antonio where she was principal and registrar. Traveling to Fort Worth, Texas, she worked in the diocesan school office as Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and oversaw a number of programs including the Drug Free School, Sports League, School Nurses and Federal School programs. She helped in the opening of a new school in Arlington, Texas and was the interim principal of All Saints School in Fort Worth.
In her retirement, Sister has kept busy and worked for several years as a volunteer at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, where she was elected to several of the volunteers’ post. She has always had a great talent for sewing and is generous in offering her talents to the sisters. She is also a member and sponsor of the Theresians, a group of ladies who meet once a month at the convent for Mass, class and faith-sharing.
Sister Anna Marie Espinosa is a native Texan from Corpus Christi; she is one of three daughters in her family. She attended Incarnate Word Academy and upon graduation in 1966, entered the sisters of the Incarnate Word. Her studies include a BA from Texas A&M in Kingsville and an MA in Administration from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Additionally, she has studied Theology at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
Her early ministries include teaching both elementary and middle school classes in the diocese of Corpus Christi; when she was assigned to Brownville, she began working as registrar and it is in this position that she began learning the new world of computers. She has had turns as Development Director for both the Diocese of Brownsville and Incarnate Word Academy in Corpus Christi. In the latter position, she coordinated a million-dollar campaign for the campus which generated funds for expansion and renovation. From this position, she was appointed President of the Incarnate Word Academy campus and she spearheaded the building of the Kenedy Science Center for the Middle School. She is currently serving as Vocation Director for the congregation. Within the community, she has worked on numerous committees and was the chair of the General Chapter Facilitation Committee for 2016.
In her leisure time, Sister Anna Marie is a great reader and she enjoys watching movies with the sisters and visiting with young women interested in religious life. She keeps up with news of the world and the Church and likes to take part in discussions of current events.
Sister Esther Dunegan is a native Texan born and raised in Kingsville; she entered the Sisters of the Incarnate Word in September of 1965. As a young sister, she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and followed this with a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of American in Washington, D.C. Sister taught for several years and Incarnate Word Academy and Villa Maria High School in Brownsville and in 1979, she was transferred to the Diocese of Brownsville where she served as a Collegiate Judge in the Tribunal. In 1989, Bishop John Fitzpatrick appointed her as Chancellor of the Diocese of Brownsville. This was a great sign of the Bishop’s confidence in her as a woman and religious to assist him in the running of the diocese.
Within the congregation, she has served two terms as councilor to the Superior General and has worked on several committees to help with the work of the Order. She now is assigned as Chancellor of the Beaumont diocese where, in 2009, she was one of twelve to receive papal honors for the many years dedicated to the Catholic Church; she was awarded the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the highest honor that can be awarded to a Catholic lay person by the Papacy. She responded to this award: “this is not just an honor for me but an honor for my entire Congregation".
Sister Esther enjoys reading and nature in her spare time and takes great pleasure in working with garden plants for her relaxation.
Sister Elizabeth Close is one of a family of six children born in Dublin, Ireland; she first heard of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word from Sister Kathleen McDonagh and Sister Barbara Cashel who had come from Texas seeking vocations. She came to the United States in 1964 to begin her religious life. She earned a BA from Incarnate Word College (now University) in San Antonio and then achieved a certificate in special education and the Montessori Method which she continues to teach at Incarnate Word Elementary in Corpus Christi.
She sees her time in Nakuru, Africa as one of the great experiences of her life. It was something she had wanted to do ever since she was a young girl. She taught at St. Xavier High School in Nakuru which followed the British system of education and enabled her to have students from a cross-section of the city: Catholics, Protestants, Hindus and Muslims who attended the ninth through twelfth grades. In America, she helped with summer catechetical programs in King Ranch in Texas and with migrant workers in Minnesota. Within the congregation, she has served on the general council to the superior general and as a delegate to the general chapters; she has had a term as sister-in-charge of the Motherhouse as well as assistant to the sister-in-charge.
A recent picture (which may appear on this website) shows Sister Elizabeth exulting as the winner of a game in one of the evening sessions in which the sisters relax and have fun. She is a generous and joyful example of what sisters should be and she is willing to give of herself and her many talents wherever they are needed.
Sister Denise Cassidy is a native of Dublin, Ireland and the middle child in a family of eight. She became interested in religious life upon meeting and listening to Sister Claude McManus, an Incarnate Word Sister in a visit from Texas. She came to the United States in 1956 where she achieved a BA from St. Edward’s University in Austin and an MA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.
At the close of her teaching career she received an award for 55 years of service to the Diocese of Corpus Christi from superintendent Rene Gonzalez, a young man she had transformed into a teacher in his early years; whenever speaking of her, he could not help but get choked up as he recalled all she had done to help teachers and students. She has taught in many schools in Corpus Christi and at Incarnate Word Academy in Brownsville. She also served as principal for over twenty-five years. As a young sister, she spent a summer in mission work in Arteaga, Mexico and returned inspired by the happiness among a people so caught in poverty.
In her retirement, Sister Denise continued to tutor students who were struggling in reading and math and stopped only when she developed kidney cancer. The cancer returned and has slowed her down only a bit; she continues to walk and visit with the sisters and she still maintains her position at the Masters canasta game most evenings. She also still take great delight in going to Ireland and seeing her burgeoning family of great nieces and nephews.
Sister Maria Elizabeth Brehony was one of numerous religious vocations from the west of Ireland; she came to the United States in 1951 to join her two older sisters in religious life. As a young sister, she received a BA from St. Edward’s University and later a Master’s Degree in Latin American History from Texas A&I University in Kingsville. After beginning teaching, she continued on and received a second MA in counseling from Corpus Christi State University, a certificate in administration and theology classes from Incarnate Word University in San Antonio.
Over the years, she has taught at numerous parochial and private schools in both elementary and high school levels in the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Brownsville. She has served as principal for twenty-three years in many of these schools. In 1992, she was given the opportunity to live and minister in Kenya, an experience that left her with a great admiration for a people full of hope and patience despite great poverty. She said: “their sharing and caring for one another is striking and exhilarating to observe.” Within the community, she has worked and helped with many positions and committees, always serving as a delegate to the general chapter.
In recent years, she has become certified in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Program which brings a rich and deep involvement in the Christian life for children and she is the Co-Liaison for the Incarnate Word Associates. Sister Maria Elizabeth is always hard at work helping in the new convent and offering wise advice and counseling to anyone who calls upon her.
Sister Colette Brehony is the youngest of a vocational family of four from Sligo, Ireland and one of a total of nine from the extended family over the last century who joined the Sisters of the Incarnate Word Order. She came to Texas in 1952 and began her education and religious life. A BA from St. Edward’s University was followed by an MA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Her careers as teacher and principal were then supplemented by her interest in theology and further studies at several universities including Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio and Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
With generosity and a great mind she has served on many diocesan boards for Corpus Christi, Brownsville and many congregational commissions. Her final position before retiring was as Director of Religious Education in Kingsville, a job that brought her much joy and fulfillment. She has served on three general councils as support to the Superior General. In addition, she was recently sister-in-charge of the Motherhouse during the move to the new convent; her guiding work and great spirit served as a support and encouragement to all the sisters.
Sister Colette has a green thumb and works at the new convent with indoor and outdoor plants; her African violets are prize-worthy. She is an avid reader and keeps up with current events in both political and Church activities. She is generous with her time and talents and enjoys helping the sisters in countless ways.
Sister Catherine Brehony is a native of County Sligo, Ireland, and very early answered the vocation call when Sisters of the Incarnate Word visited her hometown. One of those sisters was a relative and during subsequent visits, Sister Catherine inspired three of her own sisters to follow her to Texas. Her BA magna cum laude was earned from Incarnate Word College (now University) in San Antonio. This was followed by grants from the National Science Foundation and an MA in Math from Notre Dame University.
Throughout a long and distinguished career, Sister Catherine has taught at numerous schools; her greatest achievements came at Incarnate Word Academy where students loved her as a firm and dedicated teacher but also a wonderful model of a life well lived. In a valedictorian speech, one student summarized her:
With graduate work in Theology, Sister Catherine supplemented her teaching with CCD classes in different parishes of the diocese. She also serve within the congeegation as a memeber of the general council, director of the Formation Program, and on a variety of committees.
Upon retirement, Sister Catherine began offering assistance in the convent in any way possible; she is always generous with her time and enjoys life to the fullest. She is one of the members of the “Masters” table for canasta and she continues her love of reading and keeping up with Church events.
Sister Marian Bradley is a native New Yorker who was born in the Bronx into a family of eight children. Religion and the Church were very strong influences in her life, as well as her aunt, Mother Antoinette Begley. She eventually joined two of her sisters and two of her cousins in the Incarnate Word Convent in Corpus Christi. She received her BA from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio. After achieving her certification in the Montessori School, she began an illustrious fifty-seven year career in the diocese and on the Incarnate Word campus, where she taught the youngest students how to become all they were created to be. In this Montessori setting, Sister Marian developed new teaching methods and authored twenty-three booklets for the students. Her great gift of creativity has served her well in this instruction.
Upon retirement, Sister was asked to take on the responsibilities of sacristan at the Motherhouse, and once again her artistic abilities found a niche. Her skill at flower arranging and decorations is always on display in the chapel. She created beautiful banners and artwork for use in liturgical events throughout the year. One of her paintings, of the Incarnate Word as a child, done on a velvet banner is on display in the new convent and her O Antiphon banners adorn the chapel during the Advent Season. She brings a special delicacy and perfection to the work of the sisters’ chapel. Over the years, she has also served as sister-in-charge of the motherhouse and on various committees carrying on the work of the congregation.
When the new convent was built, Sister Marian tackled the heavy-duty dishwasher and now single-handedly takes care of all the noon dishes for the sisters. She works unobtrusively and with great humor on all things. In the evenings, she engages in games that she has mastered with beautiful spirit.
Sister Christina Bradley was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx, one of eight children. At the age of 13, she followed her great aunt and an older cousin in their vocations as Sisters of the Incarnate Word. She spent her teenage years growing up in the convent along with Sister Margaret Patrice, her older sister. Eventually, they were joined by another member of their family, Sister Marian Bradley. Sister Christina received her BA from Incarnate Word College (now University) in San Antonio. She began teaching in several diocesan schools and served a principal of a then Cathedral School.
In the early 1960s, several parents asked the sisters to begin a Montessori school so Sister Christina traveled to Washington, D.C. for the specialized training. In 1965, she was one of the founders of the first Montessori school at Incarnate Word in Corpus Christi and was recently honored at the 50th anniversary of the school for her 37 years of dedication. She has said that one of the greatest pleasures was working with the youngest of the Montessori, 3- and 4-year olds; “they were a source of joy and kept me young at heart".
In addition to this, Sister has served on various committees in the Congregation, has been the director of formation, and has served as Sister-in-Charge of the Motherhouse. In every assignment, she is gentle and encouraging and full of good humor. In her retirement, she is still busy whether it be with art projects, prayer, or helping out throughout the house.
Whatever community project is going on, she will always be there.
Sister Stella Barrientes is the oldest Sister of the Incarnate Word at 103 years; she is a native of Texas being born in Port Isabel to a family of seven children. She did not enter the convent at an early age because, as she said, “I was having a good time.” She worked as a bookkeeper for a fish company and then as a secretary at the Brownsville City Hall. It is during this time that she became acquainted with the Incarnate Word Sisters and, at 32 years of age, she entered the convent. Her BA was earned at Incarnate Word College (now University) in San Antonio and her MA came from Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. She taught elementary classes in Brownsville, Beeville, Port Isabel, Goliad, and Corpus Christi. She also taught at Villa Maria High School in Brownsville and worked with the ESL (English as a Second Language) Program at Villa Maria.
Sister Stella loved to sing and dance and these talents added to the glory of A Little Bit of Mexico, an annual program put on by the students of Incarnate Word in Brownsville. Additionally, she taught in the Pastoral Institute, helped with Red Cross first aid classes, directed choirs and helped to entertain handicapped children. Throughout these years she also worked with CCD programs in a number of parishes.
Sister found such great joy in arts and crafts of all kinds and her sense of humor and her enthusiasm always propelled her along. She has often exclaimed in wonder, “it does not feel like I have lived this long!” Although she is now confined to a bed, she still welcomes family members who come to celebrate with her and visitors of all kinds. Her body has slowed but that eternally young spirit is very much present to the sisters.
Sister Mary Lelia Aguilar is a native Texan born in Port Isabel. At a young age she witnessed the generosity in caring for others exhibited by her mother and felt that she could follow that example and helped in the responsibilities of raisingnine sisters. She attended Villa Maria High School in Brownsville where she was introduced to the Sisters of theIncarnate Word and she believed that she could also follow their example; she entered the community in 1952. Her BA was received at St. Edward’s University in Austin and her MA was finished at Our Lady of the Lake University in SanAntonio. Like so many of the other sisters, she has served in many Catholic schools and in many capacities both in theclassroom and as principal.
One of her proudest and happiest achievements was as director of “A Little Bit of Mexico” a cultural program put onannually by the students of Incarnate Word Academy and Villa Maria High School for the city of Brownsville. Sister Leliawas instrumental in the production in 1996 dedicated to the fourth centennial of the birth of our Foundress JeanneChezard de Matel.
Lest this all sound too serious, Sister Mary Lelia has a wonderful laugh and enjoys talking with the sisters and membersof her family. She is now retired at the new convent but she is a tremendous card and game player. When she firstentered the convent, she was one of a famous groups of eight novices who were always getting in trouble and you canbe sure that Sister Mary Lelia was always in the middle of the activities.
Sister Dorothy Anhaiser is a native Texan, born in Dubina, who was on her way to San Marcos during the war to learn how to be a machinist and crane operator; from there she began working for a chemical company in Corpus Christi and ended up finishing high school at Incarnate Word where she met Sister Xavier Holworthy who invited her to join the sisters in religious life. She earned her BA from Incarnate Word in San Antonio and an MA from Texas Women’s University in Denton.
She held so many positions that the list is dazzling; she once let it slip that the sisters sent her to so many positions that she was not prepared for, but maybe they figured that if she could operate a crane in the war, she could do anything. She was a fast learner; asked to take the library at Villa Maria in Brownsville, she replied that she had never done it before. She ended up computerizing the library and getting the students to read more than they had ever done before. One of her last official roles was as archivist for the Congregational archives, a job she said that she couldn’t do, but then mastered it also.
She is also something of a card shark and a gameswoman. To say that she is game for anything is putting it lightly.
Recently she made the transition to a wheel chair; it hasn’t slowed her down a bit and some have speculated that even at her funeral she will still be going strong. It has to be her great sense of humor and her overall jovial attitude.