Call to the New World

Brownsville, Texas

In 1852 The first Bishop of Texas, Bishop Jean Marie Odin, CM, visited Mother Angelique Hiver, the superioress of the Lyons community in France, to ask for volunteers for the vast mission fields of Texas. Mother Angelique hesitated. The Sisters were few and the New World was a far, strange land. She promised to give the Bishop a reply when he returned from a trip to Rome. She asked him to request an indulgence from Pope Pius IX for their monastery chapel. When the Bishop presented her petition to Rome, the Holy Father replied that he would grant the request on condition that Mother Angelique would send Sisters to work in Texas.

One Sister from the Belmont monastery and two from Lyons were chosen to be the first pioneers. The youngest at age 23, Mother St. Claire Valentine, was named the superior of the group, and thus began the Order in America. Her companions were Sisters Ange Barre, Ephrem Satin, and Dominic Ravier. They left Lyons, France, March 18, 1852.

The Sisters arrived by boat at New Orleans in May, 1852. They stayed temporarily with a Carmelite community there. Within a month they traveled by ship to Galveston, Texas, where they received seven months of instruction in English and Spanish. From there they traveled on the Lone Star, a troop ship, to Point Isabel and on to Brownsville, arriving February 26, 1853. They were given hospitality with the LaFarge family for few days before settling into a small, unfurnished, one-story warehouse. Later, they moved into a four-room house which was loaned to them until their new house was opened on November 20th. Brownsville became the “cradle of the Order”in America.

Many circumstances of that time made their lives difficult: poverty, Civil War, bandit raids, skirmishes with the Indians, yellow fever, and the hurricane of 1867. They were not accustomed to the culture and the wilds of Texas. They had no books for teaching, and so translated their own from French, and printed them on a small, rickety printing press. Still, the community and the school flourished. In time, eighteen more Sisters arrived from France, England, Mexico and Germany. In 1857 they were able to open a school for the poor.

Twenty-five years after their arrival, the little community of Brownsville numbered twenty-three Sisters, including five from America. Later, in January, 1932, the communities of Brownsville and Corpus Christi were united, with the Motherhouse being in Corpus Christi.

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