St. Mary’s sisters in Namur left traces of education in Texas and Fort Worth

In Sister St. John Begno’s book “Little Good,” she appealed in 1861 to Father Pierre Desmet to send sisters to Mother Claire, the president of Sisters St. Mary of Namur, to evangelize Native Americans. I’m writing about that. Leaving the main building in Namur, Belgium, several sisters arrived in New York in 1863, but decided not to travel any further during the Civil War.

At the request of the Texas bishops, Mother Delphine sent three sisters who opened a school in Waco “to do a little better” in 1873. Waco is a stop on the Chisam Trail, also known as the “Six Shooter Junction”. Anti-Catholic sentiment and a shortage of students have led them to consider returning to New York. When yellow and dengue struck the area, Waco residents were forced to quarantine. Waco’s mother, Emily, saw it as a sign that God intended to stay with them.

Father Jean-Marie Guyot asked his sisters to open a school on Srockmorton Street near St. Stanislaus, Fort Worth’s first Catholic church. To accommodate the growing Catholic population, Father Guyot oversaw the construction of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1888, a block away from Hell’s Half Acre. As student enrollment increased, the sisters raised funds for the construction of the St. Ignatius Academy adjacent to St. Patrick in 1889.

As the sisters’ reputation for providing superior education spread, St. Ignatius attracted students from local families and throughout the state. The school provided a dormitory and accepted boys and girls. Recognizing the need to educate children in poor families, they opened annexes on Kentucky Avenue and Hatty Street. The sisters expanded their education by opening schools in Denison, Dallas, Corsicana, Sherman, Wichita Falls, Ennis and Denton.

Resilient, witty and visionary sisters negotiated loans, land purchases, project management and building construction. Sister Mary Burner Dryley, who oversaw the construction of the Wichita Falls Academy, found an inferior brick. She took one and showed the brick to the president of the bank that signed the contract. He quickly demolished the defective structure and rebuilt it in response to his sister’s expectations.

In 1905, the sisters re-expanded to South Fort Worth on Show Avenue with the construction of the Academy of Our Lady of Victory. The sisters offered kindergarten to junior college level classes and clarified their mission.

According to their Christian standards, the state of OLV, Sister Teresa Webber, integrated the academy and became the first Fort Worth school (public or private) to open its doors to all on September 16, 1953. .. Some blaming white students have left.

The sisters continue to teach at the University of Dallas, Nolan High School, and parish elementary schools. However, a decline in women entering orders and funding issues called for the closure of OLV Elementary School, the last remaining school opened by sisters in North Texas this year.

For over 100 years, Sister St. Mary of Namur, a pioneer in education, has faced plague, violent neighbors, discrimination and debt to direct thousands of North Texas and Fort Worth children and young women. It was. The OLV Elementary may close, but the sisters’ dedication to blooming a little better flowers in the hearts and minds of ex-students.

Author Richard J. Gonzalez writes and talks about Fort Worth, national and international Latino history.