Recently, I was commenting on one or another of the six Catholic colleges in Texas. I endeavored to touch very briefly on each one of them. While there are only six Catholic colleges in the entire state, three of them are located in San Antonio. How did this come about? Shouldn’t they have been scattered across the state more effectively?
This reality was generated by historical factors. For the last half of the 19th century San Antonio was the city that had the highest number of Catholics within its boundaries. The Germans, the Belgians, the Irish were there in goodly numbers and, of course, there was a very large Hispanic population. In the last half of the 19th century, priests and religious had come from France, Ireland, Belgium and Germany to help establish and strengthen the Church and many of them ended up in San Antonio. For this reason three colleges were established there, namely, St. Mary’s University, Our Lady of the Lake and the University of the Incarnate Word. In addition, of course, there are three other educational institutions functioning at the college and university level. They include Assumption Seminary, sponsored by the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Oblate School of Theology, sponsored by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and finally, the Mexican American Catholic College. That is a lot of schools!
Another interesting aspect about the city of San Antonio and the archdiocese thereof is that in many ways it could be considered as the Hispanic Catholic capital of the United States. There are far more Hispanics in Los Angeles than there are in San Antonio but they do not have the impact on the larger community that those living in San Antonio do. If all of this was not enough, throw in the history. San Antonio began in 1718 and the Church has been there every single day for the last 294 years and so has generated great gifts in theology, literature, art and beauty for which we should all be grateful.
May God continue to bless the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
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Today, I would like to take a look at another one of the six Catholic universities located in Texas. This time it is the University of the Incarnate Word. Incarnate Word is the second oldest of the Catholic colleges. It was established by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in 1881. These missionary nuns had arrived from France and Ireland and had two educational concerns. First, they wanted to make Catholic education available for young Catholic women and, at the same time, educate their own sisters in order that they might properly and more effectively teach in the Catholic schools that were being opened everywhere late in the 19th century. They succeeded in both areas and then went beyond those two goals.
For many years, Incarnate Word limited itself to female students but after World War II the school expanded and accepted male applicants. Since then, the school has made great strides. Currently, approximately 8,000 students are enrolled. The present president is
Dr. Louis J. Agnese, Jr. and under his leadership the school has expanded tremendously in a wide variety of majors, a very successful school of business as well as opening new campuses in China, Mexico and several other countries.
The motherhouse of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word is still on the campus and has expanded its own ministry as needs in our society change. The magnificent convent, which is still the headquarters of the sisters, also accepts elderly residents allowing them to live in a beautiful atmosphere and easily center their faith-filled lives around the convent’s chapel.
By discussing each of these colleges individually there is one underlying reality that we ought to keep in mind as we admire their existence, development, effectiveness and outreach to the larger society. Each one of them costs a lot of money, a great deal of money. I always admire the presidents of these colleges because while they are very interested in running excellent academic institutions, one of their main tasks is the never-ending search for dollars. Whenever a new building is needed, funds have to be raised to bring it into existence and then after that more funds for professors. It is an always expanding and never-ending struggle.
Go for it President Agnese!
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