A Congregation Committed to Serving Others
Since its beginning, teaching has been part of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston, Texas. In 1868, the first nursing Sisters began teaching English, as well as other subjects, to French families in Galveston, Texas. The Sisters had only recently learned English themselves, having arrived in Galveston just two years earlier.
In the early 1990s, to ensure that the Congregation would continue to adapt their ministries to meet the ever-evolving needs of society, the Congregation conducted a Ministry Needs Assessment. The goal was to identify contemporary needs and design a plan to meet them. Completed in 1994, the assessment identified literacy for adults as a pressing need.
Two geographic areas were identified as having the greatest needs: the Rio Grande Valley, where Texas borders Mexico, and the Greater Houston Area. In both areas, immigrants came looking for a better life, but found tremendous obstacles because they were not able to communicate in English. The assessment also revealed staggering statistics, including the fact that more than one million functionally-illiterate adults resided in Houston.
A 1994 Ministry Needs Assessment revealed that more than 1,000,000 functionally-illiterate adults resided in Houston, Texas.
In 1998, Sister Kevina Keating, then a General Councilor, was asked to look into what else might be done in Houston. Because Houston was the home of three Motherhouses with distinguished histories in education, Sister Kevina invited the Dominican Sisters (O.P.) and The Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament (C.V.I.) to collaborate with the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI) in forming an Intercongregational Literacy Ministry.
The Intercongregational Literacy Core Group
The Intercongregational Literacy Core Group was established to bring this new endeavor to fruition. As its founding chair, Sister Kevina Keating developed a Resource Center, a newsletter (Word Share) and an annual social with a keynote speaker and testimonials from students in various programs.
The original Core Group included:
- Sister Annette Dworsky, O.P.
- Sister Grace O’Brien, C.V.I.
- Sister Rosemary Smith, SC
- Sister Benedict Shannon, CCVI
- Sister Margaret Bulmer, CCVI
- Sister Marie Bernarde Clancy, CCVI
- Sister Caroline Flynn, CCVI
- Sister Jacinta Slyne, CCVI
- Sister Kevina Keating, CCVI
- Sister Margaret Ann Toomey, CCVI
Together, the Core Group created a Vision and Direction Statement, along with goals to implement the new venture. To strengthen the Intercongregational Literacy Ministry, the Congregation formed a partnership with Houston READ Commission.
Literacy classes initially were taught on the grounds of Villa de MateI. In 2005, classes were moved to St. Austin Center, which is owned and managed by CCVI. The two-story, red brick building and its several additions houses ministries of the Congregation as well as social service, advocacy and social justice organizations.