By Sr. Kathleen Coughlin, CCVI
I recently had the privilege of making a pilgrimage to Lyon, France, the origins of our Congregation, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Our travels took us to the site of the original monastery where our Sisters received their preparation prior to their departure for Galveston and San Antonio, Texas, in 1866 and 1869. These women responded to the call of Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering in the persons of a multitude of sick and infirm of every kind, seeks relief at your hands.” As we traveled the country, we reflected on our beginnings, and walking in Madeleine and Pierre’s footsteps was a deeply moving and transformative experience. Their decision to leave their homeland and come to the U.S. at the end of the Civil War was courageous and remarkable. We also visited Bishop Dubuis’ home, the village of Coutouvre, and the parish church where he is interred.
For 140 years, the Sisters have continued to live the mission of the founders, touching lives through healthcare, social justice, pastoral care and education in the U.S., Mexico, Peru and Zambia, responding generously to the needs of God’s people. Today, in partnership with our co-ministers, we continue to respond to the original call. At UIW, we are part of the wonderful heritage and tradition of educating young men and women to “become concerned and enlightened citizens” throughout our city, state, country and the global village. Imagine the lives that have been touched through the years, and the gift that has been given to us to make a difference, as we journey together making tangible the love of God. It is doubtful that our founders could have foreseen the inheritance/patrimony we have today. This is a time to give thanks to the first three Sisters and Bishop Dubuis, who were poured out “as libation” in their service of others.
We live in challenging times. Our hardships today are not, in most cases, the material ones they suffered, but rather the stress and demands of daily living. Yet, we are faithful and continue “the first three Sisters’ spirit of Christian service” as we incarnate the Word in today’s world. This incarnation asks us to be in solidarity with all who suffer and are in pain. We give thanks for “all that has been, and for all that will be” as we trust God’s promise of fidelity and all that holds for us in the future.