75 YEAR HISTORY
On Friday, March 29, 1946, news arrived from the Vatican! …
The Sacred Congregation for Religious had approved the Society of the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence as an adjunct to the Congregation of the Sisters of Divine Providence.
Sister Benitia was alone at Providence House when the news arrived. She immediately went to the little chapel to thank God!
Immediately after, Sister Benitia went out to meet each Catechist who were returning home from the catechetical centers to share the good news!
"Go to the chapel and thank God. Your Rule has been approved!"
The History of the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence
Sister Mary Paul Valdez, MCDP
We where our history places us as an integral part of the International Family of Providence, comprised of seven religious congregations who share a common foundation as Daughters of Blessed Jean Martin Moye and Louis Kremp.
Sister Mary Benitia Vermeersch, our foundress, born on November 1, 1880 in the village of Ichtegem in Belgium. From the age of 12, after her family moved to Texas, Sr. Benitia became familiar with hardship when her father suffered a tragic death on their farm, and her mother died the following day. Years later, she joined the Congregation of Divine Providence in San Antonio.
The first window, titled “The Beginning, 1930” captures our beginnings at of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Houston, Texas. There, Sister Benitia was assigned to teach at the parochial school, and later became the Principal. It was a time when hundreds of refugee families came to Houston in flight of the Mexican Revolution.
Sister Benetia believed that children could not learn on an empty stomach, so we depict the basket of bread to symbolize her response to render aid to the immediate needs of those who hunger.
The symbols of the Bible and Catholic Doctrine capture her ingenuity in forming and training a local group of young women as catechists to instruct the public-school children and do home visitations. The women were seriously devoted to their ministry, and wore black uniforms, with large white cuffs and collar, to wear when doing their work which were provided by Sr. Benitia.
To solidify their commitment, they made a 6-month promise to follow a simple book of rules, similar to those of candidates. Sister Benitia’s efforts caught the attention of several bishops and priests who recognized her concept of a catechist group as one that could be of great service to the Church in Texas. Briefly stated, in 1938 Sr. Benita was brought to San Antonio to establish a permanent group of women that would make vows.
In between the first two etched windows, is a beautiful stain glass window of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our proclaimed Patroness since in 1979. Her role in the salvation history of humanity, continues to speak to us in the sufferings of the poor and marginalized. She is our model of total abandonment to Divine Providence.
We continue our journey. The two windows behind the altar are of major importance to our congregation. The window to the left reads, “Approval 1946”. Note, that there are five birds resting on a strong rose tree, which represents our five sisters that are recognized as the first vowed members of our new congregation. There is a scroll which symbolizes the decree of Papal Approbation under the title, Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence. Small in number, we remained under the governance and support of the Congregation of Divine Providence, San Antonio.
There is a 45-year span of history that took place between 1930 and 1975, when our order grew to close to 100 members. That number included novices and postulants. Then, Vatican II happened in 1963 which brought about major changes in religious congregations on a global scale. While numbers in membership declined globally, congregations were challenged to renewal for the purpose of addressing the needs of the times.
On August 13, 1969, the election of our own Superior and Council was established, and our new constitutions written. We also recognized and honored Sister Benita as foundress of our congregation. Sister Benitia went home to God on December 2, 1975.
Finally, in the late 1980’s, our motherhouse, St. Andrews was sold and repurchased seven years later and still stands in it's original state on Castroville Rd today.
This next window captures the recognition of the establishment of our own governance; it reads, “Autonomy 1989”. The rose tree trunk is larger, stronger, with more blossoms, an increase of rows in the field, and 7 birds in flight. The biblical number 7 indicates our readiness for our autonomy which we received in 1989. The symbol of the triangle with Our Lady of Guadalupe in the middle, became the new logo for our congregation, designed by one of our sisters, Sister Dominic Garcia.
We move to our last window. It reads, “And new fields are waiting for us”. No other window has a phrase because this one addresses you, the reader, to indicate that you are part of our story. The new fields are the future beyond the life span of our congregation. And you are our legacy, to continue the work God began in us, even to the time when each of us was born into a family, a family just like yours.
Each window frames our events with a field, birds, and roses because they are based on the scripture readings that give testimony to God’s Providence:
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
Note: The theme of the windows, “Providence is always with us” was designated by Sister Anita de Luna, MCDP (Superior at the time) before the dedication of our new chapel on May 24,1994. Sisters Anne Garcia and Dominic Garcia were commissioned to design the artwork to reflect the theme. The windows were done by Cavallini Co., Inc-Stained Glass Studio, San Antonio.