The Congregation's emblem is quite unique. It was designed by our foundress, Mother Margaret Healy Murphy.
The design includes the initials of the Congregation (SHSp), the gifts of Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Intelligence, Strength, Fear of the Lord, Science, Piety, and Advice), the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and an image of the mother of God, Mary Immaculate. The Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate are the patrons of our Congregation.
Mrs. Andi Estes (right) and her friend, Mrs. Cecilia Gutierrez Venable spent many days setting up our Heritage Room in the new Motherhouse. The room is our congregation's museum, housing artifacts, furnishings, and mementos belonging to our foundress and relating to our congregation's history. Andi Estes and her husband Monte own Mt. Echo Ranch near Mathis, Texas. The ranch was originally owned by John Bernard (J.B.) and Margaret Mary (Healy) Murphy, our Congregation's foundress.
An archivist for the library collections of Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Mrs. Venable has spent countless hours with Mrs. Estes pouring over the boxes and files of memorabilia and archived files. They both continue to contribute their talents to preserving our heritage. We are so blessed to have their assistance with the congregation’s archives.
The Sisters of the Holy Spirit see the importance of keeping their history alive through stories and symbols which give meaning to who they are today.
What faith symbols and/or stories have been preserved in your family and are being passed on for future generations?"
To say that the founder of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate was an remarkable woman may be an understatement. She was born Margaret Mary Healy in Ireland in 1833 and emigrated to the United States with her father to escape the ravages of the famine in Ireland. After her father's death, she joined some relatives in Matamoros, Mexico where she met John Bernard Murphy whom she married in 1849. Later, they couple moved to Corpus Christi, where John Bernard became Mayor. They purchased a ranch in San Patricia County, near Mathis, Texas.
Early on, Mrs. Murphy manifested a compassion for those in need. One morning Mrs. Murphy met a little Spanish-speaking girl wandering the streets and unable to give any information about her family other than her own name, Delphine. Her need for food was apparent, and Mrs. Murphy took her home and cared for her, for all attempts to locate the girl’s family were unsuccessful. In 1867 there was an outbreak of yellow fever in Corpus Christi. Margaret Mary ministered to its many victims. Prior to her death, a Mrs. Delaney entrusted her daughter, Minnie, to the care of Mrs. Murphy, who later adopted Minnie along with her husband’s niece, Elizabeth (Betty) Murphy. The Murphys had no biological children but saw the needs of these girls and responded with compassion. Two of these three girls later entered convents: Minnie grew up and entered the Congregation of the Sisters on the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Victoria, Texas, taking the name Sr. Bernard, after her adopted father. Betty entered the Congregation of the Sisters on the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Corpus Christ, Texas.
On July 4, 1884, John Bernard Murphy, judge, member of Texas’ First Constitutional Convention, and the mayor of Corpus Christi, Texas, died. He left his widow, Margaret Mary, a woman of means, and she moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1887. On Pentecost Sunday, May 29 of that year, a letter from the United States bishops was read in St. Mary's Catholic Church. This letter changed her life.
The letter, read by an Oblate priest – Fr. John Maloney, OMI - was a call from the American Bishops to Catholics in the South to respond to the pastoral and educational needs of the post-civil war African-American population. They had been utterly abandoned since their emancipation, no longer having even the minimal sustenance once provided to them by their slave-owners. As she left the church that Sunday, Margaret Mary was determined to devote herself and her means to the cause.
In 1887, on the advice of Bishop John C. Neraz, Margaret Mary began to construct, from her own resources, a church and the first Catholic free school for African-Americans in the State of Texas. The facilities were located at the corner of Live Oak and Nolan Streets in San Antonio and were dedicated in honor of St. Peter Claver in September 1888. Shortly thereafter, she built a residence for the priest who would serve the community.
Throughout the construction phase and for the first several years of the existence of St. Peter Claver Mission, as it was called, Mrs. Murphy suffered great indignities and persecution from those opposed to her efforts on behalf of “those” people. She battled the daily storms of criticism and prejudice, and her opponents incessantly tried to arouse discord.
Under circumstances such as these, maintaining a steady teaching staff in her school became impossible. Once again she sought advice from the Bishop. This time he encouraged her to start a religious congregation in order to stabilize the work. She accepted the advice and on June 6, 1892, she and three other women became novices with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, where her blood sister was a member. One year later, on Friday, June 9, 1893, Mother Margaret Mary Healy Murphy, Sister Mary Joseph McNally, Sister Mary Aloysius McMullen and Sister Mary Alphonsus Cronyn made their first vows in the convent of Our Lady of Light on Nolan Street, in the presence of Bishop Neraz. Thus, our congregation, Sisters of the Holy Ghost and Mary Immaculate came into being.
Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Laredo, Texas 1905
A number of the early members of the young congregation did not continue. To expand the number of women she needed, Mother Margaret Mary undertook her first of four trips to Ireland (1896, 1899, 1902 and 1906) to recruit young women willing to dedicate their lives to promoting the human dignity of those who were the most neglected and marginalized in society.
On August 25, 1907, at the age of 74, Mother Margaret Mary died peacefully at the Nolan Street convent that she worked so hard to build. The eulogy at her funeral described her work as “destined to bring forth glorious fruits under the pains and self-sacrificing zeal of the Sisters of the Holy Ghost.” Mother Margaret Mary Healy Murphy, our foundress, was buried with her beloved husband in Holy Cross Cemetery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Casa de Cuna, Mexico, 1903
At the time of her death, Mother Margaret Mary left 15 sisters and two postulants in our young community. Her ministry to the African-American and Mexican-American communities had clearly taken root in San Antonio, with our sisters also staffing Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Laredo and an orphanage in Oaxaca, Mexico. For a few years after Mother Margaret's death, our young congregation seemed to falter; records show no sign of expansion of ministries or of increase in the number of sisters. With the election of Sister Mary Evangelist Jennings as superior in 1909, new life began to emerge. During the next ten years, 27 new members were added. At the same time, schools for African-American students were opened in Dallas, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Pascagoula, Mississippi and on the West side of San Antonio. Schools for Mexican and rural white students were started or staffed in Tabasco, Mexico; in Longview, Charlotte and Gonzales, Texas, and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in San Antonio.
On August 25, 1938, our congregation received from Rome its approbation as a congregation of pontifical rite.