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Sister Mary Xavier, I.W.B.S. (Mercedes Claire Holworthy)

I WAS BORN IN DENVER, COLORADO, ON FEBRUARY 28, 1890, of Reverend Alfred J. Holworthy and Annie Betz. My father, a graduate of Oxford University, came to America seeking work and wealth. Of the first he found plenty, of the latter, very little. After his marriage, he went to Denver to study for the Anglican ministry, and it was during his second year there that the first of his two children was born. I was baptized a week after my birth, my father insisting that I should be named for Our Lady of Mercy. Though he was a "low-church" Episcopalian, he had a singular love for the Mother of Christ. He was very happy when I was given the name of Mary at my investiture.

My father's first assignment after his ordination was to the little town of Wallace, Idaho, where he was pastor of a small church with several outlying missions. I was then four years old.

As far back as I can remember, I always accompanied my father on his journeys over the mountains of Idaho to Murrey and other missions; and when I was five years old he permitted me to sit on his lap and hold the reins of his horse as he taught me to drive. At six years I was able to guide the horse over the mountains with very little help. The horse was not gentle, and my father need merely show him the whip to encourage him to move faster. One day I showed him the whip, but accidentally touched him with it. That both of us were not killed as the horse dashed over those mountains in a mad run-away race, is because God had something else for us to do. Though thrown out of the buggy, neither of us was hurt, and after a fifteen minute chase we caught up with "Billie," merely because he could go no further-an on-coming wagon and its occupants brought the run-away to a halt.

Even while at home, I much preferred to play dolls and study my lessons in my father's office than to help mother with the dishes and sweeping. I always tried to do everything I saw my father do, so that before I was seven years old I had learned how to set type and help him get out his little four-page church paper. He taught ~me to read, write and spell each morning, and then on Saturdays there would be no playing until I had learned my Sunday-school lesson.

After four years in Idaho, my father was transferred to Corpus Christi, Texas, and given charge of the Church of the Good Shepherd. Up to this time, he had been my teacher, but now I must go to school. I was very happy about that because my new friends were going to school, and that sounded "bigger." What was my disappointment when I found myself registered at the Convent. I argued, begged, cried-all to no purpose. My father was firm in his determination that a common school education was not good enough for his daughter, so when I gave too much trouble (I often played "hookey" and went to the public school with my chum), he sent me to the Episcopalian school in San Antonio. The break came when I returned home one morning saying that I would not go to the Convent school any more, that they were trying to make a Catholic of me. The reading lesson that morning happened to be a story of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I refused to read it.

A few nights away from home conquered me. I wrote to my father that I would go to school anywhere, do anything, and be the very best girl in the world if he would only bring me home. He did not relent. After a year and a half of persistent crying and begging, of manifest discontent and rebellion at school, the principal finally wrote and asked my father to take me home before they should have to send me. They were all tired of me.

I arrived home at nine P.M., and had to sit for a two hour lecture. The next morning I was back in the Convent school-this time as a weekly boarder-Monday to Friday. After a few weeks of tears and rebellion, the Sisters finally won me over to a state of contentment, and finally of happiness with them. Soon I did not want to go home on Friday afternoons.

One evening during the month of May, I attended the regular devotions in honor of Our Lady with the other boarders-just through curiosity. Like St. Paul, I was "thrown to my knees" during the singing of the Benediction service, tears flowed from my eyes, grace was poured into my soul, and from that moment, though not yet twelve years of age, I was determined to be a Catholic. I consulted my father. His answer, "Are you crazy? Don't mention that subject to me again." I said no more, but after a year of hard study in the Catechism, which I concealed inside my geography, I was secretly baptized on December 6, 1903, by Father Claude Jaillet, the subject of one of my books.

We moved to St. Louis shortly after that, so in order to practice my Faith I had to tell my parents. One of the Sisters told my father and I told mother. Both were broken-hearted. What my father said to Sister I do not know, but I shall never forget my mother's words: "There is no use crying over spilled milk, but if you are going to be a Catholic, for God's sake be a good one; a good Catholic is a saint, but a bad Catholic is the devil himself."

Neither of my parents would give me permission to make my First Holy Communion or be Confirmed until I would be eighteen. I consulted my confessor, the saintly Redemptorist at St. Alphonsus (Rock) Church, Father Enright. He gave me instructions privately, and I had the happiness of receiving my First Communion on the first Friday in May, 1904. Since I had not eaten before leaving home, and was on my way to school, Father Enright insisted on my going to the Monastery for breakfast. As I entered the door he said, "You are the first lady to be permitted to eat in our Monastery." I was confirmed by Archbishop Glennon a few days later. When my parents found out that I had disobeyed them they gave up on the question of religion.

In February, 1907, I returned to Corpus Christi, ostensibly on a month's vacation. My intentions were to remain, and I applied for admission into the novitiate. My parents were shocked, and my mother said I was carrying things too far. They forced me to wait until I was eighteen, and since the Superior would not receive me before that time without their consent, I had to submit this time. On February 28, 1908, I took the step with my father's blessing, but not with mother's. I received the habit of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament on January 6, 1909, and made my final vows on December 29, 1910.

My first years in the Convent were devoted to teaching music and the elementary grades. I received my B.A. degree at Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, Texas, in 1929, and after my courses in Library Science, and some education courses from the Catholic University, I entered St. Mary's University, San Antonio, from which I received my M.A. in History in 1939. For some years I was head of the history and commercial departments in our high school in Corpus Christi, but since 1936 I have been librarian while still holding my position in the commercial school.

Since 1941 Our Blessed Mother has given me opportunity to make reparation for my irreverence toward her in my early days when I refused to read the story about her-I am Moderator of the parish and high school Sodalities.

My first book was written as my thesis, The History of the Diocese of Corpus Christi (1939). During my research for this story I became so fascinated with the life and work of the early missionaries in southwest Texas that I resolved to continue. My second book, Diamonds for the King (1945), is the story of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Texas, 1852-1945. Bishop Claude Dubuis' missionary labors fired my enthusiasm, and the more material I found, the more desirous I became to write his life. As I was about to launch on that endeavor, I learned that Dr. Leo V. Jacks had written it, and that it was soon to be published. I then turned to one of his priests, the pioneer missionary, Father Claude Jaillet. It appeared in 1948 under the title Father Jaillet, Saddle-Bag Priest of the Nucces.

I am not really a writer. Research work has become a hobby. At the request of the By-liners of Corpus Christi I am collecting material on the pioneer families of this City which may be printed some day. The year 1953 was the centenary of the foundation of the first parish in Corpus Christi, and I gathered material for a souvenir brochure for that occasion. It was entitled A Century of Sacrifice: the history of the cathedral parish, Corpus Christi, Texas, 1853-1953. Our Bishop Mariano S. Garriga graciously contributed its foreword.

I am a corresponding member of the Texas Knights of Columbus Historical Commission and have enjoyed working in their archives with the worthy custodian, Bishop Laurence FitzSimon of Amarillo

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