Villa de Matel - February 16, 2013
by Mary Brown

On Saturday, February 16, 2013, twelve TIHAA members (Tony and Carol Miscio, Ralph & Estella Garcia, Mike and Mary Camara, Joseph and Theresa Nguyen, Jeannette Johnson, Gurrett Roep, Alvesa Ramirez and Mary Brown) and eight friends took a day trip to the east end of Houston to visit Villa de Matel Chapel.

The Villa de Matel Convent and Chapel was the dream of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. This order sent three nuns, Sister Mary Blandine, Sister Mary Joseph and Sister Mary Ange to Texas in 1866 from France at the request of Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis, the second Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Galveston, to help care for the sick and infirm. They assisted in these needs by establishing hospitals. First in Galveston and then in Houston as the population grew towards Houston with the building of the Ship Channel. That is why the Villa de Matel was built in its present location; it is less than 5 miles from the Houston Ship Channel.

When the Mother General aspired to have Villa de Matel constructed she hired architect Maurice J. Sullivan and contractor James Antill, both from Houston. She instructed them that her desire was for a Chapel that would last at least 500 years and would represent all nations. As our docent, Delia, guided us through the marvelous architectural details many commented that the Chapel was in pristine condition. Mother General may have her way. The Chapel is not quite 100 years old yet, however in May it will be 85 years old. The architect brought in materials from all over the world to make up the beautiful structure. The marble and stone came from Italy, France, Ireland, Germany and even the United States (Arkansas). With all the attention to the details such as the crushed stone and cement that adorns the wall instead of paint, so the wall color would not fade or ever need painting, may be why the Chapel took 4 years to construct.

I believe all were taken aback when they first entered the Chapel to find the seating facing the center aisle and not the altar. Delia explained that it was set-up in this manner so that when the sisters sang their prayers they faced each other as they sang in rounds. Delia gave us a demonstration. Much thought went into the location of the Chapel. The sides of the Chapel face east and west to catch the sunís rays in the beautiful stain glass windows. Even the seating had a beautifully carved open back to allow the breeze to blow through on the long hot summer days in Houston. Remember when the Chapel was built there was no air conditioning. The acoustics in the Chapel are near perfect. Delia was able to give the tour without using a microphone. With all the beauty before us we were invited to take all the pictures we wanted; however, none could be shared via face book or the internet. We were informed the sisters retain Baker and Botts as their attorneys. So, that is why you will not find the numerous pictures that we usually have on our trips.

We were a little disappointed that the Dot Coffee Shop was unable to accommodate our group that day. However, being right next door to another Pappas restaurant (Pappas Bar-B-Q) the manager called ahead and had everything set-up for us. The winner of the free lunch drawing on the bus was Alvesa Ramirez. She said her ribs were mighty good!! Della DuHart as her usual jovial self had no problem stepping up to the cowboy in line at Pappas in a ten gallon hat with the handle bar mustache to have her picture taken. I think he was a little early for the Rodeo, and his wife was trying to give him away. Della said she was not a taker!

If you were not able to go on this trip I suggest that you contact Villa de Matel for a tour of their beautiful Chapel.

I am looking forward to seeing YOU on one of our future trips.

Copyright TI Houston Alumni Association 2013, All Rights Reserved.

[Back to Home Page]