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Monastery of St. Clare in Brenham records

Identifier: catx-00069

Scope and Contents

This collection contains manuscripts, audio/visual materials, and artifacts from the Poor Clares of Brenham, Texas. The materials document the history of the Poor Clares in Texas, beginning with the origins of the Cuban monastery of Saint Clare and their subsequent immigration to New Orleans, Louisiana. Additional monasteries were later established in Corpus Christi and Brenham, Texas. Materials include financial records, correspondence, photographs, prayer books, publications, AV materials, and artifacts related to the history and the daily activities of the Poor Clare sisters.


  • Creation: 1644 - 2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1999

Conditions Governing Access

Records created after 1975 are restricted until 2043, unless advanced permission is granted by the President of Mother Bentivoglio Federation of Poor Clare Monasteries. Restricted folders containing materials created after 1975 are notated with a † in the finding aid. Contact the archivist for details.

Immigration and health records are permanently restricted, unless advanced permission is granted by the President of Mother Bentivoglio Federation of Poor Clare Monasteries. Boxes containing permanently restricted materials are notated with an asterisk* in the finding aid. Contact the archivist for details.

Conditions Governing Access

Some artifacts are restricted.

The Catholic Archives of Texas does not possess equipment necessary to view audio/visual materials.

Conditions Governing Use

Gloves must be worn while handling photographs or artifacts.

Historical Note

The Poor Clares are a contemplative order of nuns founded by Saint Clare of Assisi in 1212. The order became permanently established in the United States in the 1870s.

The first monastery of Saint Clare in Cuba, the Monastery of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Religious of Saint Clare of Assisi, was established in 1644, with a new monastery established in St. Christopher, Havana, Cuba in 1922. The original monastery began nearly thirty-years after the Cabildo of Havana requested a convent for unmarried and widowed Spanish women living in the Spanish colonies. The first Poor Clare community began with eight religious and by its 300-year anniversary, had seen more than 400 religious.

In 1961, the Poor Clares order from Havana fled political unrest in Cuba. After the Bay of Pigs invasion, suspected “anti-revolutionaries,” including the Poor Clares, were placed under house arrest. As a result of the political threat, some sisters immigrated to Mexico, some to Spain, and 32 sisters immigrated to the United States. Called by a Spanish-speaking sister who learned of the house arrest, the Havana Poor Clares initially integrated their community into a Poor Clares monastery in New Orleans, Louisiana. On October 7, 1961, Fidel Castro’s government seized the Havana monastery and the remaining sisters moved to New Orleans on October 20.

As the political situation in Cuba worsened, the Havana Poor Clares desired to find a new monastery and continue their 300-year community. Bishop Mariano Garriga of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, invited the Havana Poor Clares to establish a new permanent monastery in his diocese. In 1965, the Poor Clares of St. Christopher in Havana, Cuba, established their monastery in Corpus Christi, Texas with the financial support of the New Orleans monastery. Some of the Cuban Poor Clares who could not travel due to illness or age remained in New Orleans.

Sister Bernadette Muller initiated the idea of raising animals to financially support the monastery. The Poor Clare sisters raised cats and birds in Corpus Christi before discovering miniature horses were the most financially lucrative. During the 1980’s, a Navy base reopened near the Poor Clares’ monastery and shortly after, the surrounding land was taken by the government under eminent domain. In 1985, the monastery moved from Corpus Christi to Brenham, Texas, where the sisters would have more land to raise horses. The horses attracted many visitors to the farm and Sister Bernadette was soon informally known as “The Cowboy Nun of Texas,” which became the title of her published autobiography.

The farm was officially closed in 2011 due to the aging of the two remaining Poor Clares.


37.5 linear feet (52 containers)

Language of Materials



Spanish; Castilian



This collection contains records from the Poor Clare Sisters of Brenham, Texas. The materials include financial records, correspondence, photographs, prayer books, publications, audio-visual materials, and artifacts that document the monastery’s Cuban origins and the activities of the Poor Clare Sisters in Texas.


Guarra Senette, Felicia. “Cuban Poor Clares in Texas.” Catholic Southwest vol. 28 (2017).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jennifer Perritt and Rachael Zipperer, April 2019.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Catholic Archives of Texas Repository

6225 E US 290 HWY EB SVRD
Austin TX 78723 United States