SOLIS, ROSA [MOTHER TERESA SOLIS]

Norman Rozeff
Mother Teresa Solis (1840–1920).
Rosa Solis joined the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament in Brownsville in 1859. She became the first New World native and first Hispanic nun to join the order. She took the name Sister Teresa and became known as Mother Teresa Solis when she was elected as Superior of the Monastery. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

SOLIS, ROSA [MOTHER TERESA SOLIS] (1840–1920). Mother Teresa Solis was born Rosa Solis on December 7, 1840, in Matamoros, Mexico. She was the daughter of Francisco Solis and Anastacia Rivas de Solis. Francisco’s ancestor, Juan Jose Solis, had come to America from Spain about 1768 and received a Spanish land grant (Porción 107) in present-day Starr County. The Solis family had emigrated from Mexico to Texas by 1850, when they were recorded in the U. S. census as living in the Rio Grande Valley. Francisco was listed as a butcher, and Rosa was one of seven children. At some point in the early 1850s, they moved to Port Isabel, Texas (then listed as Point Isabel) and were recorded on the 1860 census. 

In early 1853 several French nuns of the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament  traveled south from Galveston down the Texas coast to the little town of Point Isabel where they celebrated a Mass at the home of a Mr. Lafarge. Twelve-year-old Rosa Solis was in attendance, and on the way home she told her mother, "I want to be like the Sisters." Within a few weeks, the Incarnate Word Sisters had reached their destination of Brownsville and established the first Incarnate Word Academy in the New World. They also laid the first stone for the first convent of the Incarnate Word. Rosa Solis, who could speak both English and Spanish, became one of the earliest students at the academy.  

On January 16, 1859, she entered the Monastery of the Incarnate Word and became the first postulant from the New World and the first Hispanic nun in the Order. She took the religious name of Sister Teresa Solis.  

By 1872 Mother Saint-Ange, a French nun who had been Mother Superior of the Monastery at Brownsville for eleven years, announced her wish to retire. To the surprise of many, thirty-two-year-old Sister Teresa was elected to succeed her as Mother Superior. She is credited as being the “first New World Superior of a Monastery of the Incarnate Word.” Rosa, now Mother Teresa Solis, served that post faithfully for a three-year term. She was listed in the convent in Brownsville in the 1880 census. 

At some point, late in the nineteenth century, Mother Teresa was drawn to the pressing needs of the people of Mexico and departed Brownsville. In 1894 the Monastery of Brownsville made the first Incarnate Word foundation in Mexico—San Juan Bautista in Tabasco, Mexico. About 1895 Mother Teresa arrived in Tabasco, where she served as Superior. She subsequently served as Superior in Chilapa in the state of Chiapas. In 1912 Mother Teresa and Mother Stanislaus Dedieu of Brownsville were engaged in planning for a Generelate (international center) for the Order of the Incarnate Word in Mexico City. Their plans, however, were not to be fulfilled. During that time and for several years thereafter, the country was in the throes of a revolutionary movement. Hearing that Puebla, a settlement west of Veracruz, had been hard hit by the conflict and its aftermath, Mother Teresa, aged seventy-eight and in failing health, traveled to Puebla to render aid in her capacity as Mother Superior (though she was not an official member of the Monastery there). Mother Teresa Solis died in Puebla on January 16, 1920.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Sr. Kathleen McDonagh, God's Border Rose: The Story of Mother Teresa (Rosa) Solis, IWBS (Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, 2002). “Sesquicentennial of the First New World Vocation to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, 1859–2009,” Word Life, Spring 2009 (http://www.iwbscc.org/documents/WordLife-Spring2009.pdf), accessed August 22, 2016. Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament (http://incarnatewordorder.org/), accessed August 22, 2016. 

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Handbook of Texas Online, Norman Rozeff, "SOLIS, ROSA [MOTHER TERESA SOLIS]," accessed November 14, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsoli.

Uploaded on August 23, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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