The Gibbons Literary Club recently celebrated its 111th anniversary at its annual Christmas luncheon at Club Giraud with a Mass celebrated by their moderator Father Dennis Arechiga, pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Church.
The inspiration for this Literary Club came as a direct result of a visit from James Cardinal Gibbons to San Antonio in 1911. The Gibbons Literary Club was formed to unite Catholic women in a “bond of sympathy and good comradeship and to stimulate them to further intellectual effort and the highest social service.” The ladies of this organization fulfilled these goals by creating a program of studies which included reading, discussing, and listening to lecturers on history, religion, contemporary issues, art and social issues.
The first meeting of the newly formed organization on Dec. 4, 1911, was attended by 34 charter members that included Adina de Zavala, who is well known in Texas for the preservation of a portion of the old San Antonio de Valero Mission, better known as the Alamo.
Because their Catholic faith was taken seriously by the ladies, they sought and received approval and blessing of Bishop J.W. Shaw.
Additionally, Archbishop Arthur J. Drossaert, the successor to Bishop Shaw, said, “I heartily endorse the Gibbons Literary Club of San Antonio. Anything conducive to real culture of the mind and development of the higher and nobler faculties of the soul ought to be encouraged. May the Society flourish and prosper more and more in our midst.” Archbishop Lucey and Archbishop Furey in turn granted the same endorsement.
With the progression of time and the changing needs of membership there have been some interesting changes in the club location and programs. During the early years meetings were generally held in the Knights of Columbus Hall, the Old Ursuline Convent, The Catholic Women’s Association Building or the Casa Regina. By 1984, the members voted to meet in their own homes. Currently Sister Mary Anne Domagalski, MSSA, has allowed the club to meet at the Padua Place Retreat Center. There is more emphasis on guest presenters versus book reviews. The subject matters are quite diverse. David Kauffman started off this year in October with a “mini concert,” followed by Elvira Sanchez Kisser’s presentation on the Archives of the archdiocese. In January the year will begin with a presentation from Scott Woodard, historian from the U.S. Army Medical Department Museum. A spring field trip is in the planning stages to the Mission of Divine Mercy in New Braunfels.
Presently meetings start with a prayer to “The Holy Spirit to fill the hearts and minds of thy faithful servants…” As in 1911, the Gibbons Literary Club pledges mutual love, friendship and faith to carry on the treasured traditions of the past and the Catholic cultural achievements of the present for the generations to come.
Adapted from a history written for Gibbon’s 75th celebration by Susan Greenburg.