ALAMO RANCH – Few, if any, planned communities can thank a religious order for jump-starting their developments, but 175 acres sold by the Cordi-Marian Missionary Sisters about 20 years ago, led to what is now the mega-subdivision Alamo Ranch.
Sister Matilda Jaime, their administrator, said they had no idea what was to come.
“Never. Never. As a matter of fact, we used to see a house popping up here and there and say, oh, there’s another house,” she said.
Sister Matilda said they also noticed the “Opening soon” signs going up around Loop 1604 and Culebra Road.
She said they wondered, “Wow, what’s happening? What’s coming here?”
But then again, Sister Matilda said it was soon obvious that their once-secluded convent off of Culebra, like the area around it, was prime real estate for housing and retail.
“Sister Matilda had many, many offers from developers,” said Sister Teresa Cruz, who was a novice at the time.
Sister Teresa said developers would say they were interested in the land, and their reply was always that they weren’t interested in selling.
“This went on over and over and over again,” Sister Matilda said. “We were being advised that the land was going to be very valuable for us in the future.”
But finally, the time came to sell part of their property acquired in 1957.
She said a trusted adviser told them if they wanted to expand their ministry, “We’re going to need money.”
By the time word got out that acreage was up for sale, Sister Teresa said, “It was snatched up. We knew that that’s what was going to happen. It was going to be developed immediately.”
As their treasurer, Sister Matilda negotiated the $2.4 million deal for the initial 175 acres. Ten of those were gifted back to the Sisters.
Still, the demand for the land was so great, that they later sold those ten acres by the square foot instead of by the acre for another $1.7 million.
Sister Matilda said the proceeds went toward additional retreat centers and chapels on-site, and investments for the future.
“It generates our income to continue,” she said.
Initially, Sister Teresa said she was amazed someone would pay that much until she realized, “If you’re putting that much money into it, it’s because you expect to get a lot more of it.”
With Alamo Ranch still growing and new apartments within sight of their convent, Sister Teresa said, “We feel kind of hemmed in now, whereas before it was kind of like all ours.”
They said it was land where once there were herds of deer and other wildlife.
The Sisters themselves helped clear the land that became a working farm with farm hands. They said nearby there were dairy farms with their cows grazing in pastures.
But now, they said they hear the traffic practically all day long, and it takes much longer to get where they want to go.
They said at least they’ve noticed more of their Alamo Ranch neighbors attending mass or just taking walks around the property which is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There’s also an event center and Resurrection Cemetery on the grounds.
Sister Teresa said the Cordi-Marian Sisters are to Alamo Ranch what Our Lady of the Lake University and the University of the Incarnate Word are to the busy West Side neighborhood they’re located in — “little islands of peace and tranquility, learning and prayer.”
Even as fewer women now are entering the convent, Sister Matilda said, “We hope that it’ll stay like this, hopefully forever. That’s only God’s plan.”