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 Beginnings in the Second Half Century       


1867 Expansion of Friars' Urban Ministry

Brooklyn Bridge
As immigration increased and the move from farm to city accelerated, new needs were met by new and old Dominican foundations. The urban ministry of the friars was expanded with their move to New York City in 1867, followed by the transfer of their provincial center from Kentucky to that city. Added to the founding of new urban parishes were the numerous week-long missions undertaken by preaching teams of the Province of St. Joseph in various cities.

1873   Springfield Dominican Sisters

On October 15, 1874, Sisters Josephine and Rachel participated in the dedication of Lincoln's tomb..
SPRINGFIELD, IL--In 1873 seven sisters from the original Dominican community in Kentucky traveled to mid-Illinois to open a school and convent at Jacksonville. A year later, two of these sisters were requested to participate with President Ulysses Grant in an unusual event: the unveiling of a statue of Abraham Lincoln at his tomb in Springfield, the state capital. Grant asked them to represent all the religious women who had served during the Civil War in prisons and hospitals and on the battlefields; women whom President Lincoln had warmly praised, as Grant recalled. The sisters of returned to their less public Jacksonville ministry, but later moved their motherhouse to Springfield, with branches as distant as Nebraska and Massachusetts.

1876   Sparkill Dominican Sisters

SPARKILL, NY--Attention to evolving human needs moved Catherine Antoninus Thorpe in 1876 to found a new community in New York, with the guidance of the Dominican provincial John Rochford . These Dominican Sisters, who later moved to Sparkill, New York, were founded to offer two much-needed ministries: giving food and shelter to indigent women, and caring for dependent children. The numbers of orphans had multiplied rapidly after the Civil War, owing not only to its fatalities and recurring epidemics, but also to the many deaths of immigrants en route to the United States.

 U.S. History Timeline

 1877   First Telephone Line Built:

The first telephone line is built from Boston to Somerville, Mass.; the following year, President Hayes has the first telephone installed in the White House.

 1878   Yellow Fever Epidemic:

Over 13,000 people died from yellow fever in lower Mississippi Valley.

1877 Roots of the Grand Rapids Sisters

The Grand Rapid Dominican Sisters would open Sacred Heart Academy iin 1900. It remained in its downtown location in Grand Rapids at 69 Ransom N.E. until 1922. In the fall of 1922, Sacred Heart Academy moved to the new Motherhouse and Academy on East Fulton Street. Since the new motherhouse and grounds were named Marywood, the Academy soon came to be called Marywood Academy. This picture was taken in 1907.
TRAVERSE CITY, MI--Answering a call for Sisters in Michigan, six nuns arrived in Traverse City, Michigan, in October 1877. The site had already been envisioned by Mother Augustine Neuhierl, Regensburg pioneer and prioress of the New York congregation, who on her death bed saw a "peninsula in the West dotted white with Dominicans." Within a week of their arrival in Michigan, the nuns opened a school in their small wood frame home. Six pupils appeared on opening day; within two months, there were fifty. Some of these would be Michigan's first candidates to the Dominican Order. Dominican missions were soon established elsewhere in the state: Adrian, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Port Austin, Bay City and Saginaw. In less than two decades the Michigan Dominicans helped establish a parochial school system that flourished throughout the state for the next century.

By 1885, all the Dominican Sisters in Michigan were organized into St. Joseph Province, with Holy Angels Convent, Traverse City as Provincial House and Novitiate. Six years later the convents in the Detroit Diocese formed a second province of the New York motherhouse, thus becoming a separate group.

In 1894 the Dominican Sisters of the Grand Rapids Diocese became an independent congregation under the patronage of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. A Traverse City pioneer, Mother Aquinata Fiegler (1848-1915), became the congregation's first prioress.

The Sisters' ever-expanding mission field and the demands of the times necessitated changes in their conventual and apostolic life. In 1896, they were authorized to change from cloistered nuns to active-contemplative status, legally from Nuns to Sisters. It has been an evolution that carried their life and work into the twenty-first century.
 SOURCE:  http://www.grdominicans.org/History/history.htm

1878 Establishment of Holy Rosary Parish

Bishop Grace
MINNEAPOLIS, MN--In the decades following the Civil War, land and railroad expansion increases population growth west of the Mississippi and a large influx of first and second generation Europeans came to Minneapolis. Toward the close of 1877, Dominican Bishop Thomas Grace, planned new parishes to meet demands in the metropolitan area. With the concurrence of his coadjutor, Bishop John Ireland, Bishop Grace invited the Dominicans to the diocese. Dominican Provincial, Fr. Stephen Byrne, accepted Bishop Grace's invitation and plans began for a Dominican parish in the extensive prairie lands south of Minneapolis. Dominican friar, Thomas Power, arrived in Minneapolis in 1878 to establish Holy Rosary parish. Many of those who registered in the parish that first summer were Irish immigrants who were railroad workers and coopers, and a few Mexicans such as the Camarillo family. The new community of believers was the first Roman Catholic parish in south Minneapolis.

1879 Roots of the Adrian Sisters

In 1879 four Dominican sisters came from New York to Adrian, Michigan, to teach at St. Mary School. A year later four more New York Dominican sisters came to St. Joseph Parish to teach in the newly established school. In 1884 six sisters from Holy Rosary Convent in New York opened St. Joseph Hospital and Home for the Aged in a farmhouse at the outskirts of Adrian on what is now Siena Heights Drive. Within a short time, the hospital outgrew the farmhouse and a two-story brick building was erected.
In 1892 Adrian became a province of the New York Dominicans, and Mother Camilla Madden was appointed provincial. When she saw that the hospital was no longer necessary, Mother Camilla opened St. Joseph Academy in the brick building. She later opened a college that was called at first St. Joseph College, later Siena Heights College, and at present Siena Heights University.
 SOURCE:  http://www.adriansisters.org/history.html

1880 The Monastery of St. Dominic
           First Permanent Foundation of Cloistered Nuns

NEWARK, NJ--In 1880 four nuns from Ouillins in France, a monastery whose origins went back to Prouille, came to Newark, New Jersey to make the first permanent American foundation of cloistered nuns, the Monastery of St. Dominic. The founding prioress, Mary of Jesus, was an American.

"The nuns seek God by observing the norms of the purely contemplative life, by maintaining their withdrawal from the world by enclosure and silence, by working diligently, studying the truth eagerly, searching the Scriptures with ardent heart, praying intently, willingly practicing penance, pursuing communion thrugh their manner of government, in purity of conscience and the joy of sisterly concord, 'in freedom of spirit.'"

from Constitutions of the Nuns

Keeping the Cloister

The nuns who came to the United States in 1880 were compelled to keep the cloister and monastic traditions. They are a visible reminder of the earliest foundation of women in the Order of Preachers, that is, the contemplative nuns who were established by St. Dominic at Prouille, France, as a vital component of the friars' preaching of Jesus Christ. They are the fourth branch of the Order to be established permanently in the United States.

At mid-century, the nuns who came to the United States from Germany and Ireland  had replaced their cloister way of life with an active apostolate.



1880   Elkins Park Dominican Sisters

ELKINS PARK, PN--Lucy Eaton Smith, a convert, was another who was challenged by new needs, especially among women. In 1880 she founded in Albany New York a Dominican congregation which would offer women the opportunity for spiritual retreats, related to the contemplative aspects of the sisters' lives; and also to provide residences for working women in the cities. Under the patronage of St. Catherine de Ricci the sisters of this community continue this dual ministry, centered at the motherhouse now located at Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

1881   Caldwell Dominican Sisters

CALDWELL, NJ--Four congregations of American Dominican Sisters, all dedicated primarily to education, formed new branches in the 1880's. Sisters from Newburgh, New York established a community in Jersey City in 1881. These became a congregation which moved their motherhouse later to Caldwell, New Jersey.  [Click on the tree at left to view the family tree.]


1882   Dominican Sisters in Texas

GALVESTON, TX--From Columbus, Ohio a group of sisters led by Mary Agnes Magevny traveled to distant Galveston, Texas in 1882 to make a foundation which later moved to Houston.



1888   Mission San Jose Dominican Sisters

SAN JOSE, CA--The record for long-distance travel to new beginnings was made when sisters from Brooklyn, urged by Joseph Alemany, the Dominican Archbishop of San Francisco, responded to the educational needs of German immigrants in California. By 1888 these sisters became the Dominican congregation of Mission San Jose, under the leadership of Maria Pia Backes.

1888   Tacoma Dominican Sisters

TACOMA, WA--In the same year, sisters from the Jersey City community, led by Thomasina Buhlmeier, made a new foundation on the west coast at Tacoma, Washington.

1891   Blauvelt Dominican Sisters

BLAUVELT, NY--During the final decade of the nineteenth century two more American branches of the "Ratisbon tree" rooted in Bavaria became new congregations. From Newburgh came the sisters who formed the independent congregation of Blauvelt, New York in 1891. Their ministry for orphans had begun years earlier when Mary Ann Sammon, foundress of the new branch, brought homeless children into the Manhattan cloister to be cared for by the nuns. [As the number of children grew Sr. Mary Ann Sammon established a HOME for them.]

1891 The Monastery of the Perpetual Rosary
           Second Monastic Foundation from Europe

UNION CITY, NJ--In 1891, four nuns from Belgium's Monastery of the Perpetual Rosary opened their own monastery of the same name in Union City, New Jersey.

1892   Newburgh and Fall River Dominican Sisters

The second new branch originated as a province of the Newburgh sisters in Michigan. In 1894 this province was separated from their motherhouse by the arbitrary action of their bishop to become a diocesan congregation, under the leadership of Aquinata Fiegler, the sisters' former provincial.

The initial ministry of Dominican Sisters among Franco-Americans began with a call from Canadian friars in New England. Mary Bertrand Sheridan and several Dominican sisters from Washington, D.C. responded to that call in 1892 by founding a community and school in Fall River, Massachusetts. In July, 1995 three Dominican Congregations, Fall River, Newburgh, and Ossining joined to become the Dominican Sisters of Hope.

1894-96  Grand Rapid Dominican Sisters
                 Become Independent

Mother Aquinata Fiegler,
first prioress
In 1894 the Dominican Sisters of the Grand Rapids Diocese became an independent congregation under the patronage of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. A Traverse City pioneer, Mother Aquinata Fiegler (1848-1915), became the congregation's  first prioress.

The Sisters' ever-expanding mission field and the demands of the times necessitated changes in their conventual and apostolic life. In 1896, they were authorized to change from cloistered nuns to active-contemplative status, legally from Nuns to Sisters. It has been an evolution that carried their life and work into the twenty-first century.

1900   Hawthorne Dominican Sisters

HAWTHORNE, NY--In 1900, a Dominican congregation unique in its single ministry was founded by Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, the daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, out of her personal experience of the needs of the poor. Their compassionate ministry is found in their title: The Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. Their motherhouse is at Hawthorne, New York.

CREDITS: The timeline is based primarily on the contents of THE ORDER OF PREACHERS IN THE UNITED STATES, edited by Mary Nona McGreal O.P. and published by Editions du Signe of Strasbourg. Vol. I, Dominicans at Home in a Young Nation: 1786-1865, published in 2001, is available from PROJECT OPUS, 5082 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60644 Another source is the article by M.N.McGreal in the Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, requested by Michael Glazier and published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. The original content of the book and article has been edited and adapted into a time-line format using photos and other resources on the web.
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Don Kania, OP