The Albertus Magnus College Aquinas lecture series opened this year with the St. Albert the Great Lecture, delivered by Dominican Sister of Peace Joan Scanlon. Sr. Joan’s lecture, Pioneering Women of the Past, Innovators Shaping the Future, detailed how the Dominican Sisters in the United States lived the four pillars of Dominican life throughout their first 200 years.
Sr. Joan served in the college’s Dominican Mission and Ministry Office.
Click here to view a video of Sr. Joan’s presentation.
As the Dominican Sisters of Peace celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dominican Women Religious in the United States, the Sisters of the Congregation have also chosen to recognize the sin of slavery.
In an October 2, 2022, service at the Congregation’s Motherhouse in Springfield, KY, the Sisters offered a memorial to the enslaved men and women whose labors supported the young women from St. Rose Parish who founded the first congregation of Dominican Sisters in the United States.
This memorial service was created and presented in collaboration with the “I Was Here” Project, a Kentucky-based art exhibit that seeks to reframe the conversation around racism and slavery through the lens of art.
The service included music by nationally recognized vocalist Dr. Michael Preacley and from Congregational vocalists, comments by Marshall Fields, founder of F.R.E.E.D.O.M. from RACISM Training, and by Barry Burton, a Kentucky-based writer. Sr. Rosemary Rule served as the host of the ceremony.
Recent historical research done in the Springfield area allowed the Sisters to recognize a number of the formerly enslaved persons by name during the ceremony.
Sister Barbara Sullivan, OP, worked closely with the “I Was Here” project team to present the prayer service. “Working with “I Was Here” was a blessing. We were able, for the first time, to name and honor some of the enslaved African-American women and men who were here with us at St. Catharine in founding the first mission of Dominican Sisters in the United States. Through the power of the arts, we are able to see others for who they were and are, and to help in healing the legacy of racism.”
The Dominican Sisters of Peace have conducted a number of congregational studies on racism over the past years, and in 2017, welcomed Shannen Dee Williams, associate professor at the University of Dayton and author of Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle, to address Sisters.
To view the “I Was Here” memorial service on the Dominican Sisters of Peace YouTube channel, please click here.
As part of the celebration of the sesquicentennial celebration of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, the Congregation has released a video overview of the Congregation’s history. Click here to view this walk through history.
Long before the formal training and regulation of nursing, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine provided care for those who were in need. The Sisters tended to the sick and dying through several cholera and yellow fever epidemics in Kentucky and Tennessee. They even gave up their own beds to nurse injured soldiers, both Union and Confederate, during the Civil War.
Springfield suffered mightily during the 1833 and 1854 cholera epidemics. This dreadful illness is characterized by violent gastrointestinal issues, muscle cramps, excessive thirst, and usually death within twelve hours. During the first cholera outbreak, there were only ten or eleven sisters, so they recruited lay women to work with them in the ministry of caring for the ill. Both sisters and lay women knew the dangers of this ministry. For over three weeks, day and night, these women worked with the sick and dying, and none contracted cholera. The 1854 cholera outbreak required weeks of caring by the Dominican sisters and their associates.
In addition to the sisters, an enslaved African American man named Louis Sansbury, remained in Springfield while most residents left to avoid the illness. He worked tirelessly to care for the sick and buried the dead and was recognized as a local hero. Upon returning the Springfield after the outbreak, the town’s residents were so grateful to Mr. Sansbury that they purchased his freedom after his owner died of cholera and helped him establish a blacksmith shop to support his family.
During the second outbreak, Mr. Sansbury again provided care and the dignity of burial to any person who needed him. An historical maker is dedicated to him in Springfield, and the city dedicated the celebration of the first annual African American Heritage Week in his honor.
In Memphis, the Dominican sisters opened an orphanage in 1853 to provide homes for children whose parents were lost to cholera, yellow fever, and smallpox. Due to the segregation of that era, the children were divided into groups of white boys, Black boys, Black girls, and white girls.
Yellow fever took over the city regularly for 4 decades, with painful symptoms and death within hours. The Memphis sisters cared not only for students, but for many who came to the school looking for assistance as well as members of the community.
At least five friars and ten sisters perished in the last outbreaks of yellow fever, but the Dominicans did not take time to mourn. After the yellow fever ended, the sisters returned to their work in Memphis, opening more schools for white and Black students, and orphanages for both. In gratitude for their service, for many years after the war, no sister in Memphis had to pay for public transportation.
Sadly, epidemics were not the only crisis calling out to our sisters during this time. The Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine did not take a side in the Civil War, but rather, cared for Union and Confederate casualties both in Memphis and in Sienna Vale. The wounded were sent to Memphis by boat and train, where the sisters from St. Agnes and LaSalette school and orphanage cared for them. Sixteen sisters dedicated themselves to this difficult and draining ministry; one of them, Sister Alberta Rumpff, found and cared for her own brother among the war wounded. General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose wife attended St. Mary of the Springs, was instrumental in obtaining the supplies that the sisters needed to nurse the ill and wounded.
One of the most ferocious battles of the Civil War occurred in Perryville, Kentucky, less than thirty miles from the St. Catharine Motherhouse. Although Kentucky remained neutral, both armies traveled through the state, sometimes taking clothing, food, and other resources from its residents. Legend has it that Confederate General John Hunt Morgan raided the Motherhouse of her horses, but his neighbors, who were students at St. Catharine, shamed him into returning them.
All twenty-four sisters at St. Catharine were involved in providing care to the wounded and comforting the dying after the battle, regardless of their military affiliation or religion. The sisters nursed the injured in Perryville and brought many home to the Motherhouse, converting it to a military hospital.
Many years later, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine were recognized for their works of mercy during the Civil War. The Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians erected a monument in Washington, DC in 1918. In 1961, the Catholic Hospital Association awarded plaques to fourteen religious communities for their work on the battlefields and in hospitals during the war. The plaque awarded to the Sisters of Catharine of Siena, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, hangs in the Sansbury Care Center, where many retired Sisters live. The inscription reads:
For outstanding service during the Civil War. Presented to your Order by the Catholic Hospital Association, June 14, 1961. They comforted the dying, nursed the wounded, carried hope to the imprisoned, gave in His name a drink of water to the thirsty.
I Have Seen the Lord! Dominican Women Preaching with their Lives
The Dominican Sisters of Peace continued their celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Dominican women in the US with prayer and a presentation for the Feast of Mary of Magdalene, Patron of the Order of Preachers, on Saturday, July 23, 2022, at 3:00pm EDT.
The featured speaker for the program was Claire Noonan, DMin. Claire has served as the Vice President for Mission and Planning at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.
Claire’s program, “I Have Seen the Lord! Dominican Women Preaching with their Lives,” focused on the future of the preaching charism of Dominican women in the US.
As we celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the first community of Dominican Women in the United States, we celebrate, in a special way, the Feast Day of our patroness, St. Mary Magdalene.
Called “The Apostle to the Apostles,” Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Christ after His resurrection. She ran to the disciples and was the first to preach the Gospel of the risen Christ. She is very much a woman of her time, and a woman of our time.
Our special prayer service for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene can be downloaded in a PDF format here (not alterable) and in Word format here (for modifying should one wish to add, subtract or substitute) and will be located on the Anniversary Webpage. The PDF formatting fits standard letter size (8 1/2” x 11”) paper with no seams or folds needed when printed.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace are excited to welcome Shingai Chigwedere, a native of Zimbabwe, to the Congregation. Shingai officially joined the Congregation as a Candidate in a July 14, 2022, ceremony held at Albertus Magnus College, one of two post-secondary schools founded by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
Shingai, a human resource professional recently based in Indianapolis, IN, chose to the Congregation headquartered in Columbus, OH. She holds a bachelor’s in Psychology from Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona, CA, a Master’s in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago, and a Master’s in human resource management from the Keller Graduate School of Management. She worked in human resource management for companies including Aramark Uniform Services and DeVry University before hearing God’s call to, as she says, “do more with the Catholic Church. All I knew for sure was that a big change was going to happen in my life in the future,” she says.
She took her human resources skills to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, but even as she was working in and for the Church, she felt that something was missing. “Even though I could now be my full self in the workplace, openly praying with colleagues in meetings or attending Mass daily onsite, that integration did not fill this deeper longing I felt. Through lots of prayer, spiritual direction, and many hours in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, I started visiting communities in 2019. During the pandemic it became clearer that God was asking me to serve as a religious Sister and eventually to take the next step by applying for candidacy.”
Shingai found the Dominican Sisters of Peace through the Vision Vocation Network. She was impressed by the growing cultural diversity of the Congregation. Of the ten women in formation, four are from multicultural backgrounds. She shared that “Even in the discernment retreats, the Vocations team encourages us to pray in our native languages,” she says. “As a Black African woman, appreciation of cultural heritage is important to me, and it is wonderful to see it actually being lived.”
Shingai also admired how the Dominican Sisters of Peace look ahead to the future and adapt to the current state. She stated that, “The fact that seven Dominican congregations came together in 2009… shows me that they value the broader Dominican community and are not afraid to make changes in order to better serve the world.”
Shingai is the daughter of Lilian and the late Stan Chigwedere, of Harare, Zimbabwe. She has two sisters, Farai Chigwedere and Tendisai Chigwedere. Shingai was an active member of Christ the King in Lombard, IL and moved to the Dominican Sisters of Peace House of Welcome in New Haven, CT this spring. At the end of July, she will begin working in the Office of Dominican Mission, Campus Ministry and Meister Eckhart Center, at the Congregation’s post-secondary school, Albertus Magnus College, in New Haven, CT.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace have an active Vocations and Formation ministry, with four women candidates, two Sister novices and four having taken Temporary Vows.
To view a video of Shingai Chigwedere’s Entrance Ceremony, click here.
To view a copy of her Entrance Ceremony program, click here.
In honor of the 200th Anniversary of the Dominican Women in the US, the Congregational Celebration Committee of the Dominican Sisters of Peace has prepared six prayer services for the Anniversary year. Each service includes prayers, readings, and songs, with links to YouTube performances if needed. These can be used by individuals, small or large groups.
All the services will be in both PDF format (not alterable) and in Word format (for modifying should one wish to add, subtract or substitute) and will be located on the Anniversary Webpage. The PDF formatting fits standard letter size (8 1/2” x 11”) paper with no seams or folds needed when printed.
The first prayer service has the theme of Non-violence. You can download the PDF version of the Non-Violence Service here, and download the editable Word document here.
The themes of the next five services will be: St. Mary Magdalen, Patroness of the Order(July); St. Dominic (August); Advent/Christmas (Nov/Dec); World Day of Peace, Mary, Mother of God (January) and Ash Wednesday/Lent (Feb/March). You can find these prayers in the Information Hub of this website.
Sunday, July 3 was a day of bright sun, happy smiles, and celebration, as the Dominican Sisters of Peace at the Columbus, OH, Motherhouse witnessed the Vows of Temporary Profession for Sr. Annie Killian, 33, a Tennessee native currently serving as a Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Notre Dame.
Sr. Annie’s journey to religious life began with a personal search for a deeper relationship with God while studying for her PhD in English at Yale University. The eldest of four in a Catholic family, Sr. Annie served as a student leader in campus ministry at Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel at Yale. As she began to discern her call to religious life, she was introduced to the Vocations Director of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, who lived right down the street. The Congregation had just opened an intergenerational, multicultural “House of Welcome” for women in formation, and in Sr. Annie’s words, “These were the women with whom I wanted to throw in my lot!”
While studying at Yale, Sr. Annie also taught a writing course at a women’s correctional facility through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education, which awakened a passion to connect her academic studies of the humanities to the earthly causes of social justice.
Sr. Annie served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Ohio Dominican University for a year before entering the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While at the Novitiate, she served at Kolbe House Jail Ministry, designing and teaching a correspondence course on “Life After Loss” for persons incarcerated at the Cook County Jail, and helping clients leaving the facility to effectively reenter society. After completing the first year of her novitiate, she accepted a position at the University of Notre Dame, where the Dominican Sisters of Peace have a local community.
“Annie’s passion for preaching Christ’s Gospel of peace is purely Dominican,” says Sr. Pat Twohill, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. “She is an articulate and loving voice for the causes of justice in our church and in our world.”
“It’s been a blessing to walk with Annie through her formation journey,” said Sr. Pat Dual, Director of Formation. “She told us that she came to the Dominican Sisters of Peace to share our joy – but she has brought much joy to our community as well.”
Sr. Annie will continue her ministry at Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute, where she works to engage the public through arts and literature.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace currently have 10 women in formation to vowed religious life.
This article is the third of twelve, one per month, celebrating the Bicentennial of Dominican Women in the United States. This series celebrates highlights of Dominican Sisters, whose history hails from Washington County, Kentucky.
From the founding of the Congregation in 1822 until the end of the nineteenth century, the mission of St. Catharine of Sienna grew by leaps and bounds, founding additional convents and schools. In 1830, Bishop Fenwick, founder of Dominicans in the United States, requested sisters to travel to Somerset, OH, to teach in his diocese.
Four sisters, including Benvin Sansbury, left to create the first daughter foundation, St. Mary of the Springs. Under the auspices of the Dominican Provincial, another new mission was developed in Memphis, TN in 1851. Three sisters from each St. Catharine and St. Mary of the Springs traveled to Memphis to begin St. Agnes Academy, the first Catholic girls’ academy in the state of Tennessee. In 1888, St. Agnes became permanently affiliated with St. Catharine to share mission and resources. By the end of the century, sisters from St. Catharine of Sienna near Springfield, KY had established Dominican Mother Houses in Nashville, TN, St. Cecilia Academy, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Springfield, IL, and St. Catharine of Sienna in Fall River, MA.
St. Mary of the Springs convent in Somerset, OH, was established and a school for girls opened. As in Kentucky, the number of Dominican novices grew as did the number of students taught by them. In Memphis, St. Agnes Academy doubled in size by the end of the first academic year. In addition, the St. Agnes sisters later opened orphanages in Memphis and helped to maintain another in Nashville during the yellow fever epidemics. In Nashville, St. Cecilia Academy grew along with the new Motherhouse.
The Dominican sisters earned a reputation for excellence in teaching early in their history. They were the first to teach both boys and girls and demand for their mission grew.
The sisters in Springfield, IL, opened Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Academy in 1873. In 1888, St. Catharine of Sienna in Fall River, MA opened St. Patrick School in Watertown to 400 students. The following year they opened St. Michael in Lowell, added boys to the student body in 1890, welcoming 475 students. Other schools opened in Massachusetts include St. Francis DeSales and St. Catharine of Sienna.
In Kentucky, St. Catharine Academy grew, and a new building was erected in Sienna Vale. The Dominican sisters of St. Catharine opened Holy Rosary, a school for black children in the Rosary Heights area of Springfield in 1877. In 1880, the sisters began teaching in Kentucky’s Washington County public schools, St. Agnes, Cecilville and Smith, which later merged and became St. Rose. They established St. Dominic School in Springfield in 1882; St. Bridget in Louisville and Holy Trinity in Fredericktown in 1886; and St. Louis Bertrand and Holy Rosary Academy in Louisville in 1866 and 1867.
Early in the twentieth century, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine instituted elementary and secondary schools in many states including Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, West Virginia, Arkansas and New York. Their first college was located in Memphis, opening before St. Catharine College in Kentucky. In the 1950s, the sisters expanded their educational efforts into Louisiana, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.