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HE DOMINICAN CONGREGATION of St. Mary in June 2007 numbers forty-one professed members. Our Story tells how we arrived at this point in time.

In 1860, inspired by the appeal of an engaging young Irish pastor, seven young women embarked from Cabra (greater Dublin) to New Orleans to begin a new foundation. They would teach girls in a parish school; within the year they added an academy modeled after their school in Cabra. In the same decade, stout-hearted St. Mary's, Cabra, was dispatching sisters to teach in Portugal, Australia, and South Africa, convents which still flourish.

St. Mary's, Cabra, like its mother-convent in Galway from 1644, was a convent of cloistered, contemplative nuns who taught girls, establishing a tradition of excellence that they passed on.

Greenville Hall was built in 1882. The Annex
to the right was built in 1898.

 The St. Mary's Academy born in the spring of 1861 flourishes today as St. Mary's Dominican High School.

Dominican High School on Walmsley.
Moved from Greenville in 1963.

 Alumnae include TV journalist and personality Arthel Neville, '80, daughter of musician Art Neville. Among the first gigs of the now famous Neville Brothers were the school dances at Dominican when Arthel was enrolled there. In August, 2005, Arthel lost her family home to Hurricane Katrina, and all of her relatives were displaced. See her blog. She subsequently established "Arthel's Angels," a non-profit hurricane relief website.

A college sprang from the academy in 1910 and provided a noteworthy, liberal arts education for 74 years. In time it became the only Catholic liberal arts college for women in a nine-state area. Among the better-known alumnae of St. Mary's Dominican College is Helen Prejean, CSJ, BA '62,, author of the best-selling Dead Man Walking, and collaborator in the award-winning movie. Writers, artists, lawyers, judges, doctors, engineers, teachers, homemakers, business women, missionaries, all women of purpose, say as with one voice, "Dominican taught me to think for myself . . . Dominican rooted me in faith." Testimonials to the sisters from their students in grade school, high school and college abound in the guest books of this web site.

The sisters have expanded into other ministries since the sixties, when Vatican Council II opened up diverse possibilities for women in the Church and in the world at large. In community organizing, for instance, Sr. Mary Jordan Langenhennig, under the auspices of PICO (Pacific Institute of Community Organizing) launched Louisiana Interfaiths Together (LIFT) across the southern part of the state, a fertile ground. The National Civic League named Greater New Orleans one of ten All-American cities in the US; credit was given for the fact that the city's problems are being addressed. M. Jordan began organizing All Congregations Together (ACT) to address these problems anew in 1988, continuing her mission of community organizing until she was elected Prioress of St. Mary's Congregation in 2000.

Only the limits of the Net attention span preclude our enumerating the variety of ways to serve developed by the Dominicans of St. Mary. All religious women can tell similar stories. What perhaps marks Dominicans is distilling their life to the essence found in four elements: Community, Prayer, Mission, and Study, all of equal priority. The first three are common to most vowed religious groups, with emphasis on one or another. Dominicans give equal emphasis to Study, understood as life-long learning.

St. Mary's in 2007 is approaching her 147th year. Mostly from south Louisiana, members are individuals together, challenging themselves to unity in diversity. St. Mary's sisters tend to be easy-going, family and friend-oriented, appreciate gracious living, stories, and good conversation. Work (mission) is valued, yet the person has priority over the work. St. Mary's is strongly committed to Dominican Family, which includes two other groups of sisters based in the New Orleans area, also the headquarters and home base for a generous contingent of Southern Province (St. Martin de Porres) friars, Dominican Laity (formerly “Third Order”), as well as lay associates. St. Mary's leaders have been involved in the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC) from its beginning, and more recently in Dominican Sisters-United States, a federation of Dominican Religious Women. For congregations desiring even more collaboration, St. Mary's leaders helped to initiate the Dominican Alliance which now numbers thirteen congregations. Visit the Dominican Alliance site. The Alliance is a partnership of U.S. Dominican women committed to collaboration linking their energy, resources, and personnel to preach the gospel. Out of the Alliance has emerged a “Cluster” -- a group of seven Dominican congregations, including St. Mary’s, actively seeking to implement their common purpose in a common structure. The process of evolving toward this goal is challenging and exciting. The movement reflects a worldwide direction among religious as well as others, offering hope and promise for the future of our shared mission as Dominicans.

Dominican sisters are worldwide; see Dominican Sisters International. We are sisters and brothers, lay and vowed members. St. Mary's is a small part of a global family (See in our guest books), a family we treasure.

Dorothy Dawes, OP, Archivist
but take out the X please...

 More stories:
Our Congregation Sisters Today Band Director Protester Orphan train

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