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