Explore the story behind who we are
As one Congregation of Dominican Sisters within the wider Dominican Family, our story is one chapter of the wider story of that Family. You can choose where to start.
Below is a timeline about Saint Dominic and the Order he founded
Click here to find out about Mother Rose Niland, her story and the story of the Congregation she founded
Our Congregation of St Catherine of Siena of Newcastle, Natal was founded by Mother Rose Niland OP in South Africa in 1896.
Mother Rose was born in South Africa and made profession in the King William’s Town Congregation, a congregation of apostolic Sisters which evolved from a foundation made by Dominican nuns from Augsburg, Germany. Having transferred to the Oakford Community after it became independent from King William’s Town, Mother Rose was asked to join the community of Sisters being sent to found a school in Newcastle, Natal in 1891. Only five years later, in 1896, because of poor economic conditions and prospects in Newcastle, the Oakford Congregation decided to close the school and convent along with it. However, the Bishop of Natal, Bishop Charles-Constant Jolivet OMI, was reluctant to jeopardise the growth of the Catholic Church in Natal and asked Mother Rose to take charge of an independent community. The Sisters at Newcastle were asked individually whether they wished to return to Oakford or to remain at Newcastle. Six Sisters elected to remain with Rose. With the agreement of the Oakford Superior, then, the new Congregation of Newcastle was formed. Mother Rose was elected its first Prioress.
The Congregation continued to grow in South Africa and was affiliated to the Order of Preachers in 1906. Effectively this removed Sisters from the vicissitudes of obedience to any local bishop and gave them independence in matters of Government and Mission.
It is indeed a mark of trust and confidence to receive the Decree which gives us an honoured place in the Church and proves to the whole world that our Holy Father and sacred Congregation regard us as true religious and entrust the honour of the holy Faith in our hands. We must strive to continuously render ourselves worthy of the honour and esteem conferred on us.
The early and rapid growth of the Congregation soon made the search for new vocations an important part of the communities’ life. In the months immediately after her election, Mother Rose travelled to England, Ireland, and the Netherlands to seek out new vocations for her Congregation. She returned to England in in 1915 and opened the first house in the UK in Launceston, Cornwall which was quickly established as a Novitiate House. Eleven years later Mother Rose, after many trials, purchased Caldecote Towers in Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, now known as Rosary Priory, the present-day site of the Congregation’s Generalate. Little would Mother Rose know how propitious this location would be some seventy years later—only 13 miles from Central London and easily accessible from every part of the country and world because of our proximity to London airports.
The Congregation continued to grow and develop, largely through the opening of schools, both in England and in South Africa. A house was opened in Rome in 1930, which was for several years the Novitiate. Subsequently, it served for many years as both a small pensione for pilgrims and an international community for Dominican Sisters from many countries and congregations who were associated, in particular, with Dominican Sisters International and the General Curia of the Order.
In the early 1970s, following the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council, the number of new Sisters decreased and the need for larger houses diminished. Sisters began moving into new apostolic work. With fewer Sisters, smaller communities became the norm and new houses were opened where Sisters perceived needs they could meet. During this period the Congregation was also asked to participate in several projects abroad and Sisters worked in Ethiopia, Liberia, Argentina, and Jamaica.
Historically apostolic Dominican Sisters developed into a multitude of independent congregations throughout the world, all sharing the same commitment to our Dominican life and heritage.
In 1995, in an effort to promote collaboration with, and support among, the many groups of Dominican Sisters, Dominican Sisters International (DSI) was founded. DSI works out of the Curia of the Order of Preachers in Rome and is moving towards a loose federation of Dominican Women to facilitate our ministry and service within the Church. We are proud to belong to DSI and today we continue to work with other branches of the Dominican Family in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Our Communities of Initial Formation are in South Africa and now include a small number of women from Vietnam who are drawn to the Dominican way of life with our Congregation.
Sisters, continue to give a clear witness to the Kingdom of God in the present time as stated in our Constitutions.