Our Story

Explore the story behind who we are

Introduction

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.

Mother Rose

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.

Mother Rose

Our Timeline

1170

c. 1170

c. 1170

Saint Dominic Guzman was born in the late 1170s in Caleruega, a small village in Old Casile in the North of Spain to Felix de Guzman and Jane of Aza.  At the age of 6 or 7, his parents entrusted him to an uncle, an archpriest, who was responsible for Dominic’s education. It was here that he learned to pray the Psalms and Hymns of the Divine Office, and where he learned his way around the various books of the Liturgy.

1184

c. 1184

c. 1184

At the age of 14, Dominic went to the university in Palencia, in the kingdom of Leon. Around that time, there was a terrible famine. To give alms to the poor, he sold his possessions, even his precious annotated books, thinking that the living skins of the famished were more important than the dead skins of his books. Music was studied in the quadrivium. Consequently Dominic loved to sing, particularly the Ave Maris Stella and the Veni Creator. His study of the arts lasted six years.

1203

1203

In 1203, Dominic accompanied Bishop Diego of Osma on a diplomatic mission to Denmark. Returning through southern France, they encountered a group of Albigensian heretics, and a few Cistercians appointed by the Pope to reconvert the heretics to Christianity. Diego encouraged the papal legates to adopt as their own the lifestyle of their opponents, a Gospel-poverty which the heretics found more compelling than the wealth of Church leaders. While Diego returned to Osma, Dominic remained in the region, preaching the Gospel with the permission Bishop Fulk of Toulouse.

1206

1206 Prouille

1206 Prouille

In 1206, Dominic founded a convent for women, similar to the Albigensian houses of ‘perfects’, into whose care Dominic had seen poor families entrust their daughters. Nine women received the habit, establishing a community in Prouille, which served as a shelter for women converted from heresy and a base for Dominic’s preaching. This marks the beginnings of the enclosed nuns, from whom congregations of apostolic sisters would later emerge.

1215

1215

Dominic seeks papal approval for Order of Preachers Devoted to his task and a life of prayer, Dominic attracted followers as he preached throughout southern France, hoping to convert heretics. At the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), he sought papal approval for an ‘Order of Preachers’, but the Council decreed that no new religious order could be established unless it adopted an existing rule. With the agreement of his brethren, Dominic adopted the Rule of St Augustine.

1217

1217

1217

In January 1217, Honorius III recognised Dominic and his followers as ‘preachers in the territory of Toulouse’. The Order of Preachers was born. Dominic’s vision was far-reaching. In August 1217 he dispersed his brethren to Madrid and Paris, and a foundation followed in Bologna. From the Order’s inception, because Dominic recognised his brethren’s need to be grounded in theology and philosophy, houses were founded in university cities across Europe. Dominican convents are houses of study as well as houses of prayer. The second Chapter (June 1221), sent a delegation of friars to Oxford, the last university lacking Dominicans.

1221

1221

In 1221, the General Chapter made the decision to divine the Order into geographical Provinces: Spain, Provence, France, Lombardy and Tuscany. The Chapter also outlined the creation of further Provinces in Germany, Hungary, England, Greece, Scandinavia, Poland and probably the Holy Land. The Province of Angliae, or England, was founded in 1221 by Friar Gilbert of Fresney, accompanied by 12 friars. They arrived on the shores of England, at Dover, in August and reached Oxford on 15, the Feast of the Assumption.

1221

1221 onward

The Order of Preachers continued to flourish, spreading throughout world. Its mission remains unchanged, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. Saint Dominic is our father, a model of prayer and preaching, always pointing to the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ.

1221

1221 Death of Dominic

1221 Death of Dominic

Dominic’s personal dream was to preach in Eastern Europe. It remained unfulfilled. He travelled towards Bologna, arriving in mid-July, and was soon seriously ill. His personal poverty now became apparent: ‘he never had a bed of his own, so the brethren made him lie down on Moneta’s bed. When his perspiration made it necessary to change his clothes, they realised that he had no second habit either; Moneta has to meet this need too.’ Saint Dominic died on 6 August, 1221 in the presence of his brethren, and was buried in the priory church as he requested; ‘under the feet of his brethren.’

1867

1867

The first Dominican Sisters from Sion Hill, Dublin, Ireland arrive in Suth Africa and establishe a school and convent in the Eastern Cape.

1896

1896

1896

Under the guidance of Bishop Jolivet OMI, six Sisters choose to remain in Newcastle, Natal and elect Sister Rose Niland OP as Prioress. This marks the birth of the Congregation of Saint Catherine of Siena of Newcastle, Natal. Mother Rose was joined by Sisters Columba, Patrick, Bertrand, Agnes and Benigna, all of whole elected to remain in Newcastle when the Oakford Sisters decided to withdraw the mission.

1917

1917

One of the deepest desires of Mother Rose was to provide Dominican Chaplains for her Sisters. Mother Rose wrote to the Bishop of Johannesburg, the England Provincial, and to Propaganda in Rome, trying to secure a mission for the Dominican Friars and to convince them to come to South Africa. Her persistence and her prayers prevailed: fr Laurence Shapcote arrived in Boksburg in early 1917. This first English Mission to South Africa was hardly successful but amid trials and tribulations, first a Vicariate and then a Province, eventually emerged.

Dominican Life

Community, Prayer, Study and Preaching are the four ‘pillars’ of our Dominican life

Mother Rose Niland

Foundress of the “Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena of Newcastle, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa”

St Catherine of Siena

Preach the Truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world

Obituaries

In memory of our dearly departed Sisters
Rest in Peace

Pin It on Pinterest