History and Heritage

The Dominican Order…

Before his birth in 1170, Dominic de Guzman’s mother had a dream in which she saw a dog with a burning torch in its mouth racing around the globe. For over eight hundred years, since the founding of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in 1216, women and men on fire with a love of God, a burning search for truth, and aglow with compassion have willingly vowed to follow in the footsteps of this joyful servant of God who desired to set the world afire by preaching and reaching out to people in need. Over these centuries, followers of Dominic have fanned into flame this passion to bring life and love to the world.

Mother Mary Ann and the founding of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, NY…

In 1869, Mary Ann Sammon, an Irish immigrant alive with love of God and God’s children, entered a Dominican convent of German nuns on Second Street in New York City. These Sisters had been invited from the cloister in Ratisbon, Bavaria to New York in order to open a school for the children of German immigrants. Seeing the many children wandering the streets, Sr. Mary Ann, herself an orphan, saw the need to establish a home away from the urban streets, where these youngsters could be cared for and educated. Accompanied by her Superior, Mother Hyacinth, Sister Mary Ann sought a suitable location for an orphanage. The ideal spot was found in Blauveltville, New York where Sr. Mary Ann and Mother Hyacinth found a house for sale. In the parlor hung an oil painting by Alexandre Grellet depicting Saint Dominic raising a child to life. Upon seeing the painting of the founder of the Order with children, Sister Mary Ann knew it was a sign from God and said to her superior, “Mother, here we shall be!” So the seed was planted, and in 1878 the ministries began that would spread God’s love and compassion across many decades.

Expansion and Change…

Besides caring for the children, the sisters kept the rule and fasts of the cloister. In order to best serve the children, the Sisters moved from being a cloistered community to an active one. . As the new century began, requests for teachers arrived from Illinois, so the first schools the Sisters staffed were quite a distance away, — it wasn’t long before schools in the Bronx, Yonkers, Manhattan and many counties along the Hudson River, as well as in Rhode Island, Florida, and New Jersey were being staffed by the Sisters from Blauvelt. The Sisters taught in elementary schools, high schools, and a college; some also ministered to cancer patients, taught the blind, and served as house mothers for orphans in what is now St. Dominic’s Home.

Before many communities of Religious were seeking merger for the sake of mission, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt were involved with this undertaking. A small group of previously cloistered Dominicans from Union City, New Jersey had responded to a call from the bishop of Kingston, Jamaica in the West Indies to staff the Catholic hospital there. The work was very demanding, and the congregation was small. They petitioned to
merge with the Blauvelt congregation.There were hopes and fears on each side of the water, but on December 29, 1942, the Dominican Sisters in Jamaica and the Dominican Sisters in Blauvelt became one.

For over 130 years the Sisters have ministered in areas wherever God loving care was called for. They were teachers, nurses, and caregivers, and after the Second Vatican Council new needs were uncovered. Cries were heard, and the Sisters did their best to answer. Sisters ministered with HIV and AIDS patients. They cared for unwed mothers and migrant workers’ children. Parish needs were addressed, prisoners were ministered to and prayers were prayed. Sisters are nurses, social workers, doctors, teachers, secretaries, administrators… wherever there is a need, Dominican sisters of Blauvelt have stepped in to meet that need. Today, we continue to respond to these needs through our prayer, direct service and collaborative endeavors.