The History Of Our Congregation

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The Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui can trace their ancestry back to St Dominic’s 1206 foundation at Prouille. A convent at Galway in Ireland was founded in 1640 from Prouille. This convent founded other convents including Cabra in Dublin. From Cabra a convent was founded at Sion Hill, also in Dublin, and from Sion Hill ten Sisters came to Dunedin in 1871 to found Dominican Convents in New Zealand.

In 1997 a New Zealand Dominican Sister came to Wanganui to teach in the schools run by the Society of St Pius X. In January 2002 two young ladies from Australia joined Sister in the hope that a religious congregation would be founded. On 8 December 2002 Bishop Fellay gave permission for the foundation of a Congregation with the status equivalent to a Congregation of Diocesan Right. Since then other young women have joined the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui.

At present, as of April 2016, there are 18 professed sisters, 7 novices and 2 postulants, representing New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India, Canada, the United States of America, Singapore, Samoa and the Philippines.

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A Pictorial History of the Congregation and Her Irish Roots

Channel Row, in Dublin, where the nuns were relocated in 1717 after the dispersion of the Galway community in 1711 due to anti-Catholic laws. This community was formally recognised by the Master General Fr Antoninus Cloche in 1718 as distinct and autonomous from Galway.

The gates of the Dominican Convent in St Mary’s, Cabra. The nuns moved there from Clontarf on 12 December 1819. It was here that the nuns were able to establish a more regular life and enclosure.

Pupils c.1882 of Dominican Convent Cabra

Convent Monastery of St Catherine of Siena, Sion Hill. The community and boarders moved there in 1841. It was a suburban villa and thickly wooded, and even had rare shrubs brought from the Holy Land, whence the name of “Sion Hill” was derived.

Fr Joseph Marmion was instrumental in helping the Sisters set up the novitiate in Beaumont, Ireland. It was a great loss to the community when Father entered the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous – later becoming the great spiritual master, Abbot Columba Marmion, O.S.B.

Mother Gabriel Gill (centre) with the novices in Beaumont, Dublin. She was appointed Prioress of the founding group of NZ Dominican Sisters.

St Dominic’s Priory, Dunedin. The first Sisters came to New Zealand from Sion Hill in 1870.

The Foundresses of the NZ Mission from Sion Hill. Standing (L-R): Srs di Ricci Kirby, Vincent Whitty, Francis Sullivan, Peter Jordan, Raymond McGrath, Lucy Tracy, Joseph Neylon, Gertrude Dooley, Bertrand Mclaughlin, Catherine Hughes. Sitting: Mother Gabriel Gill, Sr Agnes Rooney

Bishop Patrick Moran was the first bishop of Dunedin, NZ. He had known the Sisters in Sion Hill from early days of his ordination to the priesthood and later on in Cape Town, South Africa.

Novices who came with Bp Moran from Ireland in 1889. The new foundations in New Zealand had to depend on the Motherhouse in Sion Hill for recruitment.

Community, 1890

Invercargill, 1882.

Community of St Catherine’s Convent, with M.M.Gabriel, 1884

Community in front of the Novitiate, 1892

Novitiate, St Dominic’s Priory

Community photograph, 1914.

Church of the Holy Rosary, Teschemakers. Teschemakers was the first boarding house run by the Sisters. The property was given to the Sisters by the McCarthy family.

Dominican Hall

Rosary Hall, Dunedin

Mother Mary Jordan, O.P. was the Prioress General of the New Zealand Domincan Sisters when our present Mother General entered in 1973.

From Left to Right: Mother Mary Constance Quin, O.P. (Mother Prioress General); Sr Mary Micaela Dillon, O.P.; Sr Mary Barbara Menzies, O.P.; Mother Mary Antoninus Dibley, O.P. (Novice Mistress) in a photograph taken on 31 March 1975, First Profession.

Early days in Wanganui.