The Dominican Sisters of Peace -- a congregation formed by the union of eight Dominican congregations -- came to be in 2009. Wouldn't it be good, I thought, to have oil paintings of all of the former motherhouses? With this in mind, I began this project of visiting and painting each motherhouse in October 2014 and ended it one year later. It was a beautiful experience to spend time with the Sisters and to capture their home in oils.
Our Lady of the Elms Convent is the mother house of the former Sisters of St. Dominic of Akron, Ohio. This building was the home of Arthur Hudson Marks, a chemist and industrialist. He engaged Howard Van Duran Shaw of Chicago to design this mansion in 1911. Marks was the head of the Diamond Rubber Company which was purchased by B.F. Goodrich where he became vice president. His home was called “Elm Court” and is an outstanding example of an Italian Villa. The Sisters purchased the house in 1923.
The fourth motherhouse of the former St. Mary of the Springs Dominicans was constructed in 2000. When their original motherhouse in Somerset, Ohio burned in 1866, the Sisters accepted from Theodore Leonard, father of two of their members, a grant of land in the newly established diocese of Columbus, Ohio. They moved to this site in 1868 and built a motherhouse there. This was replaced by a 14-story high-rise which opened in 1970. When the high-rise was determined to be no longer adequate as a housing facility for the members of the congregation, it was demolished. In its place is the present Motherhouse, which also houses congregational offices for the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
The Kentucky motherhouse was constructed in 1904 atop a knobby hill, replacing a former one a half mile down in the valley near Cartright Creek. These Kentucky Dominicans were founded here in 1822 to minister to the pioneers who had moved from Maryland in the late 1700's. The facility in the valley, as well as the one on the knob, was a residence of the Sisters and a boarding academy for girls. The academy closed in 1971. A renovation in 2000 converted the facility to a retirement house for the Sisters, up to code for assisted living.
The Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary New Orleans was founded from the Irish Dominican Sisters of Cabra in 1860. On beautiful property on Broadway off St. Charles Street they established a high school for girls and later a college. In 1929 the Sisters built a dormitory for their students, Founders Hall. Dominican High School relocated to another location in 1963. St. Mary's College closed in 1985. Most of the buildings were sold to Loyola University. In 1981 Founders Hall was renovated to become the first and only Motherhouse of the Congregation.
The Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic were founded67 a new motherhouse near New Orleans in 1927. Their ministries include cathesis of adults and children, providing nursing and social services in the homes of the marginalized, outreach to those in prisons and hospitals, and fostering the faith life of isolated communities. In 1942 they purchased their first motherhouse, the old Keller home on Magazine Street in New Orleans. In 1967 a new motherhouse was built on the same square. When it became feasible to sell this building in 1996, the Sisters purchased a house with seven bedrooms which they called their Central House. This house is located on beautiful Bayou St. John.
The Dominican Congregation of St. Catherine de’Ricci was founded in Albany, New York in 1880 by Lucy Eaton Smith. Finding herself called to vowed religious life as a Dominican, she wished to provide the ministry of spiritual retreats for women. Later the Sisters’ ministry included teaching in schools in many USA cities, in Cuba, and in Latin America. Their ministry broadened to include housing for women seeking employment in Philadelphia, New York City, and Dayton, OH. Over the years, the de’Ricci Sisters opened retreat houses in Ohio, New Mexico, New York, Florida, Indiana, and Virginia. One of their best known retreat houses was the Dominican Retreat House in Elkins Park, in suburban Philadelphia, which opened in 1932. This retreat house continued to provide spiritual renewal for 75 years to thousands of women and men. Although not specifically their “motherhouse,” it served as such for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’Ricci until it was put up for sale in 2007.
In 1902, nine pioneer Dominican Sisters from Brooklyn, New York, left for Kansas to form a new Dominican congregation. Almost immediately after arriving in Great Bend, the Sisters were asked to open a hospital. But they had already begun the ministry of education. Furthermore, none of the Sisters were registered nurses. In 1903 a registered nurse came to Great Bend from Brooklyn to open St Rose Hospital. An old college building, built in 1888, served as the motherhouse since the Sisters’ arrival in 1902. In 1929, the congregation had its first bazaar to raise money for the construction of a new home. Ground was broken for the new 250-room motherhouse in 1940. On October 7, 1941, the new, spacious, brick convent building was ready for dedication.
The foundresses of the Dominican Congregation of St. Rose of Lima came from the Congregation of St. Zedislava from Repcin in what is now the Czech Republic. In 1913, four Sisters from Repcin came to Pennsylvania. In 1939, Menscola Manor in Pontiac, (now Waterford) Michigan became their Motherhouse. Later they moved to Oxford, where they established their permanent Motherhouse in a white mansion. Because of lack of communication during World War II a separation from the congregation was suggested. In 1950, the American congregation of St. Rose of Lima was established. In 1999 the Sisters sold this motherhouse and constructed the current one on adjacent property.