Over eight hundred years ago, St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers to be a vibrant men’s religious community “for preaching and the salvation of souls.” But from the very beginning, and indeed before officially establishing the friars, he also organized monasteries of nuns to aid the “holy preaching” through prayer and contemplative witness. In time active religious sisters also took on the Dominican charism as did members of the laity who joined the “Third Order” or Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic as it’s now known.
Life for Dominican friars is oriented to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, following the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers. The Dominican way of life is marked by prayer, including the common celebration of the public prayer of the Church, study as the basis for preaching, fraternal life in community, and the work of preaching in its various forms. There is a contemplative character to Dominican life, but Dominicans are “active contemplatives,” sharing the fruit of their prayer, study, and common life with those they encounter. As the great Dominican theologian St. Thomas Aquinas expressed it, Dominicans seek “to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation.” In the more than eight centuries since its origin, the Order has numbered among its members theologians, mystics, Doctors of the Church, workers among the poor, popes, saints and innumerable men and women who have left less tangible traces of their work.
Dominicans at St. Mary's
In 1886 the bishop of Hartford entrusted St. Mary Parish to the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph. A priory was established at that time to serve the parish and to be the base of a Mission Band of friars who travelled about giving parish missions. Today the Dominicans of St. Mary Priory continue to serve St. Mary Parish, as well as the Shrine of the Infant of Prague, on staff at the Knights of Columbus home office, at Quinnipiac University, at Albertus Magnus College, and as chaplains for the Dominican nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace in North Guilford, CT. The present priory building was erected in 1907, and provides an environment for prayer, study, and community life for the friars.
Province of St. Joseph
The Province of St. Joseph was established in the United States in 1805 by Maryland native Edward Dominic Fenwick, OP together with three of his confreres from the English province of Dominicans. They were first sent to Springfield, Kentucky to care for the Catholic community which had recently settled there. The province soon expanded into Ohio, before gradually working its way back to the east coast by the 1850s. Today it is one of four regional provinces in the U.S. extending from New England to Virginia to Kentucky and Ohio. Its members are engaged in parish ministry, education, campus ministry, hospital chaplaincy, foreign missions, itinerant preaching, retreat work, and various other ministries. Providence College in Rhode Island was founded and is still administered by the Province of St. Joseph.
Because “God alone satisfies” men and women have left all else to seek Him in the silence of monastic life since the earliest days of Christianity. Dominican nuns bring the charism of the Order to this hidden life. Following the Rule of Saint Augustine and the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers, they contribute to the preaching of the Order by their intimacy with Christ in prayer, study, and common life. At times they communicate something of their own contemplative experience through spiritual writings or works of art.
The Monastery of Our Lady of Grace is a Dominican monastery is in close proximity to St. Mary Parish. Located in North Guilford, CT, it was founded in 1947 by Mother Mary of Jesus Crucified and fourteen other sisters from Our Lady of the Rosary Monastery in Summit, NJ. Our Lady of Grace is a community with Solemn Vows, Papal Enclosure and Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The nuns welcome visitors to their chapel for Mass, celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, and Eucharistic adoration. They also accommodate private retreats for women.
See below for links to the OLG website as well the websites of other Dominican monasteries within the territory of the Province of St. Joseph.
Consecrating their lives to God through profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, active Dominican sisters are visible witnesses to the love of Christ in their service to the Church and the world. Their life is founded on prayer, study, community, and apostolic works. There are dozens of congregations of Dominican sisters in the United States, each with its own expression of the Dominican charism, its own constitutions, and its own apostolates. A congregation has a Motherhouse in the diocese where it is organized and frequently establishes smaller “daughter houses” wherever it is invited to take up its work. Teaching, serving the poor, and caring for the sick are only a few of the ways the sisters live out the Gospel in their engagement with the world. Albertus Magnus College right here in New Haven, for example, was established and is still administered by sisters belonging now to the congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
See below for links to the websites of a few of the congregations of sisters based or serving within the territory of the Province of St. Joseph.
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of the Springs of Bridgeport (Bridgeport, CT)
Congregation of St. Rose of Lima (Hawthorne, NY)
Congregation of St. Cecilia (Nashville, TN)
Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (Ann Arbor, MI)
Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic
The Dominican Laity bear witness in the world to the truth of Christ by participating in the spirituality, practices, and apostolic works of the Dominican Order. The Dominican Laity is open to men and women, single or married, who desire to manifest God's love in the world today. Lay Dominicans are members of "chapters" who meet once a month for prayer and study of events and issues about the Church today to foster the proclamation of the truth in a secular society.
The St. Mary's Chapter of the Dominican Laity meets once a month. If you are interested in becoming a member of the local chapter here at St. Mary's, please contact the parish staff.
The Four Pillars of Lay Dominican Life:
Prayer, Study, Community and Apostolate