Following our Lord Jesus Christ, the sisters work to spread the kingdom of God on earth. The Dominican way of life is a prophetic witness to the world. In fulfilment of our Dominican vocation we share in the universal mission of the Church to bring the liberating message of the Gospel wherever humanity’s needs are greatest. This we do as Dominicans through various forms of the ministry of preaching, particularly in education and evangelisation. (Constitutions 34, 35)
Our Original Mission
In 1896 Mother Rose Niland founded the Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena, within the Dominican tradition, in Newcastle, South Africa. Like so many active Congregations founded in the 1800’s, Mother Rose set out to meet the urgent social need for education among the indigenous and colonial population. The early pioneers were women of great faith and courage who took enormous risks and suffered great hardships. They left a legacy of fine schools, some of which still exist. Among these pioneers there appears to have been urgency and zeal to evangelize as well as to educate. So they were faithful to the Dominica motto: “To give to others the fruits of our contemplation.”
Significant developments over the past 50 years
The last fifty years have been characterized by change. Vatican II opened up possibilities with new theologies, especially in relation to the laity and the role of the Church in the modern world. There was emphasis on the signs of the times and the needs of today. As religious, we studied the new documents and welcomed the new freedom. We were encouraged to go back to our roots and reclaim our charism – yet there was no clear theology of religious life. As a result while much was gained, we religious lost confidence both in our identity and in our mission. With the corporate identity in decline, individual religious ploughed lonely furrows in new ministries where individualism flourished.
With the opening up of opportunities for young people to serve overseas in projects such as “VSO” and “Dominican Volunteers International,” there was a decline in vocations to the religious life and religious women were grappling with the loss of cherished missions for want of personnel, and at the same time dealing with ageing communities. As a Congregation we gained and lost from all these developments.
How the mission is lived out today
As Dominicans we now have a much clearer sense of our identity and our mission. We have broadened our understanding of education to include the search for TRUTH in many different ministries e.g. in parish work, catechesis at all levels, publishing, lecturing, counseling, spiritual direction, facilitation, retreat work, university and prison chaplaincy, working to empower women, working with the marginalized, (e.g. people who are mentally challenged, the homeless and immigrants). We have a greater sense of responding to the needs of today while remaining true to our Dominican Charism – the search for TRUTH wherever it is found. There is greater openness in the use of our convents for groups of lay people. We see ourselves as more inserted in our society while hopefully presenting counter cultural values. In our communities there is a deepening of spirituality and an appreciation of the spirituality of ageing. To a large extent, we have shed our image of being “special” and see our vocation as consecrated women alongside the many other vocations that enrich the Church. There is increasing awareness among our sisters of the dangers of rampant capitalism and globalization, and in general greater sensitivity about justice issues. As yet, our commitment to the integrity of creation is minimal. This will be a challenge in the coming decade, to embrace a new way of being in relationship with our environment and our universe.
Mother Rose wrote to her Novices: “Always More”, “Always Better”, “Always With Love”.Srs Veronica, Eleanora and Martina
Is God calling you to become a Dominican Sister?