HISTORY OF THE SISTERS OF ST. DOMINIC
CALDWELL, NEW JERSEY
Stained glass windows by: Sister Gerardine Mueller, O.P.
We, Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, are a community of vowed women religious responding to God’s call and united in our quest for the unfolding revelation of God. We preach the Word of God through lives of contemplative prayer, study and ministry in response to the needs of our time.
Our roots go deep into the early thirteenth century, in the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Regensburg, Germany. Founded in 1233 by Blessed Jordan of Saxony, immediate successor to St. Dominic as Master of the Order, Holy Cross will complete eight centuries of Dominican life within the next quarter century. In 1853, four nuns from Regensburg took ship for America, to provide Catholic education for the children of the many German immigrants who had preceded them to the New World. Landing in New York late in August of that year, they found a home in Brooklyn and opened school in September. From the work of these four women, there eventually grew an even dozen congregations of Dominican sisters in the United States, one of which is ours. The nuns of Holy Cross maintain a lively interest in their American daughters, who in turn make it a point to visit Holy Cross when they are in the neighborhood.
Within a few years, the growing Brooklyn convent sent sisters to establish a similar school in lower New York City, and from there, in 1871 sisters crossed the Hudson to set up another in Jersey City. It is from St. Dominic Academy and its convent in Jersey City that the Sisters of St. Dominic of the American Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus came into being in 1881. A tuberculosis epidemic that was devastating the cities of the northeast was also taking the lives of novices and young sisters in Jersey City.
The founding prioress, Mother Catharine Muth, brought the sick of the community and soon the novices to Caldwell, a place known for a climate that aided in the cure of the disease. Construction of the convent that is now the motherhouse began in 1893. In 1912, the congregation formally established its motherhouse in Caldwell.
Throughout most of its history, the ministry of the congregation has been devoted almost entirely to formal education, in schools belonging to the congregation and many parish schools alike. In the years since renewal following the Second Vatican Council, the educational talent and training spread out to many less obviously educational endeavors, among them various forms of parish ministry, advocating for justice in corporate stockholder meetings, teaching and providing public health services in rural Central America, advocating for and providing senior housing, hospice care, and even clowning. Through all this, the educational character of the congregation continues to be effective.