Who We Are
We are part of over 27,000 Dominican religious found in over 100 countries around the world. Founded by St. Dominic 800 years ago, our Order is a global community of preachers, educators and scholars.
Caldwell Dominicans became an independent congregation in 1881. Our formal name is “the Sisters of Saint Dominic of the American Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Each Dominican congregation of Sisters has a patron saint or title. For that reason, the Caldwell Dominican’s congregational shield has the red section added to the traditional black and white Dominican shield.
What We Believe
The Dominican Motto
The motto of the Dominican Order is Veritas, Truth and Caritas, the need for human compassion and mercy.
The Four Pillars
There are four pillars of our lives: prayer, study, community and mission.
Prayer is the heart. Whether private or public, prayer is a dialogue. At the Mount, we communally pray daily as well as during regular and special liturgies.
Study is an ongoing process. The eminent Dominican theologian, Thomas Aquinas, is an example of scholarship and the constant questioning in search of truth. At the Mount, we are a community of learners who challenge each other in the pursuit of academic excellence.
Community helps make the individual journey easier. At the Mount we build community by sharing our talents and gifts with each other in the classroom, our liturgies, outreach to those in need, in our student organizations, on our athletic teams, performing arts groups and at social events.
Mission is the call to serve others. At the Mount, students learn that they have a responsibility to lend a helping hand serve and do so through the Siena Service program.
Saint Dominic de Guzman*
Saint Dominic was born in Caleruega, Spain in 1170. His parents were of the nobility and decided Dominic would enter the clergy. He attended the University of Palencia, but when famine occurred, he sold his books and gave the money to those starving.
By 1203 Dominic had become a traveling companion of Bishop Diego of Osma. On a trip back from visiting Pope Innocent III, they stayed overnight in Toulouse in southern France. The innkeeper was a heretic, called an Albigensian. Albigensians were a heretical sect residing in the south of France near the town of Albi. They lived a very strict lifestyle. Among their beliefs, they viewed the material world as evil. They believed there were two gods -one good and one evil. And, they denied the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Resurrection. Dominic stayed up all night talking with the innkeeper. By morning the man was converted.
Dominic was a charismatic man who used his personality, preaching ability and simple lifestyle to fight the beliefs of the Albigensians. One day a group of Albigensian women approached Dominic after hearing him preach. His teaching caused them to question their views. As a result, he started to consider establishing a house for Albigensian converts, especially women, to live.
On July 22, 1206, Dominic knelt on a hilltop in Fanjeau, France. Shortly after asking God for a sign, a fireball began spinning in the sky. It hovered over the deserted church of Notre Dame in Prouille, a town in the valley below. Dominic saw this as the Sign of God. And so, this is where he established a community of women. Within months eleven women moved into this contemplative monastery. These women received the Dominican habit. From this origin in Prouille, Dominican women would fan out throughout the world.
The Order of Preachers
By 1215 Dominic felt that there was a need for a group of “preachers.” By church decree, any new religious group had to select a Rule or way of life that already existed. He selected the Rule of St. Augustine. It contained certain principles of how to live, but was sufficiently flexible so it could adapt to new situations. Pope Honorius III bestowed on Dominic and his followers the title “Order of Preachers.” Because Dominic had a great love for study he sent his friars to the newly formed universities sprouting up throughout Europe. And so great teachers such as Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas would find a home in the Order. Dominic only led the order for five years–from 1216 until his death in 1221.
Dominic’s life was a search for and a proclamation of the Truth of God in Christ. His followers, traveling in groups of two and threes, were to preach that Truth to the world. His Order was the first to be a given a right to preach in any diocese on earth.
German Origins of the Caldwell Dominicans*
Dominic was succeeded as Master General by Jordon of Saxony. Under Jordan, Dominican houses were established in Spain and Germany. One of the German religious houses was the Convent of the Holy Cross in Regensburg, Bavaria in the southern region of Germany. The sisters at Holy Cross were a contemplative or cloistered community. It is from this foundation in Regensburg that 12 of the 32 Dominican congregations of women in America today trace their origins including the Caldwell Dominicans.
By 1845 Mother Benedicta Bauer was Prioress at Holy Cross. She had a deep interest in sending sisters to the “new world” as waves of German emigrants left for the United States.
By chance, in 1851 Dom Wimmer, the abbot of a Benedictine monastery in Pennsylvania, visited his cousin, a nun at Holy Cross. He invited the nuns to Pennsylvania to help teach the many German immigrant children.
Coming to the New York Area
In 1853 four sisters volunteered for the mission. Their ship arrived in New York in August 1853. But a strange thing happened. These four women were left stranded on the docks. Abbot Wimmer did not show up to escort them to Pennsylvania. Because they didn’t speak English, they showed their letter of introduction to the dock workers. The workers took them to the Redemptorist Fathers nearby who brought them to a parish in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Mother Josepha, Superior of the group, established a school in Brooklyn and called their convent Holy Cross. Within a year, in 1854 there were already 220 students in the school. The sisters maintained their cloistered lifestyle while running the school. More sisters were requested from Regensberg, Germany for help. Mother Josepha’s foundation in Brooklyn eventually became known as the Amityville Dominicans when the Motherhouse moved from Brooklyn to Long Island.
In the late 1860s, St. Nicholas Church in Manhattan requested if sisters in Brooklyn could provide sisters to open a school for German immigrants in Manhattan. Sister Augustine, another of the original four sisters, responded along with several others. This foundation would become an independent Motherhouse, eventually located in Newburgh, New York.
Dominican Sisters in New Jersey*
In 1872 another request came, this time from Jersey City, for sisters from the Manhattan Foundation. Father Kraus, pastor of St. Boniface, had a large German population and wished to open a school. Father Kraus desired the Jersey City sisters to be an independent foundation from the New York group and in 1881, Bishop Wigger of Newark granted his request. Mother Mary Catharine Muth became the Prioress of what was then called The Sisters of St. Dominic of Jersey City. In a few short years Sister Catharine Muth and the congregation in Jersey City would traverse further west over the mountain to Caldwell. See History of the Caldwell Dominicans for additional information.
*Sourced, excerpts from Sister Peggy Ann Clinton, OP, July 2003 from her research:
Saint Dominic by Simon Tugwell, OP and Women After His Own Heart by Sister Lois Curry, OP. Both books available in the Religious Studies Office.
Other sources and for additional information: