Dominican Sisters of Houstonx Celebrating 130 years of ministry in Texas

By Sister Ceil Roeger, OP

On Saturday, Sept. 29, the Dominican Sisters of Houston gathered for their fall meeting and to celebrate 130 years in Texas. We began with opening prayer that included a reflection on 2Peter 1:19—“We possess the prophetic word that is unwavering”—and stories from our annals. Shortly after their arrival in Galveston, the sisters opened Sacred Heart Academy, and four years later, opened a school for African-American children despite protests from the community and threats to boycott Sacred Heart. Mother Pauline Gannon, seeing the need to have the sisters educated, began plans to open a dormitory for women in Austin, home of the University of Texas. She met with “untold objections and obstacles, due to the wrong view taken by the clergy that the erection of this hall was encouraging attendance at secular institutions…” She remained steadfast in seeing the need, and Newman Hall was opened on June 10, 1918. The sisters remained “unwavering” in their plans.

Following prayer, Sister Carol Mayes, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Houston, took us back in time as she channeled Mother Mary Agnes Magevney speaking to the sisters in Somerset, Ohio. Mother Mary Agnes met with the sisters to inform them that they had been invited to Galveston by Bishop Gallagher. Twenty sisters boarded a train and arrived four days later in Galveston shortly before noon Friday, Sept. 29, 1882. They were taken by horse-drawn buggies to a two-story home in St. Mary Cathedral Parish. The sisters gradually adjusted to life in a new climate and culture.

As the meeting continued, facilitator Maureen Bacchi reminded us the types of legacy we leave are of the heart, (a gift of values and the witness of one’s life) as well the tangible assets such as property, money and institutions. We reflected on the question of what we would consider is the legacy we inherited and continue to mold? The early sisters left us a legacy of education, but also one of working for justice and taking the risks as reflected in our mission statement: “To assume the risks inherent in teaching and preaching the Gospel.” This is the legacy that we hope to leave to others.