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Texas Dominican Trail

In 1874, Bishop Rosecrans of Columbus, Ohio, named Sister Mary Agnes Magevney of Memphis, Tennessee (right), Superioress of the house to open the Cathedral School of the Sacred Heart in Columbus, along with assistance from Mother Rose Lynch. Both were members of the Dominican Congregation of St. Mary of the Springs, Columbus - daughter community of the original American foundation, St. Catharine, Kentucky (1822).

When Bishop Rosecrans died, the Cathedral School in Columbus was lost due to lack of finances, and Mother Mary Agnes made arrangements to relocate in Somerset, Ohio, opening Sacred Heart School there in May, 1879. Bishop John Watterson did not want two mother houses so close, so Mother Agnes asked for and received from Bishop Nicholas Gallagher admission into the Diocese of Galveston, Texas, the mother diocese of the state.

Leaving Somerset on September 26, 1882, a group of twenty sisters arrived in Galveston by train on September 29 (our Founders' Day). Sacred Heart Academy was opened immediately in Galveston. By 1891, the year of Mother Agnes' death, 26 women had joined the congregation. In June, 1902, we received formal affiliation with the Order of Preachers. Mother Pauline Gannon, second prioress, wanted each teacher state-certified and with a university degree, expanding our reputation in education. In 1918, Newman Hall was opened as a residence for women attending the University of Texas in Austin. 

Trail Blazers 

During Mother Pauline's thirty-year administration, the community grew to 115 members.  In 1905 Mother Gannon and the Dominican Sisters founded St. Agnes Academy for young women.   In 1925, ground breaking for a new mother house at 6501 Almeda Road, in Houston, was held, partly due to the disastrous 1900 Galveston Storm which cost 6000 lives. In 1943, our status changed from diocesan to a papal congregation, and in this same time period we provided leadership for the organization and accreditation of the diocesan school system, the Montessori method, and Project Head Start. In 1956, the sisters founded St. Pius X High School, a co-educational Catholic college preparatory school.  Following the Second Vatican Council, we began ministry in areas other than schools - parish religious education, the mission in Guatemala, campus ministry, and social work.

Sacred Heart Dominican College, (later Dominican College), operated on the mother house grounds from 1945 to 1974. Many of the Houston Dominicans earned their degrees and teacher certification there. Following the close of the college, the Diocese of Galveston-Houston bought the land and college buildings. Sale of a second tract to the diocese in 1981 enabled the rebuilding of our generalate facilities and the diocesan chancery operation on Holcombe Blvd. - our neighbor!

In 1975, when the Dominican Leadership Conference declared the ministry of justice to be a priority for U.S. Dominicans, we embraced this priority. On September 20, 1987, we declared and offered public sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala.

In 1997, the Congregation embraced our identity as Communities of the Holy Preaching and women preachers of justice with our Corporate Commitment statement. To broaden collaborative undertakings with the U.S. Dominican Family, we joined Dominican Sisters, USA, in 1999 and the Dominican Alliance in 2001.

For more than 125 years, the Dominican Sisters of Houston have served Houston, Galveston, the Sabine Area and other parts of Texas, California and Guatemala.  Our two college preparatory schools in Houston, St. Agnes Academy and St. Pius X High School, continue to thrive.  Today, our membership is about 66, with one-third ministering in education, while others serve in parish ministry, religious education, social service, campus ministry, counseling, medical, legal, family and women's services, music and art, the Guatemala mission, retreat work, community organizing and refugee assistance.


 


Sister Mary Agnes Magevney

 


Professor Samuel Gideon, one of the architects for the Hall, captures the experience many people had in living and working with Mother Pauline. "One of the strongest influences in my life has been that of Mother Pauline.  (She was) a lovable character, a capable business woman, and one with a keen sense of humor, impressing everyone with the radiance of her spirituality and personality."
Dominican Women in Texas, Sheila Hackett, OP, l986
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