Monday, September 27, 2010

History Of The Dominican Sisters OF Siena


As early as 1633, some women of the City of Manila were already living the tenor of religious life, but they were staying with their own families. They were members of the Third Order of St. Dominic.

At about 1686, a small group of tertiaries living in the house of Hermana Antonia de Jesus Esguerra with Hermanas Francisca de Fuentes and Sebastiana Salcedo made an appeal for the establishment of the Beaterio (house of prayer) to the Provincial Chapter of the Dominican Fathers through the initiative of Fr. Juan de Sta. Maria, then Prior of St. Domingo Convent.

On July 26, 1696, the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina was solemnly inaugurated in Intramuros, Manila. That day also marked the first religious profession of Hermana Francisca del Espiritu Santo. Hermana Francisca was appointed Prioress of the Beaterio by the prior of Sto. Domingo Convent, Fr. Juan de Sto. Domingo.

The Rule of life of the community was based on the fundamental ordinances of the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary to which it is affiliated.

The number of Sisters was at first limited to fifteen in honor of the mysteries of the Rosary. The Sisters lived in monastic form of life, observing fasting, abstinence, silence, seclusion from the world and contemplation. They also engaged themselves in artistic manual work such as embroidery, painting, flower making, among others, to support themselves.

The Beatas tried to live a holy life according to the two fold aim of the convent.

1. To grow in the love of God through the following Christ by means of poverty, chastity and obedience.

2. To meditate the truth in prayer and spread it in the apostolate of caring for the sick, the poor and the orphan, in teaching and in performing other works of mercy.

The young Community later on evolved into a corps of auxiliaries in the apostolic preaching of the Dominican Fathers. The Sisters participated in the ministry of educating young women, Spanish and Filipino mestizas, most of whom were daughters and granddaughters of “conquestadores” and Spanish settlers. They also accepted natives which made them different from the two existing colleges for girls, Sta. Potenciana and Sta. Isabel, which only admitted Spanish girls and mestizas.

Thus, the Beaterio turned into the Colegio de Sta. Catalina in 1706, a convent for women and a center of learning with emphasis on religion, the values of Filipino womanhood and academic preparation for higher learning with emphasis on religion, the values of Filipino womanhood and academic preparation for higher learning. The girls were taught the principles of the Catholic faith and good Christian living in addition to the training given on artistic and domestic arts.

Indeed, love tested, strengthened, and renewed in Christ through crisis was gift of Mother Francisca to her spiritual daughters. They worked here and in the mission. They took charge of asylums for abandoned baby girls in Foochow, Fukien in the middle of the 19th century. From 1865 until the advent of Communism in 1928, the sisters were administering schools and orphanages in China, Japan, and Formosa.

On March 14, 1933, the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes issued the decree that established the Beaterio as a congregation of Diocesan Right. However, it was not until October 15, 1933 that the Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Michael J.O.’ Doherty issued his own decree declaring the Beaterio as an independent community of Sisters under his jurisdiction.

November 9, 1943, a formal organization of the Beaterio took place in a Chapter, where Mother Trinidad Arriaza, the Prioress of the Beaterio, was appointed Superior General and the community became a congregation and was named Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.

Meanwhile, as the Congregation grew and expanded, it worked for its recognition as an institute of Pontifical Rights. On May 20, 1970 Rome granted a decree accepting the Congregation as such. Its basic commitment and apostolic thrusts were local missions. However, in the General Chapter of the Congregation in 1968, the Chapter agreed to extend the Congregation’s mission far beyond the Philippine shorelines.

More than three (300) hundred years after its foundation, the Congregation continues to flourish in its mission of service.


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