Have you ever wondered about how the Queen of the Holy Rosary became our Congregation’s patron?
When our three young Sisters made their train trip from Brooklyn to San Francisco arriving on November 11, 1876, they found their new little convent still unnamed. The parish there was Saint Boniface serving German speaking parishioners. How about calling it Saint Boniface?
That same year back in New York their Brooklyn community had moved their novitiate house out to Amityville, on Long Island which soon became their Motherhouse as well and was dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary.
From Sister Maria Victoria’s research on Mother Pius’ Annals we get this memory of Sister Amanda in 1915. She was one of the three pioneers in 1876:
One day (I was only 18 years old at the time), “O, Sister Pia, I dreamed last night. I saw the Blessed Mother with the Child Jesus. Listen, it seems to me, that both of us were in our cell, and suddenly the Queen of the Holy Rosary appeared in the window. She smiled at both of us and handed us two rosaries, one white and one brown. They both were hanging on one branch. I liked right away the white one and was ready to reach for it. Then Mary said: ‘But Sister Amanda, who is going to be that naughty and take the best right away?’ She looked lovingly at you and said: ‘Let this child choose what pleases her.’ Was that not a lovely dream? Do you know what I thought right away this morning? Could we not beg Mother Superior to put the new Foundation under the protection of the Queen of the Holy Rosary? This we did, and so, on account of that dream our Congregation was placed under the protection of the Queen of the Holy Rosary.”
A few years later in 1885 after our independence from Brooklyn, our first Constitution as Dominican Sisters in the Archdiocese of San Francisco lists on its cover page “Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of Queen of the Holy Rosary.” Mary’s first appearance as our Queen! If Jesus is our King, then His Mother must be Queen—right?
Our archives tell us that from 1906 until 1922 the New York convent kept referring to us as the California Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary. Finally in 1924 we became to them the Congregation of the Queen of the Holy Rosary! Please note that we have always kept “the rosary” in our name.
The rosary is a form of prayer used by Saint Dominic in the 13th Century to preach the life of Jesus to so many people of his day who were unable to read the Scriptures and needed his help to combat the heresy prevalent at that time. This simple prayer honors the joys, sorrows and glories of Christ—and now since Pope John Paul II has added 5 more decades on Jesus’ public life, there are 20 decades.
How long have Dominican Sisters been around to promote the rosary? It has been a long time. Back in 1206 Saint Dominic gathered a few women to pray for his preaching success at Prouille, France, even before he founded his Order. They might have been praying the rosary. Soon there were convents of Sisters in Rome, Bologna and up in Regensburg, Germany (called the Holy Cross Monastery). And that convent is still active today.
From Regensburg in 1850 Sisters were sent to Brooklyn, USA to teach the children of immigrant parents. I now come to the end of my story—from Brooklyn in 1876 three Sisters, Pia, Amanda and Salesia—volunteered for the mission in San Francisco. And here we are today still honoring our Rosary Queen!
A fashion note: Before Vatican II every Dominican priest, brother and sister wore a 15-decade rosary with their habit. For us, Sisters, that is history, but we are still proud of our dedication to this prayer to Mary as our Rosary Queen!
Adapted from presentation by S. Mary Paul Mehegan for the Feast of the Holy Rosary, 2013.