“The nuns of the Order of Preachers came into being when our holy father Dominic gathered women converts to the Catholic faith in the monastery of Blessed Mary of Prouilhe (France) in 1206. These women, free for God alone, he associated with his "holy preaching" by their prayer and penance.”
The Cross marks the place on the hill of Fanjeaux (France), where eight centuries ago, St. Dominic prayed to know where to establish the first monastery of Dominican nuns. He received a ‘sign of light’ – the Seignadou – that pointed to the beautiful valley directly below in Prouilhe. Here is found the first monastery of Dominican nuns even until today.
Thus, from among the Albigensian heretical sect, a small group of women who listened to the preaching of the humble St. Dominic, heard the call to conversion. Moved by the grace of his preaching, they returned to the Church. Called together by Dominic, they became the first ‘Preacheresses’or Dominican Nuns. Every preaching contains a call: a call to change, to turn to God; to love our neighbour as Christ loves us. Preaching is the raison d’etre and the very identity of the Dominican.
“In founding the Monasteries of his daughters, our Blessed Father Saint Dominic knew that for the great work of the conversion and sanctification of souls, exterior works do not suffice to recall poor sinners to God and that intimate sap of contemplation, prayer and penance is necessary to the evangelical ministry.” Custom Book of the Perpetual Rosary Sisters
Dominican Friars have as their mission and charism, to speak of God to men, preaching the Truth who is Jesus Christ. As cloistered Dominican religious, in prayer we speak to God of men. Our Constitutions refer to our service to God and to the Church as “holy preaching”, because we are called to the silence of contemplation in prayer and in sacrifice, to seek God and to obtain fruitfulness for the service of the Dominican preaching apostolate.
While living within the monastic enclosure, the nuns do not live remote from the world. United to Christ they become more united to their brothers and sisters. “Called by God, like Mary, to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words, we are converted to the Lord, withdrawing from the empty preoccupations and illusions of the world, the same world that is always, in its joys and preoccupations, challenges and hopes, in our prayers.” (Nuns Constitutions, 1:III)
This was the vision of St. Dominic. In the new Order of Preachers, the Nuns would be entrusted with evangelization through their contemplation. As St. John Paul II said: “There is no evangelization without contemplation.”
With tireless zeal the French Dominican apostle of the Rosary, Fr. Damien-Marie Saintourens, OP had preached and propagated the devotion of the Perpetual Rosary among the laity throughout France and other countries. But he realized that if its perpetuity were to be assured, its practice and care should be entrusted to a Religious Order of Sisters. On the night of April 23, 1876, as he kept prayerful vigil in Lourdes at the Grotto of Our Lady, She inspired him as follows: “My son, it will be very pleasing to me if you found, as I have inspired you, the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, who will form my Guard of Honour here on Earth, and who will afterwards be at the foot of my throne in Heaven.”.
Thus, after much prayer and not a few holy obstacles, on May 20, 1880 Fr. Damien Marie Saintourens, O.P. established the first community of Perpetual Rosary Sisters in Calais, France. The Sisters formed a new branch on the great Dominican Family tree. Shortly after, due to religious persecution, the Sisters moved to Belgium, where Mother Rose of St. Mary, having come from the monastery in Mauléon (France), became the first Prioress of the nascent community.
The Perpetual Rosary Nuns grew rapidly with foundations in Europe, USA, Philippines and Japan.
In 1947 the Pilgrim Virgin Statue from Fatima travelled through post-war Europe, bringing peace and new hope to so many, wounded by war.
Here the Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary are seen carrying the statue in procession in Belgium. Their monastery had been destroyed in the bombing.