Good evening Father,
my name is Giovanna, I am 38 years old. I would like to follow Dominican spirituality. Is there a female Dominican order?
1) I will answer you as follows: there is only one Dominican order, which encompasses clerics and laypeople, men and women. Therefore, there are no such things as a female and a male Dominican order. Everyone is a member of the same Dominican order and brings his/her specific contribution to it. No one is “more Dominican” than the others.
2) To be chronologically precise, St. Dominic established first the woman’s branch of the order. At the time he was preaching in Southern France —alone, and perhaps not even thinking about founding a religious order— he converted a group of noblewomen who had fallen into heresy. He gathered them, established a female monastic community in Prouille, and took charge of their spiritual life. It was 1206 B.C.
The first community of men who joined St. Dominic with the purpose of sharing his religiosity and living the apostolic life only appeared in 1215. The following year, Pope Honorius III approved the Dominican order.
Nowadays, many Dominican cloistered convents are spread all over the world. Dominican nuns live in communion with God, serving him through a life of contemplation, prayer, silence, and penitence. Their prayers and their merits nourish and reinforce the friars’ preaching.
Besides cloistered nuns, the active sisters, called the Dominican sisters, find their home in many congregations. Nurtured by St. Dominic’s spirit and zeal, the Dominican sisters bear witness to Jesus Christ through preaching, teaching, and much more. The Dominican sisters have been established relatively recently, starting from the XIX Century. Before this time, consecrated life for women was only permitted in cloistered convents.
4) Finally, other women belong to the Order as Tertiaries. They are lay women, both married and unmarried, living in the world “according to the apostolic spirit of St. Dominic, seeking their own and other people’s salvation”.
5) One of the most distinguished female figures of the Dominican Order is St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church and patron saint of Italy and Europe. Another significant figure is St. Rose of Lima, who emulated St. Catherine in Peru.
Among Dominican nuns, St. Catherine de’ Ricci of Prato, St. Agnes of Montepulciano, and St. Margaret of Hungary should be also mentioned. St. Zedislava Lemberk of Bohemia, wife and mother, is a distinguished member of the Third Order .
A multitude of women belonging to the Dominican family are venerated as Blessed, while many others are candidates for beatification.
6) As you can see, the Dominican family is a stratified reality of hard-working men and women who work in the vineyard of the Lord in a variety of ways, according to the spirit of St. Dominic.
May you become a member of the Dominican family right in the place the Lord is calling you to.
With joy I pray for you and I bless you.