(OP) 1868

The Dominican Sisters were founded by St. Dominic in the 13th Century. Dominic gave his life to proclaiming the Truth of Jesus Christ as he walked across Europe combating false teachings and bringing the peoples back to the way of the `Truth and the life’. He chose the word `Truth’ as the motto of his Order.

Dominic had compassion for every sort of human suffering. He modelled himself on Jesus Christ and saw the need to use all the resources of human learning in His service. Through his devotion to Mary we have inherited the prayer we call the rosary.

It was in this spirit of Dominic that Cabra, Ireland sent in 1868, at the request of Bishop Sheil of Adelaide, seven of their sisters to found a secondary school for the daughters of the pioneer colonists of Adelaide S.A.

They made their first foundation at Franklin St., Adelaide on the 4th December 1868 and opened the first Dominican school there in February 1869. There was a very small boarding school attached to the convent. An Intermediate school opened in October of the same year providing a similar education for those who could not afford to pay the high rates asked for in the first boarding and day school.

In an age of acute class consciousness, such distinction between schools rich and poor was considered necessary though it did not imply any social discrimination on the part of the Sisters who were admonished in their Constitutions to: "Let the rich and poor be regarded as equals……" In 1868-69 a Catholic Female Deaf and Dumb Institute was advertised by the Sisters in the Southern Cross and Catholic Herald but had to be abandoned owing to lack of applicants. It was not revised again until 1996 when a motor mission to the deaf was started by the descendants of these first Sisters.

It was not long before these young pioneer Sisters were unavoidably caught up in the troubles of the Adelaide Diocese and the excommunication of Mary MacKillop, Foundress of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1871 the Dominican Sisters were urged to take up residence in the convent vacated by the Sisters of St. Joseph and as they depended entirely on the Bishop and his administrators for their livelihood they had no chance to refuse. Bishop Sheil having died in 1872 meant the Sisters were left without his protection and interest. In the final months of 1872 Mother Theresa Moore also died having been unwell since her voyage out in 1886 her ill health being compounded by troubles that surrounded them in those early years.

The small band of remaining Sisters were unsettled and unhappy and there was talk of their returning to Ireland. It was Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin who urged the Irish Cabra Sisters to send out their best Nuns to save the faltering foundation. Sisters Columba Boylan and Catherine Kavanagh arrived in Adelaide in 1875 thus beginning the period of our history known as the Boylan Era.

Under the capable leadership of Mother Columba Boylan the dark period was ended although troubles still continued as they will in any institution. Cabra College and Boarding School were opened in 1886, St. Roses, Kapunda 1892, Star of the Sea, Semaphore 1899, Holy Rosary Convent, Glenelg 1902, Mount St. Catherine Mt. Lofty 1947, St. Albert’s Loxton 1956, Holy Cross Convent Ringwood, Victoria 1960. To all of these convents, schools were attached both on the convent sites and in the adjoining parishes.

In 1956 the Dominican Sisters sent their own missionaries to the Solomon Islands carrying on the tradition that they brought with them from Ireland.

Today all these convents have been closed and in some cases the schools have taken them over. Cabra has a new convent for the Sisters and other houses have been opened as new challenges and apostolates emerge. The Dominican sisters can still be found where Truth and Justice need to be proclaimed and their apostolate is still carried on in the Dominican tradition here in South Australia.

Veritas: souvenir of Golden Jubilee of Dominican Nuns in S.A. 1868 - 1918.

Adelaide, Old Scholars’ Srs. 1918.

Dominican Sisters Holy Cross Province: the continuity years 1868 - 1968

Adelaide. The Sisters 1968?

St. Mary’s Dominican Convent, Cabra, S.A. Souvenir of Diamond Jubilee 1868-1928. Adelaide. The Convent


Northey, H. `The Dominican Sisters of South Australia: 1868-1958’, unfinished thesis (M.A.) Flinders

University 1989

If further information is required about individual Sisters the following address is given:

The Archivist

Dominican Sisters


225 Cross Road

Cumberland Park S.A. 5041

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