Legacies of Our Leaders
Recently I looked back at what some of our Sinsinawa Dominican Prioresses and Mothers General did during their terms of office that had long-term effects on the Congregation. Memories of the past give perspective today. It is in that context that I see the key legacy of these leaders.
Clara Conway, OP
Prioress from 1849 to 1854
Leader of the Sisters during the move from Sinsinawa to Benton and during the beginning of St. Clara Female Academy.
Joanna Clark, OP
Prioress from 1854 to 1864
Leader of the Sisters providing stability for 10 years as missions were added and the Benton Academy flourished.
Regina Mulqueeny, OP
Prioress from 1864 to 1867
Leader at the time of the decision
to relocate to Sinsinawa.
Emily Power, OP
Prioress and Mother General from 1867 to 1909
Leader during the relocation to Sinsinawa. She wisely ensured unity for the Sisters by exploring and obtaining a new Constitution and status as a pontifical Congregation (no longer under total jurisdiction of local bishops). Pioneered education of Sister study in Europe. Designed and built the Sinsinawa water system that engineers declared impossible.
Samuel Coughlin, OP
Mother General from 1909 to 1949
Promoted education of Sisters and college students, including study in Europe. Built Rosary College, River Forest, IL; Edgewood College, Madison, WI; St. Dominic Villa, Dubuque, IA; and oversaw the acquisition of Villa Schifanoia, Florence, Italy, that became an arts and cultural center.
Evelyn Murphy, OP
Mother General from 1949 to 1955
Encouraged the promotion of the Cause of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP. Attended the second (1952) Congress of Religious Superiors in Rome called by Pope Pius XII.
Benedicta Larkin, OP
Mother General from 1955 to 1967
Arranged for a collegial response involving the whole Congregation to the mandate of Vatican II for renewal and adaptation of religious life.
From my perspective, “collegiality” was a word in the dictionary until Vatican II repeatedly called all in authority to govern collegially. Between 1965 and 1967, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters elected a 15-member commission that pondered and reviewed over 3,000 petitions from conventual groups and individuals, thus they shaped the proposed new Constitution, including provision for provinces; voted for the adoption of a new method for electing delegates to the General Chapter, was approved by the Holy See, and used to elect the delegates to the Renewal Chapter. The entire process was truly collegial from start to finish. No one fully fathomed the depth of the quake that followed Vatican II or the Renewal—Transition Chapter of 1967. However, the aftershocks and tremors of collegial authority are still felt, still shaping our future.