HISTORY OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA CONGREGATION

As  early  as  1633,  some  women of  the City of  Manila   were   already  living the tenor of religious life,  but they were  staying with   their own  families. They were members of  the Third Order of St. Dominic.

At  about  1686,  a small  group of  tertiaries  living in the house of  Hermana Antonia de Jesus Esguerra with Hermanas  Francisca de Fuentes  and Sebastiana Salcedo made an appeal for the establishment of the Beaterio ( house of prayer)  to the Provincial Chapter of the Dominican  Fathers through  the initiative of Fr. Juan de Sta. Maria, then Prior of  St. Domingo Convent.

On July 26, 1696, the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina was solemnly inaugurated in Intramuros, Manila.  That  day also marked the first religious profession of Hermana Francisca del Espiritu Santo. Hermana Francisca  was appointed  Prioress of the Beaterio by the prior  of  Sto. Domingo  Convent, Fr. Juan de Sto. Domingo.

The rule of life of the community was based on the fundamental ordinances of the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary to which it is affiliated.

The number of Sisters was at first limited to fifteen in honor of the mysteries of the Rosary.  The Sisters lived in monastic form of life, observing fasting, abstinence, silence, seclusion from the world  and  contemplation.  They  also  engaged  themselves  in artistic manual work such as embroidery,  painting , flower making,  among others, to support themselves.
The Beatas tried to live a holy life according to the two fold aim of the convent.

  1. To grow in love of God through the following of Christ  by means of poverty, chastity and obedience.
  2. To meditate the truth in prayer and spread it in the apostolate of caring for the sick, the poor and the orphan, in teaching and in performing other works of mercy.

                               
            The young  Community later on evolved into a corps  of auxiliaries in the apostolic preaching of the Dominican  Fathers.  The Sisters participated in the ministry of educating young women, Spanish and Filipino mestizas, most of whom were daughters and granddaughters of “conquestadores”  and Spanish settlers.  They also accepted natives which made them different from the two other existing colleges for girls,  Sta. Potenciana  and Sta. Isabel, which only admitted Spanish girls and mestizas.

            Thus, the Beaterio turned into the Colegio de Sta. Catalina in 1706, a convent  for women and a center of learning with emphasis on religion , the values of  Filipino womanhood and academic preparation  for higher learning.  The girls were taught the principles of the Catholic faith and good Christian living  in addition to the training given on artistic and domestic arts

            Indeed, love tested, strengthened, and renewed in Christ through crisis was the gift of  Mother Francisca  to her spiritual daughters. They worked here and in the mission.  They took charge of assylums for abandoned baby girls in Foochow, Fukien in the middle of the 19th century.  From 1865  until  the advent of Communism in 1928,  the sisters were administering schools and orphanages in China, Japan and Formosa.

On March 14, 1933,  the Sacred Congregation for Religious and  Secular Institutes issued the decree that established  the Beaterio as a congregation of Diocesan Right.  However, it was not  until October 15, 1933 that the Archbishop of Manila,  Msgr. Michael J.O.’  Doherty  issued his own  decree declaring the Beaterio as an independent community of Sisters under  his jurisdiction.

            November 9, 1943, a formal organization of the Beaterio took place in a Chapter, where Mother Trinidad Arriaza,  the Prioress of the Beaterio, was appointed  Superior General and the community became a congregation and was named Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine  of Siena.

            Meanwhile, as the Congregation grew and expanded, it worked for its recognition as an institute of Pontifical Rights.  On  May  20,  1970,  Rome granted  a decree accepting the Congregation as such. Its basic commitment and apostolic thrusts were local missions.  However, in the General Chapter of the Congregation in 1968,  the Chapter agreed  to extend the Congregation’s mission far beyond the Philippine shorelines.

            More than three (300) hundred years after its foundation,  the Congregation continues to flourish in its mission of service.