May 20 marks the anniversary of the founding of the Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary in France by Fr. Damian Saintourens, O.P., in 1880. For many centuries the Dominican Order promoted the praying of the Rosary around the clock through the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. It was made up of lay people who were directed by a Dominican Friar. However by the Nineteenth Century life had changed and many people no longer lived in the same place all their life. This made it harder to keep up the perpetual praying of the Rosary. One French Dominican, Father Damian Saintourens, felt that there should be Sisters who devoted their lives to this practice. It was his thought that just as there were monasteries being started with Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, so there should be monasteries of Sisters who would form a Guard of Honor of the Queen of Heaven by the praying of the Rosary around the clock.
He spent a night in prayer in the Grotto at Lourdes to ask Mary’s guidance, and she told him, “My son, it would give me great pleasure if you put into execution the project with which I have inspired you – to found a branch of the cloistered Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary. They will be my Guard of Honor on earth and afterwards at the foot of my Throne in Heaven.” Thus encouraged, he persevered through many obstacles to make the foundation, enlisting Mother Rose of St. Mary, a cloistered Dominican Nun from a fervent monastery of the Second Order, to take charge of the budding community.
Fr. Saintourens was shortly after sent to the US and Canada to promote the Rosary Confraternity due to several factors, one of which is the fact that France was still quite anti-clerical. Some Sisters soon came to the US as well and opened Monasteries of the Perpetual Rosary. Through the years, most of these have become full cloistered Nuns of the Order. Many are still in existence and some still observe the Perpetual Rosary. Many of our monasteries have Eucharistic Adoration as well, as we do. Please join with us in praying that Our Lady’s call to young women to be her Guards of Honor of the Rosary will be heard by many young women so that Perpetual Prayer may continue to be offered on behalf of the world!
- See two articles by our Dominican brothers at Dominicana: Dominican Nuns: American Foundations (Part I), on the history of the first Dominican Nuns in the United States, and Dominican Nuns: American Foundations (Part II), about the first Perpetual Rosary Sisters in America.
- For more on Fr. Saintourens and his amazing life, read “Rev. Damien Marie Saintourens, O.P.: Ardent Apostle of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (PDF) from Religious Life magazine.