Cloistered Contemplative Nuns of the Order of Preachers
“The Lord, your God, carried you, as a man carries his child, all along your journey.” —Deuteronomy 1:31
In the year 1206, on a hilltop in Prouille, a French village at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, St. Dominic de Guzman knelt in prayer one night, his heart and mind full of his great desire to found a monastery where he could bring together the nine women who would become the first nuns of the Order of Preachers.
As his eyes turned toward the shrine of Notre Dame de Prouille, he saw a globe of fire descend from heaven and rest upon the place. Such is the legend ~ the Seignadou ~ the sign from God which gave way to the founding of the first monastery of Dominican nuns.
Nearly 800 years later, on a mountaintop in Linden, Virginia, a neighbor on Freezeland Road would bury a Miraculous Medal on the nuns’ future property. Her prayer to Our Lady, too, was answered, and the site would one day become the new home of St. Dominic’s Monastery.
St. Dominic’s Monastery traces its beginnings to a Dominican monastery in Calais, France. From there, a foundation was established in the United States in Union City, New Jersey in 1891. From Union City, two nuns ventured forth and established a new foundation in Baker City, Oregon, in 1907. This was the genesis of St. Dominic’s Monastery.
After only two years, the local bishop requested that the nuns leave their cloister to engage in apostolic work. Not willing to forsake their Dominican contemplative vocation, the nuns sought for a diocese that would welcome a cloistered community.
They were warmly welcomed into the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. There they lived their life of prayer and penance for nearly 75 years.
When the diocese could no longer provide chaplains for the community, through the assistance of the Dominican friars, the nuns were welcomed by James Cardinal Hickey into the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. So in July of 1984, the community moved into a renovated home on 16th Street. This was intended to be temporary until the nuns found a more suitable location.
For 22 years, the nuns lived their Dominican contemplative life on this 1.3 acre property, in traffic-laden northwest Washington, with the muffled sounds of gun shots, occasional break-ins and the constant noise of a busy city.
Nonetheless, they persevered with hope and a vision for the future. By 2002, the nuns had outgrown this temporary home, and they began planning the construction of the long-awaited permanent St. Dominic’s Monastery.
The prayers of many were answered when a site for a new monastery was discovered in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
At every step of the way, God provided. After construction had begun and their property on 16th Street sold, in 2006, the nuns were warmly received by the cloistered nuns of the Dominican Monastery of the Mother of God in West Springfield, Massachusetts, who graciously and generously welcomed them into their community.
After numerous delays in construction, 2½ years later, on June 24th, 2008, the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the six professed nuns and one postulant departed from West Springfield and arrived in Linden, Virginia to settle at last into their permanent home.
From the earliest hours of their arrival, the nuns have needed, relied upon and been provided with assistance from local neighbors, old friends from the past and new ones from both near and far, some known, and others who remain hidden. The community has experienced the goodness, kindness and generosity of countless numbers, who assisted and were instrumental in the work of establishing this new foundation.
The spiritual needs of the nuns have been generously provided for from the very beginning by the priests of the Diocese of Arlington and the Dominican friars from Washington, DC.
In September of 2015, through a major gift and the generosity of many benefactors, the nuns were able to make the last payment on their construction loan. They now look forward to Phase II and building their permanent chapel.