Who was St Dominic?

By Kavanagh staff | Posted: Tuesday February 14, 2017

The Dominican Sisters are an influential aspect of Kavanagh College's special character.

Saint Dominic was born around 1170 in Spain.

The story is told that before his birth, his mother dreamed that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a torch in its mouth, and "seemed to set the earth on fire".

In 1191, when Spain was desolated by a terrible famine, Dominic was just finishing his theological studies. He gave away his money and sold his clothes, his furniture and even his precious books so that he might relieve distress. When his companions expressed astonishment that he should sell his books, Dominic replied: "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when people are dying of hunger?"

He was described as a friendly, cheerful and deeply prayerful man, with red hair. In 1206, talking with a French innkeeper, he was shocked to realise that people, truly seeking God, may all have the same wrong idea about God.

It is at this point that he decided to preach the Gospel to the Albigensians who were Christian purists who were disappointed by the Church of their time. Taking to the world the message of the Gospel, in extreme poverty, Dominic went walking bare feet on the roads and begging for his food and shelter, meeting people to tell them about Jesus Christ.

In late 1206, Dominic and his Bishop were able to set up a first Dominican community at Prouille in France. This was the beginning of the Dominican Sisters which have spread throughout the world today. Later he was joined by many young men who also wished to live the life of a poor preacher, like Jesus. Today the Dominican Order is a worldwide movement of men and women, lay people, youth, sisters, brothers and priests. Famous Dominicans include St Catherine of Siena, patron of Italy, St Thomas Aquinas, theologian, St Martin de Porres, black miracle-worker, Fra Angelico, artist.

Dominic died at noon, on the sixth of August, 1221 at the age of 51.

We remember St Dominic particularly as the founder of the Dominicans because the Dominican Sisters are one of the founding orders of our school.

The founder of the Dominican Sisters in New Zealand was Mother Gabriel Gill who with nine other Sisters, arrived in New Zealand in 1871 from Dublin Ireland, settling first in Dunedin, and immediately began St Dominic’s School. The sisters established a primary and girls’ secondary school in early Dunedin and other schools throughout Otago and Southland. Mother Gabriel travelled into Central Otago to meet the needs of the early gold miners’ families and eventually went to the outback of West Australia to do the same thing. She died there in 1905.

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