Roman Catholic Church: Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Roman Catholic Church

Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

St Dominic de Guzman (c1173 – 1221) founded the Dominican Order (also known as the “Order of Preachers” – OP) in the early Middle Ages.  Women were apart of the Order from the beginning.  A convent of contemplative nuns was established in Prouille, near Toulouse, France in 1206.  Later, a number of “houses of women” attached to the Order were setup through out Europe, including the community of St Ursula in Augsburg, Germany.

The Dominican Sisters in their current form, however, are largely a product of the Nineteenth Century.  As a result of increasing missionary fervor, monasteries were asked to send groups of women to found schools and medical clinics around the world.  In response, seven Dominican sisters from St Ursula’s Convent led by Mother Tiefenböck arrived in South Africa in 1877 to found the Convent of the Sacred Heart in King Williams Town (KWT).

Mary Anne Cosgrave, taking the name of Mary Patrick at final profession, was an early member of the community, coming to South Africa from Ireland in 1880 at age 17. Nine years later Sister Patrick was asked to lead of party of five KWT Dominican sisters in support of the “Pioneer Column” then being assembled for the occupation of Mashonaland.

Reaching Salisbury in July 1891, the sisters took charge of the rudimentary hospital that had been set up.  In response to pleas from the growing population of settlers, in October 1892 they established the first school (convent) in Salisbury.  Mother Patrick and the Dominican sisters were called upon again to provide nursing care when, in 1896, Southern Rhodesia was engulfed in the Ndebele and Shona uprisings.

By 1898, the number of sisters in Rhodesia under Mother Patrick had risen to approximately 30, with communities in Salisbury, Fort Victoria, Bulawayo and at Chishawasha Mission.  In that year the Rhodesian sisters were separated from their “Mother House” at King Williams Town to form their own independent community.  Father Sykes, Superior of the Zambezi Mission (responsible for Rhodesia) had come to the conclusion that “this would enable them to adapt themselves better to local conditions … and in this way ensure and promote the growth and development of the Church in Rhodesia.”  The decision was made, however, without consulting the sisters themselves, who were then forced to make the difficult decision of remaining in Rhodesia or returning to their “Mother House.”  Nineteen sisters decided to remain. Mother Patrick was unanimously elected Prioress of the new community in 1899.  Unfortunately, due to ill health, she died soon after.

The Dominican sisters faced adversity during the “Bush War”/”War of liberation.” On February 6, 1977, four sisters were murdered along with three Jesuits as Musami Mission.  Another sister was killed in 1979 at Driefontein Mission. The name of the community was revised in 1984 to the present name of “Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Today, the Dominican Missionary Sisters operate a number of schools and other facilities in Zimbabwe, including the Dominican convents in Harare and Bulawayo, St Dominic at Chishawasha, and Emerald Hill; and hospitals at St Theresa, St Joseph and Regina Coeli Mission.  Locations outside of Zimbabwe include England (Greenwich and Gossops Green, Crawley), Germany (Kloster Strahlfeld), Colombia (Bogotá), and Kenya (St Mulumba Hospital and Juja).


Southern Rhodesia
Northern Rhodesia
  • 1970 – St Catherine of Siena International Novitiate


  • Mark Loomis