The Archive of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids contains the documentation of the lives and work of the Sisters. This includes their voices in oral histories, the blueprints of the Motherhouse they built one hundred years ago, the minutes from their social justice committees, biographies, intellectual and creative works, and much more. The archives also documents the community that supports the Sisters.
The Archives Department is excited to share our Story Map entitled “Somewhere in the West: The Historical Geography of the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters” focusing on our Michigan pioneer predecessors.
Incorporating early photographs with information from historic annals and other primary sources (including the diary of a Sister born in Quebec a year after the American Civil War ended), our Story Map depicts how our predecessors first came to Michigan. These true pioneers forsook basic human comforts and set out in boats and buggies into the largely unsettled woods of the lower peninsula to be of service to the children and families in these new parishes. The work was hard and the conditions so poor that Sisters literally risked their health and even their lives on these missions. In doing so, they fulfilled the dying vision of Mother Augustine Neuhierl who saw a vast field somewhere in the West dotted white with Dominican habits.
For a fuller outline, or schema, of the collection, view our working schema.
Requests from researchers within the congregation, as well as staff and members of the broader community, are welcome. While the Sisters’ former Motherhouse is being renovated, the Archive is temporarily housed in the storage facility of the Grand Rapids City Archives in downtown Grand Rapids. Arrangements to visit can be made by appointment. We are also happy to answer questions and assist with limited research requests.
Period Pieces: An Account of the Grand Rapids Dominicans 1853 – 1966 is a chronicle of the history of the congregation from its beginning in New York, to its mission in Traverse City, Michigan in 1877, a move that eventually resulted in the Grand Rapids Foundation of Dominican Sisters. More than a chronicle, it contains the narrative of expanding mission work of 2,000 women who provided education, health care, social services, and caretaking throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Written Sr. Mona Schwind OP (1936 – 2013), the book was published in 1991.
Tapestry in time: The Story of the Dominican Sisters Grand Rapids Michigan, 1966 – 2012 picks up where Period Pieces leaves off. It is a collective memoir of the lives of the sisters as they lived out their commitment to prayer, study, common life, and service into the 21st century. The collective effort of a team of sisters, the book was edited by Sr. Mary Navarre (1943 -), and published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., in 2015.
Dominican Sisters Grand Rapids 1877 – 1910. Written in the genre of a sourcebook, this volume contains narrative, images, and texts from primary sources documenting the congregation’s life during the late 19th through early 20th centuries. An index and endnotes are included. Written by Sr. Michael Ellen Carling (1933 -), the book was published in 2019.
Golden Links The Shared History of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian and Grand Rapids, Michigan
Seventeen years after a band of the Dominican Sisters from New York came to Michigan, the Grand Rapids Dominicans became a separate congregation from the motherhouse in New York. The Adrian Dominicans remained part of the New York group for several more years. The story of the separation is revealed in this telling of how and why it happened. A joint effort of the Adrian and Grand Rapids Dominicans traces the story through primary sources. Historian and writer Arlene Bachanov untangles the complex events that unfolded during this time of rapid growth and powerful bishops.
Interest or questions regarding any of these books can be directed to the Archives.