SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC, AKRON
THE AKRON DOMINICAN Sisters can trace their roots to Regensburg, Germany, where a cloistered community of Dominican nuns of Holy Cross Convent was formed in 1233.
On August 14, 1893, twelve Sisters of St. Dominic arrived in Akron from Caldwell, New Jersey, at the invitation of Fr. John Broun, pastor of St. Bernard Parish. A few weeks later their school work began with an enrollment of 500 pupils. Sacred Heart Academy in downtown Akron was opened in 1905 by the Caldwell Dominicans.
In 1923, the Arthur Marks mansion on West Market Street was purchased by the Sisters and became Our Lady of the Elms Convent. The building was dedicated by Bishop Schrembs of the Cleveland Diocese on October 14, 1923. The next day, fourteen students were enrolled in Our Lady of the Elms Academy and convent rooms were used as classrooms. By September of 1924 a new school was built on the Elms property and enrollment increased to 82. At this time, women also began to be received as members of the Dominican Order at Our Lady of the Elms.
When it was discovered that two novitiates for the same congregation under the same bishop was against Canon Law, Bishop Schrembs advocated separation from Caldwell, New Jersey, so that a new congregation could be formed in his diocese. Each of the Caldwell Sisters was given the option of remaining with Caldwell or of joining the new community. On March 9, 1929, after much prayer, sixty-seven Sisters—forty final professed, twenty temporary professed, and seven novices—officially transferred to the Akron congregation of the Sisters of Saint Dominic.
On April 26, 1929, Bishop Schrembs accepted the newly organized community as a diocesan religious congregation. On July 11, 1930, a decree of affiliation was received from the Master General of the Dominican Order. A year later the title of the new congregation, Sisters of Saint Dominic of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was approved.
The Dominican Sisters in Akron continued to teach in some of the schools in Ohio served by the Caldwell Dominicans, as their numbers permitted.
In 1938, a Preschool was started and in 1940 a Preschool building was constructed on the Elms property.
By 1939, there were 134 Sisters in 10 schools, and 17 studying in five different colleges. Dominican presence in area schools had expanded to St. Vincent High School, Akron and SS. Peter & Paul, Doylestown. By 1949 there were 166 Akron Dominicans teaching in fourteen parochial schools in addition to the Sisters teaching in the schools owned by the community.
Sisters also worked in summer CYO Camps in the diocese Camp Christopher and Santa Maria- -and taught summer religion programs. Increasing numbers of Sisters necessitated adding two wings and a chapel to the original house in 1956. By 1959, there were 211 Sisters in the congregation.
The 1960's and '70's brought many changes in the world and necessarily, in convent life. The Church expanded its services to the poor, to missionary lands, and to the elderly.
The Akron Dominicans responded to these changes. They took on the staffing of St. Edward Home for the Aged under the administration of Sister Eugene Beil. Akron Dominican Sisters were part of the first Cleveland Diocesan Team in El Salvador in 1966.
Other new ministries since that time include Newman Campus Ministry, the Elms Special Education School, religious education and pastoral ministry, hospital pastoral care, prison ministry, social action for peace and justice, retreat work, adult education, teaching in universities, Catholic and secular, service to the poor in hunger centers and most recently, the establishment of an Ecology Center in Bath, Ohio on the community's Crown Point property.
The Order also expanded the community's ministry to the Church by forming Akron Dominican Associates who serve the local Church in various ways according to their way of life.
As Dominicans with the charism of preaching the truth, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Akron look toward the third millennium with the hope that the Church will continue to be served by women willing to give their lives to God in this Dominican way of life.
Sister Rebecca Betz, 0. P.