Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne

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File:Rosary Hill Home.JPG
Exterior or Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York

The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne are a Roman Catholic congregation of Religious Sisters, who are a part of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. The Congregation was founded on December 8, 1900, by Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, a daughter of the famed novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. They specialize in caring for those suffering from terminal cancer and have no financial resources.


Main article: Mother Mary Alphonsa

Early in life, Rose Hawthorne married George Parsons Lathrop, both of whom converted to Roman Catholicism in 1891. Rose had seemingly married well as a young woman, and they moved from her native Massachusetts to New York City and then to Connecticut after their marriage. Unfortunately her husband soon turned out to be unreliable and difficult. Eventually she was driven in 1895 to seek permission from the Church to live apart from him, and this was granted.

Finding herself alone and with few financial resources, she began to seek some meaning to her life. She learned of the sorry plight of the poor who were diagnosed with incurable cancer. At the time, this disease was believed by many to be highly contagious, so there was a deep fear of contact with those suffering from this affliction. Lathrop soon found a special vocation to this work.

In the fall of 1896, after having taken a three-month nursing course at New York's Cancer Hospital, Lathrop moved into a three-room cold-water flat on New York City's impoverished Lower East Side and began to nurse the poor with incurable cancer.[1] In March 1898 Alice Huber, having responded to an article Lathrop had written about her work, joined her in this service. Shortly afterwards Rose's husband George died. As others came to join them, Lathrop was inspired to found a religious congregation. One of her early supporters was Josephine Lazarus, sister of the poet Emma Lazarus who had been Rose's friend until her death from cancer.[2]

A new congregation

The community became established as a congregation of Religious Sisters in 1900 and were given the Dominican habit.[1] They termed themselves "the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer", and their purpose was to provide for the well-being of incurably ill and destitute cancer patients. At that time, Lathrop was elected as superior of the community, becoming known as Mother Mary Alphonsa.

Their first home was founded in 1912 at 71 Jackson Street in Manhattan.[1] It was named St. Rose's Free Home for Incurable Cancer. The Sisters took only the most destitute, and provided them with all the care they needed, doing so without any form of compensation. Even now in the 21st century they refuse to accept any payment from the patients or their families or from government funds from either Social Security or Medicare. Nor do they accept money from private insurance. Mother Alphonsa wanted a better environment for her charges than the bleak dirty streets of that part of Manhattan. In 1901 she established a second nursing home, Rosary Hill, in a small hamlet of Westchester County, some twenty miles north of New York City. The community came to be called Hawthorne, New York, in honor of her father.

In 1930 the sisters opened the thirty-five bed skilled nursing facility, Sacred Heart Home in Philadelphia.[3]

In 1939 the Dominicans opened Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home in Atlanta, Georgia.[4]

In December 1941, the sisters opened Our Lady of Good Counsel Home in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2009, the Sisters turned over operation of the home to the Franciscan Health Community, who continue to provide free care to those in need at end-of-life.[5]

Present situation

As of 2013 the order numbered fifty-three sisters. Due to declining numbers of sisters, in recent years, the order has closed two cancer homes — in Ohio and Massachusetts.[6] St. Rose's Home in Manhattan closed March 31, 2009. While greatly reduced in numbers, like most other religious communities in the late 20th century, the Sisters continue to serve at Rosary Hill and at homes in Philadelphia, and Atlanta.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "St. Rose's Home in Manhattan to Close", Catholic New York, February 26, 2009
  2. "Exhibit highlights connection between Jewish poet, Catholic nun". The Tidings. Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Catholic News Service. 17 September 2010. p. 16. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  3. Graham, Kristen A., "Nuns provide free hospice care to cancer patients", The Detroit News, January 23, 2015
  4. Golden, Nicolle. "For 75 years, the Sisters have given Atlanta a living explanation of ‘our Catholic faith’", The Georgia Bulletin, July 10, 2014
  5. Our Lady of Peace, St. Paul, Minnesota
  6. Caroll, Julie. "Dominican sisters to leave Our Lady of Good Counsel Home", The Catholic Spirit, January 7, 2009

External links