The Dominican Tradition
A Rich Heritage of Prayer, Study, Ministry and Community
Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish Priest in the 13th Century, founded the Order of Preachers (popularly called the Dominicans). For over eight centuries the worldwide Order of Dominicans has based its mission on the four pillars of prayer, study, ministry and community. When the Dominicans came to the New World (North America), one of their first foundations was in Central Kentucky. Shortly thereafter, the congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine was founded in 1822. The first school was established in 1823 with 15 students. In 1931, St. Catharine College was founded.
In addition to their lifelong devotion to education, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine are committed to many other causes throughout the United States and worldwide. On April 12, 2009, after extensive study, prayer and discernment, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine united with several other congregations of Dominican Sisters to form a new congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Peace. St. Catharine College continues to be sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, promoting excellence in education and the Catholic Dominican values held dear by the founding Sisters.
St. Catharine of Siena, the namesake of St. Catharine College, was born in Siena, Italy, in 1347 and at age 16 joined the Mantellata, a group of lay Dominican women. St. Catharine spent many hours in service to the sick and in prayer and meditation. She distinguished herself as a spiritual advisor and as a strong voice urging spiritual and political reform in the Catholic Church and in her native Italy. Her spiritual autobiography entitled, The Dialogue, remains a classic of Western spirituality even today. In 1970 St. Catharine of Siena and St. Teresa of Avila were declared Doctors of the Church. St. Catharine is the patroness of Italy and her feast day is April 29.
Symbolism in the St. Catharine College Shield
The primary elements on the St. Catharine College shield are the torch, the star and the date 1931. Each represents an important aspect of the Dominican tradition or of the College’s history:
The torch – Often representations of St. Dominic show a dog with a torch in his mouth standing beside the saint. This symbol originates from a story that arose during the pregnancy of St. Dominic’s mother. Apparently, while expecting Dominic, she dreamt of a dog running across the world with a torch in its mouth, igniting the world on fire. Much like the dog lighting the world, Dominic early demonstrated a passion for preaching the truth of God’s mercy and love, enlightening people’s lives wherever he traveled.
The star – At Dominic’s baptism, his godmother saw a bright star shine on his forehead, which is recalled today in our St. Catharine College shield.
The date – The year 1931 appears on the shield, forever recalling the year St. Catharine College was founded.
Whether or not the time-honored stories of the star and the torch are truth or legend, the meaning behind them stands without question: we are all called to spread the Word of God throughout the world so that it will bring light where there is darkness. In addition, we must always be receivers and givers of God’s mercy and love.
Since its founding, St. Catharine College has fostered a strong faith heritage that enriches life on campus and continues to thrive on our campus today.