The community of Dominican friars in Springfield is part of a Dominican project in the area that involves every branch of the Dominican family. In 1873, seven Dominican sisters were sent from the Convent of St. Catherine of Siena, near Springfield, Kentucky, to Jacksonville, Illinois, for the purpose of teaching a large population of Irish immigrant children.
Living conditions in those early days endangered the sisters' health; conditions in their four crowded classrooms weren't much better. What kept them going was their commitment to the Dominican mission.
The Dominican Laity chapter of our Lady of the Sacred Heart came together in the 1970s under the spiritual direction of the sisters. The laity chapter united itself with the Order by embracing promises to live the four pillars of Dominican life—community, prayer, study and preaching—according to their state in life. Today the laity is under the guidance of the resident friars but draws on the great wealth of the Dominican charism so present in our neighborhood.
By the 1980s the sisters had grown into a formidable Dominican congregation with over 500 sisters who continued their mission of education in the Dominican spirit. Their membership quickly took on an international flavor as missions were opened in Peru. It was at this time too that friars joined the sisters as motherhouse chaplains, campus ministers in their Springfield High School, and as classroom teachers. Today there are two friars in Springfield who live on the motherhouse campus in a convent they affectionately refer to as "the cottage."
The Springfield Dominican Associate Program was formed in 1990 as a means for laypeople to participate in the sisters’ mission. Dominican Associates are women and men who embrace the Dominican traditions of prayer, study, community and ministry. They are called to share the Gospel with others and “preach with their lives.”
In the mid-2010s fourteen Dominican Nuns joined the growing Dominican presence in Springfield, Illinois. A monastery was established for them on the motherhouse campus. The nuns look forward to moving their monastery to rural Gerard, Illinois, which is a short drive from Springfield.
Today, each dimension of the Dominican Order is represented in Springfield, Illinois. Unlike anywhere else in the world we come together as Sisters, Friars, Associates, Laity, and Nuns to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, each according to our particular Dominican vocation. God has blessed the Dominican Order with this rare opportunity in Springfield; God has blessed Springfield with our Dominican Order!