We Dominicans have been getting some good publicity in the press hereabouts lately. Last Saturday, the Lufkin paper printed a long article with a large picture concerning one of our Sisters who was the first to join this community after its arrival in East Texas from Detroit. That was in 1945; she has been here for 61 years, and was born and raised just about 25 miles from here.
Then, in today’s Houston paper, there is an article and picture about our Hawthorne Dominican Sisters up in the New England area. The famous American novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of Seven Gables,” had six daughters. After his death in Boston in the mid-19th century, his widow took her daughters to live in England, where she and at least one of the daughters died. They were buried in London. Meantime, one of the daughters named Rose came back to this country, became a Catholic, and after the death of her husband, decided to form a group of charitable ladies to take care of the poor cancer victims of New York City who were in such dire straits. That group evolved into the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor, or the Hawthorne Dominicans, as they are commonly called. They operate homes where terminally ill cancer patients can spend their last days in security, dignity, and with the best care that is available to anyone, anywhere.
I have visited two of their cancer homes; one in Fall River, Massachusetts; the other in Atlanta. I wish that each of you could visit one of them. The kind of care that those patients get is simply unavailable anywhere else, and does not cost the patient a nickel. I remember visiting the Atlanta home when I was chaplain at Emory University. Each patient had a large, bright, beautifully furnished room. Flowery curtains on the large windows, attractive wallpaper and furnishings, and a live bird (a canary or finch) singing and chirping merrily in a cage located where the patient could see and hear his or her little feathered friend. In the Atlanta home, most of the patients are non-Catholic; many are black. Race, creed, or color makes no difference to the Sisters. They serve Our Lord in serving the poor, regardless. I remember envying the Sisters their reception into heaven when their time on earth is finished. “Whatever you did to these . . . you did to me,” Our Lord will tell them. And they spend their LIVES doing that! What a joy for us to know that our Dominican Sisters are engaged in that kind of work! Nathaniel Hawthorne is famous for his writings; the work of his daughter Rose and the community she founded is less famous, but I suspect, much more pleasing in the eyes of God. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.