University of Dallas to Host Convent for Nashville Dominican Sisters

Many of UD’s alumni go on to join religious orders or the priesthood.

A sister with the Nashville Dominicans of St. Cecilia gives a lecture at the University of Dallas.
A sister with the Nashville Dominicans of St. Cecilia gives a lecture at the University of Dallas. (photo: University of Dallas)

Catholic liberal arts college University of Dallas (UD) announced on Jan. 18 that it will be hosting a convent for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, a teaching order of Catholic religious sisters also known as the Nashville Dominicans.

Nine Nashville Dominican sisters are UD graduates, while several have taught at the university for about eight years in the philosophy and theology departments. They also teach at a local elementary school, Mary Immaculate Catholic Elementary School, but have been relying on temporary residence since they came to Texas in 2016.

“The university has been blessed by the presence of the Nashville Dominican sisters teaching and studying among us,” university President Jonathan J. Sanford said in a statement to CNA on Thursday.

“Beyond the excellence they provide in teaching and research — and they truly are top tier contributors in those arenas — their joyful witness to dedicated Christian discipleship is an inspiration to us all,” he said, “an inspiration that is especially important for our students as they discern how best to dedicate their professional and personal lives to renewing our culture.” 

The convent will be the first on-campus home for the order, which was founded in 1860.

“We are so grateful to the University of Dallas for its desire to provide a convent on campus for our sisters teaching at UD and Mary Immaculate,” said Dominican Sister Catherine Anne Burleigh, the vicaress general for the congregation in a Jan. 18 press release

Burleigh graduated from UD in 1994. Dominican Sister Mary Angelica Neenan currently teaches theology at UD, while Sister Elinor Gardner teaches philosophy.

“We know that the presence of religious sisters played an integral part in the founding and early days of the university,” Sister Burleigh added, “and we are humbled to be involved in such a wonderful community that takes seriously the pursuit of truth, wisdom, and virtue.”

The convent will be located in a private area on campus but with easy access to the main areas. 

“The presence of the Nashville Dominican sisters living on campus is such a wonderful example to young women, showing the beauty of religious life,” Sister Sanford told CNA. “They have the power to attract young women to consider religious life after college, and we’ve seen evidence of that success in the many alumnae indeed pursue a religious vocation after graduation.”

Many of UD’s alumni go on to join religious orders or the priesthood. More than 200 have become priests and more than 100 have joined religious communities, while 12 have gone on to become bishops and six are permanent deacons.

Several religious neighbors border UD’s campus, including Holy Trinity Seminary, St. Albert the Great Priory and Novitiate, and Our Lady of Dallas Cistercian Abbey. 

“I am deeply grateful that the community, while remaining rooted in their motherhouse in Nashville, are willing to partner so deeply with the University of Dallas in establishing a mission convent on our campus where the good work they are doing at UD and beyond can be more deeply nurtured for even greater service to our Church and country,” Sanford said. 

While UD is their first on-campus home, the sisters have “mission convents” serving more than 50 different schools in 31 dioceses in the U.S. and abroad. 

The timeline for construction has not yet been finalized, but UD is working with the order to plan and raise money for the project. Still at its beginning stages, the project, which is projected to cost $7.2 million, needs to go through the processes of architectural design, site preparation, and construction.