Born in Caleruega, Spain, St Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) founded a religious order to preach the Word of God. The Order of Preachers was approved in 1216 and so began a religious tradition that has spread across the world.
St Dominic believed in the power of education to develop well informed, articulate people whose lives, through prayer, community and service, would best reflect the life of Christ to the world.
Dominican theologians, philosophers and preachers such as St Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas, Fransisco de Vitorio and Antonio de Montesinos inspired critical thinking of the law, the role and actions of world leaders and of the Church.
Our patron, St Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), a lay Dominican whose intense spirituality inspired others around her, had considerable influence on religious thinking and on the political leaders of the day, most famously when she encouraged Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome and take up his duties more directly.
Branches of the order spread rapidly throughout Europe with a foundation in Dublin, Ireland being established in 1224. On 10 September 1867, eight Sisters from Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, arrived in Australia to settle and establish a convent at Maitland. Thus began a new chapter in the Dominican story.
In 1926, at the request of Archbishop Mannix, four Dominican Sisters from West Maitland came to Camberwell. On 12 August, MM Concepta O’Donoghue, SM Loreto Cockerill, SM Perpetua Hermann and SM Placid Flaherty were met at Spencer Street (Southern Cross) station by the Dominican Vicar-Provincial, Father Jordan Powell, the Prior of St Dominic’s, Father Hogan, Father Rupert Roche OP, Mrs Annie Rudd, a former Maitland pupil, and her daughter and cousin. A month later on 12 September, the tiny two bedroom cottage in Riversdale Road, in Camberwell, was officially opened and blessed by Archbishop Mannix.
The Sisters supported the work of the friars at St Dominic’s Parish and Primary School in Camberwell, but soon came to realise that there was a need for a secondary school. Over the next ten years, the Sisters began the planning and development of a much larger convent that would act as both convent and school for many years.
Siena Convent School opened in 1940 with fifteen enrolled students, but it was only in 1961, that a purpose built school building was developed and opened. While there have been many changes to the building, population, size and curriculum, it is the Dominican tradition that underpins our Siena community and remains a constant and living presence.