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Our Dominican Heritage

Original School Building

The story of the Amityville Dominicans began in 1853 when four young women journeyed from Regensburg, Germany to Brooklyn, New York to teach children of German immigrants.  While this journey was fraught with many unexpected twists and turns, the Sisters had no idea it would all play into a movement that would impact the lives of thousands of people among them members of St. Agnes Cathedral Parish.

In 1917, at the request of Fr. Peter Quealy, five Dominican Sisters, under the leadership of Mother Petra Wilmer, arrived in Rockville Centre to staff the newly built school.  The "Quealy School" which was constructed in a gothic style and contained ten classrooms, opened with an enrollment of sixty students.  From the original group emerged a "legend," Sr. Marian Adamthwaite, who would spend seventy three years of devoted service teaching the students at St. Agnes. (A desk from Sr. Marian's first grade classroom is displayed in the school's main hall).

In what could be considered a start of a high school, the sisters began offering a commercial course to older students in 1919.  these programs were held in the grammar school.  The establishment of a high school became a reality in 1924 when a two story high school for girls was completed in 1924.   A third story was added in 1938.  Mother Petra served as principal of both the elementary and high schools from the time they were established until her death in 1939.

Staffing two schools, with ever increasing enrollments, resulted in the building of a gothic-designed convent in 1928.  An addition was constructed in 1961.  At its height the convent housed over fifty sisters!

St. Agnes Cathedral School reaped the benefit of the dedication and commitment of over one hundred Amityville Dominican Sisters and the leadership of Mother Petra 1917-1939, and her successors: Sr. Agnes Claire 1939-1958, Sr. Maureen Hanrahan 1958-1965, Sr. Claire Therese 1965-1970, Sr. Jane Doherty 1970-1975, Sr. Patricia Pich 1975-1977, Sr. Kathleen Carlin 1977-1999 (Principal) 1999-2016 (Co-Principal).  As a result of their leadership, thousands of children experienced the richness of a Dominican Catholic Education.

‚ÄčDominican Principals

In 1957, the parish purchased the Clinton Avenue School from the Rockville Centre Public School District.  After extensive renovations and the addition of the North and South wings in the early 1960s, the elementary school totaled 32 classrooms.  With each classroom accommodating fifty students, the enrollment reached 1,600 students.

The post Vatican II years radically changed the institution of Catholic Education.  With the exodus of sisters from Religious communities and the expanse of Church ministries, fewer sisters were available to teach.  Dedicated and qualified lay teachers replaced the religious in the classroom.  During this time Dominican Assistant Principals were assigned to the Cathedral School including Sr. Angela LiVecchi, Sr. Patricia Pich, Sr. Mary Hughes and Sr. Kathleen Galina.

St. Agnes Cathedral School continued to grow.  Additional classrooms and programs were added.  St. Agnes was recognized by the New York State and United States Department of Education as a National School of Excellence and was accredited, beginning in 1993, by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

When Sr. Kathy Carlin retired in August 2016, after 38 years as Principal/Co-Principal, it marked the end of a ninety-nine year tenure of an Amityville Dominican at the helm of the elementary school.  Fortunately, Dominican traditions continue under the new administration.  The Dominican Cross is embedded in the school logo.  A Dominican saint is assigned yearly to each grade level and a picture of St. Dominic is displayed on the prayer table in every classroom.  Upon her retirement, the south wing was dedicated to Sr. Kathy and is known as Carlin Hall.

The Amityville Dominicans will forever be remembered for their contributions to the Cathedral Parish.  The beautiful chapel in the Parish Ministry Building (formerly the convent) was named the Holy Cross Chapel in honor of the Amityville Dominicans: Congregation of the Holy Cross.

Author: Kathleen V. Carlin, OP
(Sources for the text: Amityville Dominican Sisters' website and archives, to Believe in  Vision, (James O'Neill), St. Agnes Cathedral School - 75th Anniversary Journal)

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