Dominican nuns reaped what they sewed

A detail of the embroidered “St Dominic’s Cope” (St Dominic’s Priory Museum North Adelaide)

The Australian Catholic Historical Society has awarded its James MacGinley award to Adelaide historian Jo Vandepeer for her essay about a group of creative 19th-century Dominican nuns.

The $1000 award, established by the family of the historian Sr Rosa MacGinley PBVM, is for an original, as yet unpublished, biographical, social, cultural, institutional, or political study of Australian Catholic history.

Ms Vandepeer’s winning essay, The atelier of St Dominic’s Priory, tells the story of 19th-century Dominican nuns who arrived in Adelaide expecting to work in a hospital. When that proved impossible, they were thrown on their own resources and developed high-quality ecclesiastical needlework to survive.

The essay will be published in the Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society, whose annual issue, published each February, contains a wide range of articles and book reviews on the story of the Catholic community in Australia.

The Journal’s editor, James Franklin, said “Jo Vandepeer’s article is perfect to expand our knowledge of the often-little-known art and craft-work that has adorned the sacred spaces of Australian churches, and the dedicated and talented communities of workers, often nuns, who produced them.”

Ms Vandepeer hopes that her paper and the award will help spread the word about the most spectacular production of the atelier, St. Dominic’s Cope, and that a donor for its restoration will be found.

Entries for the 2023 MacGinley award are now open. Conditions are available on the ACHS website.


Catholic History Award to South Australian writer: A story of survival (Australian Catholic Historical Society)

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