Wednesday, December 25, 2013

American Dominican Academies in Cuba

Mother Loyola focused her efforts to providing staff to educate girls at Our Lady Help of Christians in Havana and the academy in Vedado which she claimed for the Order and renamed the American Dominican Academy.  In 1904 Mother Loyola died and Mother Mary Bertrand Hennessey became the 3rd Mother General with responsibility for the mission in Cuba.   

In 1908 Mother Bertrand consolidated Our Lady Help of Christians in Havana with the American Dominican Academy in Vedado, and opened a second American Dominican Academy on the other side of the island in Cienfuegos.  Meanwhile devotion to Our Lady of Charity at El Cobre was growing in popularity throughout Cuba as the plight of the freed slaves became manifest.  An estimated 800,000 slaves had been brought to Cuba over the centuries, most of them from West Africa.  

Pope Benedict XV declared Our Lady of El Cobre patroness of Cuba in 1916 giving her the feast day of Our Lady’s nativity on September 8th.  The national shrine basilica was built ten years later at a location closer to Santiago de Cuba. In 1948 the Dominican Sisters opened a third Catholic academy for girls called La Coronela in Miramar, Cuba.  The girls were taught social skills and homemaking at the American Dominican Academies as well as earning the qualifications to enter college or work in business.  Sister Mary Lawrence Heinsinger, among others, was assigned to teach at the American Dominican Academy in Cienfuegos.  The Dominican Academies were still going strong in 1952.