The congregation traces its gift of life to St. Dominic's faith and belief in people. Six hundred years later, Alice Mary Thorpe and her sister Lucy responded to the Dominican ideal and spirit. Converts from the Anglican Church and immigrants from England, they began to live and work among poor people in New York City.
Under the leadership of Alice Mary, now known as Mother Catherine M. Antoninus, their mission took shape on May 6, 1876 in the Congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary, dedicated to provide refuge for needy women and to serving people in poverty.
After the death of Mother Antoninus in 1879, Mother Dominic Dowling played a leading role in the preservation of the Congregation for the next 20 years.. The urgent need to provide for destitute children influenced her to suspend the care of indigent women in favor of neglected children. In 1884, property was purchased in Sparkill, New York to provide a suitable environment for boys under their care. The congregation's motherhouse and novitiate were moved there in 1895.
By 1900 the sisters’ work included teaching in elementary and high schools. Eventually, a commitment to education made this the Congregation’s principal ministry.
Although the breadth of their ministries has expanded since the Second Vatican Council, the founding spirit of Mother Antoninus Thorpe still inspires the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.