In early 1884, our Mother Dominic Dowling purchased a plot of land on the west side of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York. This was to carry out the Dominican Sisters’ plan to provide a healthier environment for the homeless children in their care. In June of that same year, four Sisters and twenty-five boys moved to Sparkill and opened St. Agnes Home and School for Children.
When St. Agnes closed in 1977, our Sisters wanted to use the vacant land in a socially responsible way. The congregation made the decision to use the site to serve another vulnerable group of individuals—the elderly. In 1996, Dowling Gardens, named after Mother Dominic, welcomed its first residents. Located on a five-acre site on behind Dominican Convent, Dowling Gardens embraced its mission to provide a safe, affordable, caring community which accommodates the individual needs of its residents. This beautiful residence allows frail but otherwise healthy seniors to maintain their independence, while remaining active and involved, in a non-medical environment.
Dowling Gardens remains true to its mission today; but it is also true that, since March 2020, the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a real impact. Life completely changed at Dowling, as it did for all of us. Residents remained in their apartments; the dining room was closed; Sisters delivered meals to the apartments of the residents; and visits were limited to a single family member, and only when a visit was absolutely necessary. Masks and social distancing continue to be required of all. This has proven difficult for the residents and their families, as it has for most of us. However, families are grateful that their loved ones are cared for and kept safe.
Dowling Gardens has been called “Rockland County’s best kept secret.” Our Sisters and the staff work together to create an environment that enhances the life of each resident. A son writes:
“I have been learning over the past few years that dealing with the elderly requires a certain delicate touch… listening, caring, and patience. I am not certain exactly sure what it is—but whatever it is, the staff at Dowling Gardens has it.”
And another family member shared:
“My mother truly loved living at Dowling Gardens. It provided a safe environment that allowed her the freedom to live independently, the warmth and friendliness that gave her a social life, and the care and concern that comforted her when she needed assistance.” Along with Thorpe Village,* its sister independent living residential community, Dowling Gardens proudly continues a long tradition of ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill—providing shelter to those in need.
– Sister Eileen Gannon, OP
Sister Eileen serves on the congregational leadership team.
* Thorpe Village opened in 1981, named to honor the congregation’s founder, Mother Catherine Antoninus Thorpe.