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A Joyous Closing to the 100th Anniversary Celebration
of Sacred Heart Chapel in Sparkill

     On the cold Saturday afternoon of November 22, 2014, the halls and rooms of Dominican Convent in Sparkill, NY were bursting with warmth. Over 300 guests gathered, gracing the convent and its 100-year-old Sacred Heart Chapel with their love and support in honor of the Chapel’s centennial anniversary. The Dominican Sisters of Sparkill seized this opportunity to award three individuals whose lives and work have made a significant contribution to advancing the mission of the Dominican Sisters. Family, friends, distinguished local officials, and members of the Rockland County community joined the Sisters along with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, and many local priests, in honoring the award recipients and celebrating the history of this beautiful chapel that has been the spiritual home to so many in the community throughout the last century.


     The Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary, (The Dominican Sisters of Sparkill), was founded in 1876 to care for destitute women and children in New York City. In 1884 the Sisters came to Rockland County in order to provide a safe and healthy environment for the children in their care. Following a devastating fire in 1899 that destroyed their complex of buildings in Sparkill, the Sisters began to rebuild. The foundation stone for Sacred Heart Chapel was laid in May 1913, and this magnificent building was dedicated on October 20, 1914, providing a fitting place for the Sisters and children to be spiritually nourished. Over the years, more than 1100 Dominican Sisters of Sparkill and thousands of children in their care have called Sacred Heart Chapel their place of worship, along with the students of St. Thomas Aquinas College, the residents of Thorpe Village and Dowling Gardens, and many other guests and visitors. In celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Sisters honor the Chapel as the spiritual heart of their many ministries as they have evolved over the years.

The historic Sacred Heart Chapel standing proudly on the campus of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.

     This day of celebration was the last of many events in 2014 organized to honor Sacred Heart Chapel’s impact on the ministries of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill and on those they serve. The day began with a reception in Dominican Convent where guests enjoyed food, drinks, and conversation with friends old and new. Upon Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s arrival, the awards ceremony began.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan arrives at Dominican Convent, 11/22/14.

Three exceptionally deserving recipients received the Veritas Award; Veritas (“Truth”) is one of the mottos of the Order of Preachers—the Dominicans. It points to the heart of the Dominican tradition: to be messengers of the liberating power of truth and the embodiment of Truth in the person of Jesus. Recipients of the Veritas Award participate in Dominican preaching in diverse ways as they live out the gospel of Jesus by word and action. Frank Bradicich, Dr. Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick, SC, and Sister Ursula Joyce, OP, were awarded for their dedication to the ideals and values of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.

Frank Bradicich is a 90-year-old Alumnus of St. Agnes Home and School for Children, the orphanage and school established by the Dominican Sisters on the Sparkill grounds in 1884. Frank, along with his three siblings, spent the majority of his childhood and young adulthood under the care of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. He went on to establish himself in a series of successful careers: first as an electrician’s apprentice, then in the US Navy where he earned many honors serving in WWII, on to the NYPD where he retired as a Lieutenant after 34 years of serving the City of New York, and finally in the private security industry. He has always been proud to call himself a St. Agnes “House’s Kid” and remains a very active member of the St. Agnes Alumni Association. As a devoted family man and an active minister in his Catholic faith, Frank embodies the dreams the Sisters held for each child in their care, and is a wonderful representative of the thousands of St. Agnes alumni who have lived lives enriched by their faith. When asked what it means to have received this award, Frank said, “It brings back a lot of memories of the Sisters’ love and the great foundation they gave me. When I was serving in WWII there was no chaplain or religious connection for those of us on the ship. Knowing the Sisters were praying for me and being able to write to them to keep in touch meant so much. It kept me going. Today’s celebration brings me back to that time, and brings everything full circle.”

Frank Bradicich accepting The Veritas Award from Cardinal Dolan and Sr. Mary Murray, President of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.

Dr. Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick, SC, is the President of St. Thomas Aquinas College (STAC). Founded by the Sparkill Dominicans as a teacher education program for their own Sisters in 1952, STAC quickly grew in size and the scope of programs offered and began admitting laywomen and men. By the late 1960’s, STAC was well on its way to becoming the premier institution of higher education it is today. For the last 20 years Dr. Margaret Mary has held this leadership position at the college with great distinction. Herself a Sister, of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, Dr. Margaret Mary conducted her graduate research on the role of higher education in serving society and the engagement of students in fulfilling that societal responsibility. This paved the way for a perfect fit at STAC, which holds as its mission “…to develop articulate and independent members of society who strive to become responsible citizens and leaders in shaping the diverse world community, and who live in a manner exemplifying the principles of service, mutual respect, and individual responsibility.” Dr. Margaret Mary works tirelessly to create a spiritually-grounded environment that stretches the community to “Enlighten the Mind through Truth,” the College’s motto, and through her actions serving on various boards in the community she directly models social responsibility for her students.

Dr. Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick, SC, accepting The Veritas Award  from Cardinal Dolan and Sr. Mary Murray.

Sister Ursula Joyce, OP, a Dominican Sister of Sparkill, is well-known in and around Rockland County for her extraordinary involvement in community affairs, particularly as the face of Thorpe Village & Dowling Gardens. Her background in education and psychology led her first to the classroom, then to various academic leadership positions as a licensed psychologist, and on to the leadership team for her congregation from 1972-76. During this time her congregation became focused on the lack of affordable senior citizen housing in the town surrounding their campus and were convinced that sponsoring senior housing was consistent with their mission of service. Sister Ursula led the securing of funding and the obtaining of zone changes and other town approvals necessary for the development of what would become a 200-apartment senior housing community known as Thorpe Village. In 1994, she had a similar role in the development of Dowling Gardens, a facility for frail elderly, built adjacent to Thorpe Village. Since 1981, Sister Ursula has served as executive director of the Dominican Sisters’ senior housing ministry. She has founded, chaired, and participated on the boards of numerous organizations effecting change in healthcare and human rights for Rockland County residents. Sister Ursula’s compassion for those in need, her ability to “read the signs of the times,” her many skills and competencies, and her unwavering persistence in pursuing the vision of safe, affordable, quality housing for the elderly have provided the sure foundation on which the Dominican Sisters’ senior housing ministry now stands. The Dominican Sisters of Sparkill celebrate Sister Ursula Joyce as one who clearly embodies the congregation’s mission—a joyful woman of prayer and compassion who proclaims the reign of God through ministry for justice and reverence for all creation. She is truly a woman making a difference.

Sr. Ursula Joyce, OP, accepting The Veritas Award from Cardinal Dolan and Sr. Mary Murray.

The Veritas Award recipients pictured with Sr. Mary Murray and Cardinal Dolan following the award ceremony at Dominican Convent.

     A Mass in Sacred Heart Chapel followed the award ceremony to complete the afternoon of celebration. Cardinal Dolan officiated and was joined by 10 additional clergy members. The Mass beautifully depicted the types of joyous occasions and community gatherings that this sacred space has held over its 100 years. The choir and musicians, made up of Sisters and members of local parish choirs and the Hudson Valley Chorale, created a most welcoming atmosphere as their beautiful notes floated through the Chapel’s high arches. The music was carefully selected, including the Profession of Faith sung in Latin, just as it was 100 years ago. In his homily, Cardinal Dolan spoke of his deep connection to the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, praising them for the strong example they set in answering Jesus’ call to help others in so many ways. He reminded the congregation to consider their own answers to the questions Jesus asks of us.

The choir singing during Mass.

Cardinal Dolan preaching the homily, 11/22/14.

Many distinguished guests took part in the Mass including: Sisters who minister or have ministered at STAC, Thorpe Village, Dowling Gardens, and St. Agnes; John Bradicich, brother of honoree Frank, who is also a St. Agnes Alumnus; Dr. John Durney, Provost at STAC; Dr. Theresa Lewis, Chair of the Board of One-to-One Learning, a Dominican Sisters’ sponsored ministry; and Michael Yannazzone, former Sparkill Fire Chief. Members of the Sparkill Fire Department attended the Mass in uniform, and students from both Albertus Magnus and Aquinas High Schools (also sponsored ministries of the Sisters) participated as altar servers and hospitality ministers during the Mass. At the end of the celebration, Cardinal Dolan graciously greeted and spoke with many individuals in attendance, bringing the day to a joyous close.

Distinguished guests and Sisters present the gifts.

Cardinal Dolan greets guests at the conclusion of the Mass.

“Our closing reception and Liturgy was all we could have hoped for,” said President, Sr. Mary Murray. “It was the culmination of a year-long series of events that focused not only on the 100 years of Sacred Heart Chapel, but also on our Congregation’s desire to continue to be a vital presence to our families, friends, and neighbors. The day was truly wonderful from start to finish! We are so grateful to God for this wonderful Chapel and all that it inspires among us. We look forward to many more opportunities to invite people to Dominican Convent and Sacred Heart Chapel to enjoy future concerts, liturgies, lectures, and events.”

Cardinal Dolan shown with members of the Sparkill Fire Department.

Sisters and members of the Sparkill community pose for a photo after Mass with Cardinal Dolan.



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