On her 100th birthday last week, Sister Francis Dominici attended a liturgy held in her name at Molloy College, then returned to her residence in Maria Regina Hall.
It was the last birthday she will celebrate at the convent.
According to Ken Young, Molloy’s director of public relations, Maria Regina will soon be renovated and converted into a residence hall for 97 students that will open in the fall of 2014. The hall is now a multipurpose building — the nuns use the top floor as a convent, and the rest is occupied by members of the nursing faculty and the college’s Public Safety offices. After the renovation, the nuns will leave the campus and the nursing offices will be moved elsewhere, but Public Safety will eventually move back into the basement.
The building has hosted the Sisters of Saint Dominic since it was completed in 1964. The Sisters, who founded the college in 1955, had previously occupied unfinished bedrooms above Quealy Hall, which is now the school’s athletic center.
The five sisters, including Dominici, currently living in Maria Regina Hall are in retirement. According to Sister Mary Hughes, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Amityville, the order has been aware of the plans to convert the convent to dorm rooms for some time, and are happy to see the college use the space more efficiently.
“They want it to thrive,” said Hughes, who also sits on the college’s Board of Trustees. “Even as they shared space in the beginning, they shared space right into the end.”
When the project was proposed, college officials asked the sisters to relocate, offering to buy living space for them or move them to a new location on campus. But the nuns, who receive retirement funds from the Dominican order, elected to return to the priory in Amityville to spend their retirement among their friends. So, while this renovation will mark the first time in the college’s history that Molloy will have no nuns living on its campus, their departure will be an amicable one.
They will be missed, however.
“It’s been very much of a concern of the board,” said Hughes. “We’ve been included in all the conversations by the college. They’re really feeling the absence of a convent already.”
Although the Sisters of Saint Dominic will no longer have a presence at Molloy, their influence on campus life will still be felt. A number of the nuns living in Amityville still teach at the college, and commute there daily. And according to Hughes, the student body has embraced the religious and humanitarian spirit of the order.
“I know the campus ministry program is really alive,” she said. “Many students are very involved. I tend to see those students with our sisters, and they’re at everything — always volunteering. This generation is very altruistic, accustomed to doing service projects, and we build in a reflection time, so they can really reflect on how their work in campus ministry affected them.”
Asked about the plans to renovate Maria Regina Hall, Hughes beamed. “I think they’re great!” she said. “I have to believe that the students who are going to live there know that they will be occupying a holy space.”