History of the Institute

We will soon be celebrating a century of service to the Church and young people.


In 1929-30, the Bishop of Vannes, Monseigneur Tréhiou, gave Abbé Berto (1900-1968) the mission of adoption. Abbé Berto rescued orphans and placed them with families or in orphanages, and paid their expenses, but at this time he did not have his own establishment.


In 1936, circumstances led Abbé Berto to open a home for orphans. He rented La Bousselaie, a house near Redon that was large enough to welcome the seven or eight boys who were under his care at the time. However, requests for help poured in, and the premises soon became too small.


Two years later, on 12 September 1938, thanks to a gift from the diocese, Abbé Berto was able to purchase a larger building with a garden and a plot of land at Fescal, between Péaule and Marzan, near La Roche-Bernard.

Many young girls who hoped to consecrate their lives to the service of God, offered to help the children of the “Foyer Notre-Dame de Joie” and little by little they developed a communal life, lived in accordance with a rule approved by Monseigneur Tréhiou. In this way, gradually, the Institute of the Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit was formed.


On 21 st January 1943, the newly-appointed bishop of Vannes, Monseigneur Le Bellec, gave the small community at Fescal permission to establish itself as a secular Fraternity of Third-Order Dominicans, and this was enacted two months later, on 28 th March, by R.P. Belaud O.P., the Prior of the Dominican monastery at Saint-Malo.


In 1945 an opportunity arose for some of the sisters at Fescal, which was by now becoming overcrowded. The parish-run secondary school at Saint-Cloud needed a new headmistress, and the parish priest at Saint-Cloud asked Abbé Berto for help. In September 1945, five sisters moved to the outskirts of Paris, and took over the running of the Maintenon school, which was re-named “Saint Pie X” in 1954.


As the years passed, the house at Fescal became too small, and it was necessary to consider either constructing something new or finding a larger building. A friend of Abbé Berto helped him to buy the estate of Pontcalec, in the commune of Berné. On 20th December 1955, the Notre Dame de Joie home for boys, and the Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit, left Fescal and moved to Pontcalec.


At the start of the 1960s, the sisters of the Fraternity discussed their desire for a more stable canonical situation than that provided by the simple Rule of the Tertiary Order. Approaches were therefore made to Rome, to the General Curia of the Order of Preachers, and on 19 th November 1964, the Master-General, T.R.P. Fernandez O.P., signed the Decree of Canonical erection of the Fraternity, as a “Sodality belonging to the Order of Saint Dominic.”


In 1973, thanks to the increasing numbers of sisters joining the Order, the idea formed of starting a boarding school, the secondary school of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which was established in the grounds of the mother-house.


At the request of many families in Nantes, the school of Saint Catherine of Siena opened in Nantes in 1977. (In 2018-19 this school moved to a more spacious location at Fort, at the childhood home of Blessed Marie of the Passion, the founder of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.)


In 1985, Monseigneur Madec, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, appealed to the Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit, and the school of Saint Joseph was formed at Draguignan (Var).


At the same time, attention turned to the Constitutions of the Sodality, to ensure that they were in conformity with the new Code of Canonical Right, issued in 1983. On 22 nd February 1990, the Holy See instituted the “Sodality of Consecrated Dominicans of the Holy Spirit” as a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right. By a decree of 24 th May 1990, the Master-General of the Order, T.R.P. Damian Byrne O.P. formally aggregated the Society to the Dominican Order.


In 1995 the Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit began a mission in Vosges. They renovated a farmhouse in the small village of La Baffe, near Epinal, and welcomed the first pupils of the school of Saint Dominic.

While the primary and secondary schools remain the main focus of their apostolate, the Dominicaines du Saint-Esprit have also established other apostolates in the past few years, such as, for example, visiting prisons (at Draguignan), and formation for adults.