Patronage: against death of children; difficult marriages; divorced people; loss of parents; sick children
Name meaning: noble ready, battle ready
Also known as: Rose Hawthorne, Mother Alphonsa
Alphonsa was born Rose Hawthorne, the daughter of famous American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, and was a convert to Catholicism. In the 1890s, cancer was considered a contagious disease, and destitute sufferers were usually warehoused in poor houses, shunned by friends and family and left to die without care or spiritual comfort. Believing she had found her life’s work with these abandoned souls, Alphonsa first enrolled in a three-month nursing course at New York Cancer Hospital in order to provide the best care she could. Following the completion of her nursing training, and with hardly any money and relying on God to provide, Alphonsa moved into a three-room tenement apartment in New York’s Lower East Side, one of the city’s worst neighborhoods, and opened a home for incurable cancer patients. The work was grueling and sad, but Alphonsa persevered. Charitable donations from private individuals allowed Alphonsa to move her charges to a larger apartment. Over time like-minded women joined Alphonsa in her mission, the first of them a young portrait painter named Alice Huber. Eventually the women became an American congregation of Dominican Sisters: the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. In 1899, public generosity allowed the women to purchase an entire building, which they christened St. Rose’s Free Home for Incurable Cancer. Also that year the Servants of Relief became part of the Third Order of St. Dominic. A second home opened in 1901 in Sherman Park, now called Hawthorne, New York.Today the group, known as the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, has seven homes in six states.