Walk around the Catholic University campus and you can’t help but notice religious sisters and clergy of many different orders and traditions. Dominican sisters in white and black habits serve alongside brown-robed Franciscans in Campus Ministry. The presence of Catholic priests, sisters, and seminarians in great numbers on campus has been a defining characteristic of the University since its founding.
The establishment of The Catholic University of America in 1887 on land adjacent to the northeastern Washington, D.C., community of Brookland attracted many other Catholic institutions to the area. Religious orders established seminaries, houses of study, monasteries, and other ministries in the neighborhood so their members could attend classes at Catholic University. Between 1900 and 1940, more than 50 Catholic institutions rented or owned property in Brookland. As clerics and religious men and women of different orders walked around in their religious habits, Brookland began to be called “Little Rome.”
Trinity College was founded in 1897 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur a few blocks from Catholic University. In 1905, the Dominican House of Studies was built directly across the street from the University. Also in 1905, the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery was founded on a tract of land to the east. The Marist Brothers bought the former Brooks mansion, named for Brookland’s founder Colonel Jehiel Brooks, in 1901. After the completion of a their new building just north of campus, they sold the Brooks mansion to the Benedictine Sisters.
The trend continued as more and more Catholic orders and institutions moved into Brookland — many of which remain to this day, including:
The name still fits. Welcome to Little Rome!