Little Rome

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 Paulist Fathers, who established St. Paul’s College in 1914
  • Theological College, founded by the Society of St. Sulpice in 1917
  • The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, begun in 1920
  • St. Anselm’s Abbey, built in 1924
  • The Scholasticate of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception
  • Capuchin College of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
  • The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • The Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family
  • The Little Sisters of the Poor
  • St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart
  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • The Monastery of the Holy Cross
  • The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration
  • The Order of Carmelites
  • The Sisters of Notre Dame
  • The Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará
  • The Institute of the Incarnate Word
  • The Missionaries of Charity
  • The chancery of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA
  • The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
  • Saint John Paul II Seminary of the Archdiocese of Washington
  • The Saint John Paul II Shrine

The name still fits. Welcome to Little Rome!