St. Dominic de Guzman (1170–1221) founded the Order of Preachers in southern France in the year 1217 to combat the Cathar heresy (Albigensianism). He adapted monastic life under the Rule of St Augustine to the needs of this preaching apostolate. In 1221, not long before his death, St. Dominic sent friars from their first foundation in Prouille, France, to establish new communities in three great university cities: Bologna, Paris, and Oxford. The choice of intellectual centers allowed the Dominicans to continue their original doctrinal apostolate, to attract new vocations, and to preach in key medieval cities.
In 1784, Dominicans of the English Province welcomed a young American, Edward (later Dominic) Fenwick (1768–1832) as a student at Holy Cross College in Bornhem, Belgium, where the English friars had long been exiled because of anti-Catholic hostility in Britain. Fenwick entered the Order in 1788 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1793. Gathering some other English and Irish friars to serve as “missionaries apostolic” in America, Fr. Fenwick returned to his home country in 1804 as the founder of a new Dominican province, the Province of St. Joseph, and with the goal of establishing a new college like Bornhem in Maryland.
But the bishop of Baltimore, John Carroll, saw a greater need for priests in the new American territories of Kentucky and Ohio. Therefore the new Province began in 1805 with a new foundation, St. Rose’s Priory in St. Rose, Kentucky. In the years that followed the Dominicans founded new communities in Kentucky and neighboring Ohio. The first Catholic church in Ohio, St. Joseph’s, was founded as little more than a log cabin in Somerset, OH, in 1818. The Dominicans again served small, widely dispersed Catholic communities and soon erected another college in Somerset. In 1822 Fenwick became the first bishop of Cincinnati.
The first Dominican friar to serve officially in the city of Columbus was Fr. John Rochford, O.P., (1834–1896), who was invited by Bishop Sylvester Rosecrans, the first bishop of the new Diocese of Columbus. Fr. Rochford moved into the rectory at St. Patrick’s Parish, where the bishop and some of his diocesan clergy lived, undertaking pastoral work. St. Patrick’s had been founded in 1851 to serve Irish immigrants in Columbus, and served as the diocesan cathedral from 1867 until 1872, when the construction of nearby St. Joseph’s Cathedral was completed. Bishop Rosecrans’s successor, Bishop John Ambrose Waterson, invited the Dominicans to establish a community of friars in the rectory at St Patrick’s in 1885.
For 132 years, from 1885 to 2017, the Dominicans undertook a variety of ministries in Columbus, working from their community at St. Patrick’s. Important ministries beyond the parish have included teaching and administration at Aquinas College High School (1905–1965), the Catholic chaplaincy at the Ohio Penitentiary (1887–1970), and teaching at the Pontifical College Josephinum and the College of St. Mary of the Springs (later Ohio Dominican University). Over the years Dominicans also erected a flourishing chapter of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic (formerly the Third Order), were instrumental in founding chapters of the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, served as chaplains at the Motherhouse, College, and Mohun Hall nursing home of the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs (since 2009 the Dominican Sisters of Peace), and conducted widespread preaching missions.