The only surviving Dominican Priory of Friars is in Newry. The first three fathers and a lay brother arrived in the town on 7th March 1871 to set up a foundation. The first evening the founding fathers slept in a commodious house in McAllister’s terrace, Hyde Park, Newry which is now known as St.Colman’s Park. They stayed here for three months until “The Hermitage” in Upper Chapel Street was ready.
The Fathers were responsible for St.Mary’s Chapel within two weeks of their arrival. This chapel was affectionately known as the “Old Chapel”. Reports at the time say that the mid-day service was attended by large numbers of people and many could not be “accommodated in the building.”
The foundation stone of St. Catherine’s Church was laid and blessed by Dr. Leahy on May 23rd 1873. The cost of the building up to dry course level was the gift of a Cork benefactor, a wealthy tanner of the Munster capital.
The official opening of the new chapel would mark the end of the Fathers association with “The Old Chapel”. The new Dominican Church of the Sacred Heart and Saint Catherine of Siena – the only Gothic Church of the Order in Ireland architecturally complete with spire – was solemnly dedicated on October 17th 1875.
Dominican Schools in Ulster
Since the late 1800’s, in addition to the Friars, Dominican nuns have been working in Ulster, mainly in education.
St. Dominic’s Grammar School for Girls on the Falls Road in Belfast was founded in April 25th 1870 with four pupils. Today it has around 1000 girls from 11 to 18 years of age.
In 1917, Nuns from the Falls Road, holidaying in Portstewart saw the need for a girls school there and founded the Dominican College, on rocks overlooking the Atlantic.In 1930, the Dominican college at Fortwilliam, outside Belfast, was founded.Dominican College Portstewart
In 1962, following the raising of the school leaving age, St.Rose’s Dominican College was established in Beechmount Avenue, Belfast.
written by Mr Anthony Russell