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  • The Dominican Order

    Ohio Dominican is imbued with the values of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, who founded the school and are still a major presence and partner on campus.

    The Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs were founded in 1822. The first congregation of Dominican Sisters started in Kentucky where Mother Angela Sansbury, along with eight other women, responded to a call from Dominican Father Wilson for women to respond to the needs of the frontier church and teach and form an "Order of Preachers" (O.P.).

    In 1830, at the request of Bishop Fenwick, O.P. of Cincinnati, five members of the Kentucky Dominicans left for Somerset, Ohio to found St. Mary's Academy, the first Catholic school in Ohio. The four sisters arrived at Somerset on February 5, 1830. This academy offered education to pioneer children of Catholics and non-Catholics. Mother Angela Gillespie, first Mother General of the Holy Cross Sisters in America was educated here, as was her cousin Ellen Ewing, wife of General William Tecumseh Sherman, and General Phil Sheridan's sister was a pupil.

    From 1830--when they arrived in Ohio--until 1864, the Dominican Sisters were under the direction of the Dominican Father Provincial who resided at St. Joseph's in Somerset. That priest is referred to in the annals of the time when they needed to request additional teachers. From 1864 until 1868 they were under the direction of the Bishop of Cincinnati, whose Diocese included all of Ohio. In 1868 the Diocese of Columbus was formed and they were under the direction of that Bishop until 1895. In 1895 the congregation became a Pontifical Institute under Mother Vincentia Erskine, who exercised the ancient Dominican privilege of requesting a pontifical designation for the community rather than being under the direction of the local Bishop.

    In 1866 a devastating fire consumed the St. Mary's Academy buildings, leaving the sisters with nothing but spared lives. The sisters occupied borrowed space for two years until Theodore Leonard, a Columbus businessman, who had five daughters to educate, offered the sisters land on his old brickyard if they would build an academy in Columbus. The sisters traveled by covered wagon to found St. Mary's Academy, in Columbus in 1868. Bishop Watterson suggested the name change to St. Mary of the Springs due to the preponderance of natural springs on the property. It operated until 1966.

    In addition to Ohio Dominican, the Dominican Sisters founded and Albertus Magnus in Connecticut and administered and staffed 11 other schools in Columbus, 18 other schools in Ohio, 7 schools in New York, 6 schools in Connecticut, 6 schools in Pittsburgh, two in New Mexico and one in Michigan, and Texas. They ran missions in China and Peru, and the St. Francis/St. George Hospital in Cincinnati. They continue to manage HUD housing, run a literacy center, and do hospital and parish ministry in Columbus as well as high school and teaching.

    The Dominican roots are deep in the American soil. The Springs Dominicans were one of the first congregations in America, and their members were American born women of pioneer stock. Columbus was the "mother" community for the Houston Dominicans and the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor.

    The O.P. after a Dominican sister's name signifies they are a member of the Order of Preachers founded by Saint Dominic in the 13th century. As a vibrant community of women they have found that there are many pulpits for the Order of Preachers. They are part of a long history of Women who Changed the World through prayer and service.