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Ohio Dominican University is Roman Catholic. It was founded by the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs, which became the Dominican Sisters of Peace in 2009. 

St. Dominic de Guzman, an itinerant preacher, founded the Order of Preachers in 1216. Dominicans are formed throughout their entire lives according to the four pillars St. Dominic established:

  • Prayer
  • Study
  • Ministry
  • Community

The Dominican tradition of spirituality is rooted in common life: liturgical prayer and meditation, study, and ministry of the Word. These values continue to guide the faculty, students and staff at Ohio Dominican University. 

The Catholic Tradition

Ohio Dominican University is Catholic in many ways: by dedication to academic excellence and teaching instruction, by the creative faith and pledge to developing community among its members, as well as by living out the Gospel mandate to proclaim the Good News.

The Catholic identity of Ohio Dominican University is a call to action and service to all humanity that is faithful to the past and open to the future.

A Catholic university, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message. In a Catholic university, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities.

In a word, being both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative. - Pope John Paul II: Ex Corde Ecclesiae

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The Dominican Tradition

Ohio Dominican University was founded in 1911 by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, part of the Order of Preachers founded in 1216 by St. Dominic. The sisters still sponsor the university and are active members of the faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees. 

From the beginning, Dominic sent his preachers to the great university centers to teach and to study theology and to learn about the world that was emerging and growing and developing in Europe. Dominicans were teaching at Oxford and Paris before these communities organized into what are now two of the oldest, most famous universities in the world.

The goal of the Order of Preachers for 800 years has been the evangelization of individuals and cultures through both word and example of life.

  • St. Dominic
    Saint Dominic (1170-1221), son of Felix Guzman and Blessed Joan of Aza, was born at Calaruega, Spain, studied at the University at Palencia, was probably ordained there while pursuing his studies and was appointed canon at Osma in 1199.

    There he became Prior Superior of the chapter, which was noted for its strict adherence to the rule of St. Benedict. 

    In 1203 he accompanied Bishop Diego de Avezedo of Osma to Languedoc, where Dominic preached against the Albigensians (heresy) and helped reform the Cistercians. The Albigensians falsely taught that all things corporal were inherently evil. Dominic founded an institute for women at Prouille in Albigensian territory in 1206 and attached several preaching friars to it.

    When papal legate Peter of Castelnan was murdered by the Albigensians in 1208, Pope Innocent III launched a crusade against them headed by Count Simon IV of Montfort which was to continue for the next seven years. Dominic followed the army and preached to the heretics but with no great success. 

    In 1214 Simon gave him a castle at Casseneuil and Dominic with six followers founded an order devoted to the conversion of the Albigensians; the order was canonically approved by the bishop of Toulouse the following year. He failed to gain approval for his order of preachers at the fourth General Council of the Lateran in 1215 but received Pope Honorius III's approval in the following year, and the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) was founded.

    Dominic spent the last years of this life organizing the order, traveling all over Italy, Spain and France preaching and attracting new members and establishing new houses. The new order was phenomenally successful in conversion work as it applied Dominic's concept of harmonizing the intellectual life with popular needs.

    He convoked the first general council of the order at Bologna in 1220 and died there the following year on August 6, after being forced by illness to return from a preaching tour in Hungary. He was canonized in 1234 and is the patron saint of astronomers. His feast day is August 8. 

    St. Dominic was the first to propose an Order dedicated to preaching, at a time when no one but bishops preached regularly. Dominic's vision and insights attracted many saintly and talented men. In the first one hundred years of the Order's existence 30,000 members from all the countries of Europe joined; and soon the Order began to spread around the world. 

    On his deathbed, Dominic gave his brothers his last will and testament: "Have charity, guard humility, hold fast to voluntary poverty."

    He promised them that he would be of more use to them in heaven than on earth- a promise which he continues to keep even today. He was buried according to his wishes "under the feet of his brethren." 

    Dominicans all over the world continue to draw upon the charism of St. Dominic in order to serve as preachers of the Gospel.

    To be a Dominican is to be part of a family that includes cloistered nuns, ordained and non-ordained friars, religious sisters and laity.

    Dominicans are formed throughout their entire lives according to the four pillars established by St. Dominic: Prayer, Study, Ministry and Community.

    The Dominican tradition of spirituality is rooted in common life: liturgical prayer and meditation, study, and ministry of the Word. It is a spirituality that was meant to bear the fruit of an active apostolate.

    These values continue to guide the steps of faculty, students, and staff at Ohio Dominican.
  • 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 (OP). 

    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 OP 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.
  • Dominican Links
  • Ensuring the Mission

    Ohio Dominican University established the Center for Dominican Studiesin 2004 by a grant from The Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs, now known as Dominican Sisters of Peace.  

    The Center for Dominican Studies coordinates and facilitates the process of sustaining, enhancing and promoting the distinct mission of Ohio Dominican as a Catholic and Dominican University. 

    The Director of the Center for Dominican Studies attends the president’s cabinet meetings and serves as a resource for existing divisions, departments and programs. The director also helps to develop new initiatives expressive of the mission of the University. 

    Sr. Matthias “Mattie” Sterner, OP, MA, ’61, is the current Director of the Center for Dominican Studies.