Today they continue to care for the spiritual needs of parishioners, visit the sick and bereaved, organise events for young and old, encourage lay participation, provide courses on Scripture and promote Gospel values as they go their way in a quiet, unobtrusive manner.
In May 1870, four members of the Order of Preachers were invited by Most Rev Dr John Pius Leahy OP to conduct a month-long mission for the parishioners of Newry. As a result of this experience, a deputation of the parishioners asked Dr Leahy to establish a Dominican foundation in the town. He refused their request at first because the people were very poor and he thought that they would be unable to support the priests of the parish and the Dominicans. However, the people were determined to achieve their objective and after a decent lapse of time, approached the Bishop again, guaranteeing support for the new religious house.
As a result, on 7 March 1871, three Dominican Fathers and a lay Brother arrived in Newry. They took up residence temporarily in a “commodious house” in McAllister’s Terrace, Hyde Market where a three-month tenancy had been obtained until a house in Upper Chapel Street – The Hermitage – was ready. They remained in this latter house, renaming it “Priory House”, until Saint Catherine’s Priory was built.
Two weeks after their arrival, on 23 March 1871, they took over St. Mary’s Church where they ministered until their new Church was opened in 1875. On 5 November 1871, a charity sermon, delivered by Rev CH Conlon, was preached in Saint Mary’s Church and a group of Newry ladies organised a bazaar in January 1872 to float the Building Fund.
A discussion then ensued as to whether the Church should be built in Ballybot or on the north side. This was settled when Mr. John Quinn offered the Fathers a quarry field at an annual rate of £20. Messrs. Ashlin and Company, Dublin, were commissioned as architects. In autumn 1875, when the Church was completed, two houses adjoining the property were rented. Then, the Dominicans said goodbye to St Mary’s Church and Priory House and moved to Queen Street (now Dominic Street) on the 5 October 1875.
On 14 May 1881, the foundation stone of the new Priory was solemnly laid by Very Rev Father Towers, Provincial, and on 28 July 1882, the three-storey building in Newry granite, built by Mr J Lennon, was completed and occupied for the first time. The debt was cleared by a five-day bazaar, organised by the townspeople, which realised £2,300. Click here to visit the Dominican Community Website.