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Dominican History

Over eight hundred years ago, St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers to be a vibrant men’s religious community “for preaching and the salvation of souls.” But from the very beginning, and indeed before officially establishing the friars, he also organized monasteries of nuns to aid the “holy preaching” through prayer and contemplative witness. In time, active religious sisters also took on the Dominican charism, as did members of the laity who joined the “Third Order” or Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic as it’s now known.

Life for Dominican friars is oriented to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, following the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers. The Dominican way of life is marked by prayer, including the common celebration of the public prayer of the Church, study as the basis for preaching, fraternal life in community, and the work of preaching in its various forms. There is a contemplative character to Dominican life, but Dominicans are “active contemplatives,” sharing the fruit of their prayer, study, and common life with those they encounter. As the great Dominican theologian St. Thomas Aquinas expressed it, Dominicans seek “to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation.” In the more than eight centuries since its origin, the Order has numbered among its members theologians, mystics, Doctors of the Church, workers among the poor, popes, saints, and innumerable men and women who have left less tangible traces of their work.


Dominicans at St. Mary's

In 1886, the bishop of Hartford entrusted St. Mary Parish to the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph. A priory was established at that time to serve the parish and to be the base of a Mission Band of friars who travelled about giving parish missions. Today the Dominicans of St. Mary Priory continue to serve Catholics of New Haven, as well as the Shrine of the Infant of Prague, on staff at the Knights of Columbus home office, at Quinnipiac University, at Albertus Magnus College, and as chaplains for the Dominican nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace in North Guilford, CT. The former priory building was erected in 1907, and provided an environment for prayer, study, and community life.

On August 8, 2021, the parish had celebrated with the friars the 800th anniversary of the death of St. Dominic, and a short while later their 135th anniversary of pastoral service at St. Mary’s.  In 2021, St. Mary’s was chosen to be the center of a new archdiocesan plan “because it is perfectly situated to be the geographical and spiritual focal point of a municipal model for New Haven.” The archdiocesan plan for St. Mary’s called for diocesan priests to serve at St. Mary’s and the 9 other churches in New Haven. In October 2021, the Dominican Fathers were asked by Archbishop Leonard Blair to vacate the Priory by December 1, 2021.

The friars gifted the parish with a triduum of Masses in November, during which the whole parish family prayed together for the coming transition. 

Dominican's at St. Mary's
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Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic

The Dominican Laity bear witness in the world to the truth of Christ by participating in the spirituality, practices, and apostolic works of the Dominican Order. The Dominican Laity is open to men and women, single or married, who desire to manifest God's love in the world today. Lay Dominicans are members of "chapters" who meet once a month for prayer and study of events and issues about the Church today to foster the proclamation of the truth in a secular society.

The St. Mary's Chapter of the Dominican Laity meets once a month. If you are interested in becoming a member of the local chapter here at St. Mary's, please contact the parish staff.

The Four Pillars of Lay Dominican Life:

Prayer, Study, Community and Apostolate

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