In the early spring of 1889, Rt. Rev. John Ambrose Watterson, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, convinced there was a need for a church and school in the northeastern section of the city, secured a suitable site on North Twentieth Street and Hildreth Avenue on April 9, 1889. Rev. Thomas J. O’Reilly was appointed on August 24, 1889 to organize the new parish which was placed under the patronage of Saint Dominic. The Sisters of Notre Dame donated an altar and other necessary furnishings for the Chapel and St. Dominic’s parochial school opened under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 9, 1889. The hopes and dreams of Father O’Reilly and the people of the parish were realized on Sunday November 26, 1916 with the dedication of their new church, which we worship in today. In 1928 Father Thomas J. O’Reilly died and was succeeded by the Reverent Father Albert Fisher.
To appreciate St. Dominic Catholic Church fully, one must also come to see and understand the long and arduous struggle of the African American people to be allowed a place in the Catholic Church. Although today, St. Dominic Church is primarily a community of African American Catholics, it should be noted that up until 1943 the congregation was largely Irish and Italian. The first record of Black families being registered at St. Dominic is not found until late 1943. With the merger of St. Cyprian’s and St. Dominic’s parishes on March 25, 1957, the population of Black Catholics began to rise.
The history of St. Dominic Parish cannot be fully told without telling the history of a sister parish, St. Cyprian. Much of the present population of St. Dominic Parish is the sons, daughters and grandchildren of St. Cyprian Parish and as we celebrate our history we would be remiss to not remember the story of urban resettlement, prejudice, segregation, a time of struggle for justice, a faith that has persevered through great suffering, and a love for God that has endured all manner of trial.
St. Cyprian Parish was the First Catholic Church to serve the Black community of Columbus and was built in 1912. The Bishop of Columbus Diocese, Bishop James J. Hartley, purchased land on Hawthorne Avenue at Burk Street and built a combined church and school building. The building included a chapel with seating capacity of 250 and two large school rooms. Bishop Hartley, asked Sister (Saint) Katherine Drexel, the founder of the order of nuns, The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, to staff the school.
When the first mass was said at St. Cyprian’s Parish, very few of those attending were Catholic. Those who were Catholic were exposed to Catholicism in the south. Most were from the Raleigh-Charlotte area of North Carolina, and some knew each other before coming to Columbus. In September of 1912, St. Cyprian School was opened with 28 students and by 1917 enrollment had risen to 115 students, nearly all of whom were non-Catholics. In 1919 Father Patrick Kilgallen was appointed Pastor and served at St Cyprian until he retired in the late 1940’s.
In 1943, baptismal records disclosed that 659 people had been baptized at St. Cyprian and received into the Catholic Church and membership had risen to about 400. St. Cyprian continued to serve the Black Catholic community until the mid-50’s, at which time the school and church closed, due to many reasons including a declining membership due to a shift in the Black community. Blacks began moving into areas that were previously all white and were now being received into the all-white Catholic churches and schools throughout the city.
Priest that have served at St. Dominic:
- Father Julian Schaefer came in 1934 and stayed until March 11, 1948, when he was transferred to Lancaster St. Mary Parish.
- Rev. Paul Bernier was appointed on October 9, 1950, and stayed until he was transferred to St. Catherine Parish.
- Rev. Albert D’huyvetter, C.I.C.M. served until June 25, 1954, when he was called to Europe by his Superiors. Rev. Francis Vanhee, C.I.C.M. was named administrator until Father D’huyvetter returned on June 3, 1955.
- Father Michael Cattaert, C.I.C.M. was appointed Pastor on March 25, 1957.
- Father Clement Faistl was appointed pastor on June 30, 1959 and stayed until he was transferred to St. Luke Parish, Danville, Ohio on June 16, 1966.
- Father James P. Hanley succeeded Father Faistl and was at St. Dominic until he was transferred to Christ the King Parish on June 10, 1969.
- Father Robert E. Metzger was appointed pastor on June 16, 1970 and left on March 14, 1975 with his transfer to Sacred Heart Parish.
- Father Bernard McClory was appointed to St. Dominic on April 17, 1975 and stayed until July 19, 1979 when he was transferred to St. Colman Parish in Washington Court House, Ohio.
- Father James Jones was appointed pastor on July 19, 1979 and stayed until he was transferred to Sacred Heart Parish July 14, 1987.
- Father Thomas Petry was appointed pastor on July 14, 1987 and stayed until July 1999.
- Father James Colopy was appointed pastor in July 1999 and stayed until July 2010.
- Father Joshua Wagner was appointed pastor in July 2010 and is the current pastor of St. Dominic Church today.