Our History: From Caleruega to Chicago
The Order of Preachers was founded by St. Dominic de Guzmán (c.1170–1221), who was born in Caleruega, Spain, and became a canon of the Cathedral of Osma. While on a journey through southern France, he was inspired to engage in a preaching mission to win back those who had abandoned the Christian faith. In 1206 he established a monastery of nuns in what is modern Prouille, France, a monastery composed of women who had returned to the faith. It was to be a model religious Christian community, where the nuns would pray for the success of the band of preachers that St. Dominic had gathered around him and where, from time to time, these preachers could rest from their labors. In 1215 St. Dominic established the first house of preaching friars in Toulouse, France, where they served as diocesan preachers. Later that same year, while attending the Fourth Lateran Council seeking approval for his preaching mission in Southern France, he was challenged to expand his vision and create an order that brought preaching to the entire Church. Thus, the Order of Preachers was approved on December 22, 1216, by Pope Honorius III.
For over 800 years the Order of Preachers has continued the preaching mission of St. Dominic, extending it throughout the world. In 1806 four friars of the Province of England came to the United States to bolster the fledgling Church on the western frontier and creating the first house of preaching friars in the United States near Springfield, Kentucky, establishing at the same time the Province of St. Joseph. From this foundation, friars were sent eventually to major urban areas in the United States. The province grew in membership and ministry, extending from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1930 Fr. Martin S. Gillet, OP, the Master of the Order, proposed the formation of a new province of friars to serve the central United States and this was accomplished in 1939, when the Province of St. Albert the Great (a newly canonized Dominican Saint) was established with headquarters in Chicago.
Today, the Dominican friars of the Province of St. Albert the Great, continue the preaching mission of St. Dominic in a variety of apostolic ministry venues, placing emphasis upon the intellectual life, ministry to youth, and campus ministry. The foundations of Dominican life—community, prayer, study, and ministry—provide impetus for and substance to our preaching mission. For over 80 years these basic values have given life to our preaching and, as the Province of St. Albert the Great looks towards the future, they impel us to seek out new expressions of the Gospel message for our day.