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St. Mary of the Springs Dominicans
Bicentennial of the First Mass in Ohio has Dominican Connections

SOMERSET, OHIO - The Columbus Diocese's recent commemoration of 200th Anniversary of the first Mass in Ohio offered much to celebrate. The first Mass, offered in log cabin in Somerset in late September or early October of 1808, led to the establishment of the Catholic Church in the frontier state and marked the city as "the cradle of Catholicity in Ohio."

It also marked the inauguration of a significant presence of Dominicans in the state, stemming from the apostolic work of Edward Fenwick, OP (the celebrant of that first Mass) who eventually became the first bishop of Cincinnati. Near the site of this first Mass, the first Catholic Church in Ohio, St. Joseph's, was constructed and then blessed by Fenwick in 1808. Under Fenwick's direction, the years following saw the establishment of St. Joseph's Priory, which served as the seat of St. Joseph Province for a time. And, from the foundation of Dominican Sisters established at St. Catharine, Kentucky, Fenwick invited Sisters to Somerset to start an academy to educate area children. This gave birth to a new congregation of Dominican Sisters that later became known as St. Mary of the Springs, now headquartered in Columbus. These Dominican foundations served as a center of Catholic evangelization in Ohio and beyond, providing for the education of countless frontier families and seeing the entrance of many men and women into the Dominican Order.

More than 300 people gathered for the bicentennial celebration in Somerset. The event featured a memorial dedication, Rosary procession, Mass, and reception near the site where Rev. Fenwick celebrated that first Mass with three frontier families in 1808. The bishop of Columbus presided at the Mass and direct descendants of the first families read the scriptures. Other descendants of the first families, local parishioners, and several Dominican friars and sisters were present to for the occasion.

The festivities took place on an eight-acre plot of land recently purchased by the Diocese of Columbus, which has a three-phase plan for creating a memorial there. Those who attended were able to see part of the first phase in process - a statue of the Virgin Mary standing in the center of a freshly planted rosary garden. Completion of the garden with a permanent statue and cross is planned to be followed by the building of a replica log cabin and the creation of a religion and education center.

Watch a slideshow from the Columbus Dispatch

Watch a slideshow from the Columbus Dispatch

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