Province Founds New Dominican Community in Philadelphia
By Blackfriars Staff
At the invitation of Archbishop Charles Chaput, the Dominican Friars have established a new Dominican house in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The four friars will serve the parish of St. Patrick in Philadelphia’s centrally located Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.
According to Prior Provincial Fr. Kenneth Letoile, O.P., the move “comes at a providential moment for us: vocations to our Dominican province have been increasing over recent years, and we have long wanted to return to Philadelphia in order to serve the vibrant local church there.” Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph previously served the Archdiocese as faculty members at institutions of higher learning and at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in the Fishtown neighborhood.
Fr. George Schommer, O.P., who was installed as pastor of St. Patrick’s Church on September 30th, is optimistic about the opportunity: “My hope is that we can bring our Dominican charism for preaching, our love of the liturgy, and most importantly our love of the Lord, to bear on everything that we do.”
In addition to Mass, confessions, and a Thursday night holy hour, the friars make themselves available to the community through a variety of initiatives. Parochial Vicar Fr. Timothy Danaher, O.P., leads a monthly Rosary Walk, is giving a five-part lecture series on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, and serves as a volunteer chaplain at two area hospitals. Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P., senior priest in residence, holds a parish book club, which is currently discussing Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. Fr. Edmund McCullough, O.P., teaches theology to juniors at St. Hubert’s Catholic High School for Girls.
The friars are scheduled to meet with Archbishop Chaput in December. “He’s a voice of orthodoxy. We also try to be that, so there’s going to be some collaboration and good rapport,” says Fr. Danaher, who was ordained a priest in May.
According to Fr. Schommer, the sustained increase in vocations gives the Province a chance to broaden engagement: “We now have the opportunity to expand our presence in the Church in the United States and to be strategic about where we are and what contribution we can make to the local church.”
Meet the Philly Friars
Fr. George Schommer, O.P.
Fr. Schommer first encountered the Dominican Order as an undergraduate at Franciscan University Steubenville through his teacher, Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P. After asking Fr. Dimock about the Dominican life, he went on to read more about the Order, and eventually discerned that God was calling him to be a priest and a Dominican. Fr. Schommer has served as parochial vicar of St. Gertrude’s in Cincinnati, Pastor of St. Dominic’s in Washington, DC, and founding director of the Dominican Friars Foundation. He is now pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Philadelphia.
“Because Dominican formation happens in community, you’re always relating with other people; you learn to respect their views and to be compassionate about their challenges and struggles. I think community life helps us in the end to be charitable in our ministry because we have to practice charity in community.”
Fr. Timothy Danaher, O.P.
Fr. Danaher began considering a vocation to the priesthood as an undergraduate at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He knew he was interested in the religious life through his exposure to the Franciscans, but was drawn to the Dominicans through two friends who had entered the Order, and by reading reflections by Dominican friars in Magnificat.
“The priesthood is a beautiful life—accompanying people, administering the sacraments, praying for and with them. A real part of the calling to the priesthood is to have joy! It’s not only work: it has to be joy in God, joy in people, and joy in ordinary, daily life. And that’s real for me.”
Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P.
Fr. Dimock wanted to enter religious life since eight grade, when he fell in love with St. Francis of Assisi by reading books about him at the local public library. A cousin who attended Providence College suggested he investigate the Dominicans. Impressed by the life of study, prayer, and preaching, Fr. Dimock entered the Order of Preachers after graduating from Providence College. Upon completing his formation, Fr. Dimock went on to teach theology and liturgy at Providence College, the Angelicum in Rome, Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell Connecticut, and Franciscan University of Steubenville.
“Philadelphia tends to be a more traditional diocese, and the fact that our seminary, which is also rather traditional, has received so many vocations—I think people notice that.”
Fr. Edmund McCullough, O.P.
After becoming more serious about his faith during college at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Fr. McCullough became a FOCUS missionary and was sent to New York University. There he met the Dominicans, who serve the NYU Catholic community as chaplains.
“After getting to know the Dominicans in New York, I knew I wanted to be a Dominican. They combined the evangelical zeal of FOCUS and the intellectual engagement I had encountered in college. In Philadelphia, I hope that we can be a center of preaching, confessions, and outreach to young adults and families, as well as a place of vigorous Catholic intellectual life.”