RSVP for Wednesday Church Night

Please RSVP by Monday of each week if you plan to join us for dinner or use childcare. An accurate count helps ensure we're ready for you! Click here to register.

Our History
Home

Our History

1170-1221

St. Dominic, OP—Our Patron

A Castilian Catholic priest, mystic, and founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers. Besides being the Patron Saint of our parish, he is also the Patron Saint of astronomers, natural sciences, and the innocent who are falsely accused.

Saint Dominic was born in Caleruega, in the Kingdom of Castile (present-day Spain) in 1170 to Felix Guzman and Bl. Joan of Aza. His parents were of noble birth and relatives of the Royal Family of Castile. Dominic’s dad, Felix, was the Royal Warden of their village.

According to legend, Dominic’s mom, Joan, made pilgrimage to a Benedictine abbey (in the town of Santo Domingo de Silos)  where she received many signs of the great child she would bear. According to the popular legend, Joan dreamed of a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth. The animal "seemed to set the earth on fire." Legend has it that Dominic’s parents named him such as a play on the words Domini canis (meaning the Lord's dog in Latin). Alternatively, he was simply named after the 11th-century monk St. Dominic of Silos, whom the abbey and town Joan visited are named after.

Educated in Palencia with concentrations in Theology and the Arts, Dominic was known as a brilliant student. In 1191, famine struck leaving many in Palencia desolate and homeless. Dominic sold everything he had, including his furniture and clothes, to buy food for the poor. When he sold his manuscripts, required for study, he replied, "Would you have me study from these dead skins when people are dying of hunger?" Then, on two occasions, Dominic attempted to sell himself as a slave to the Moors to obtain the freedom of others.

In 1194, Dominic joined the Benedictine Order and became Superior, or Prior, of the chapter in 1201. During a 1203 journey to Denmark with his Bishop, Diego de Acebo, Dominic attempted but failed to secure a bride for Crown Prince Ferdinand due to the suitress’ untimely death. Now freed from obligations, Bsp. Acebo pressed Dominic to join him in Rome for an audience with Pope Innocent III. Pope Innocent was greatly troubled by the Cistercians’ failed mission to crush the Albigensian heresy, which falsely taught that all material things, including the human body itself, were fundamentally evil. So, during this audience, Pope Innocent III tasked Dominic with the mission to southern France to squash the Albigensian heresy.

Accompanied by Bsp. Diego, the pair traveled to Southern France, where they lived an austere life in comparison to worldly Cistercian monks. Their austerity and personal self-discipline appealed to many of the heretics who were more willing to engage in debate and dialogue with them over the Cistercian monks. Many of the Albigensians were enraged that they could not out-debate Dominic, and many times they threatened his life. Despite this though, Dominic traveled throughout the region, preaching and converting many back to the Catholic faith and practice. In Recognizing the need for a physical institution in Southern France to preserve the gains he made, the need of the nobility for a place to educate their children, and the need for Catholic women to have a safe place away from hostile, suicidal heretics, Dominic established in 1206 the first Dominican house: the Convent of Notre-Dame-de-Prouille in Prouille, France. It was at this Convent that Dominic and Diego established their headquarters. In January 1208, French nobles took up arms against the heretics after they murdered a papal legate. During the crusade, Dominic appealed for mercy for the heretics (who were often the victims of atrocities) and followed the crusaders to spend his time reconciling survivors to the Church.

According to another legend, in 1214 Dominic received the Rosary during an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the abbey in Prouille. This legend is disputed among historians because while similar Rosary devotions existed before this time, there is no record of the Marian rosary in this form before Dominic. However, it is indisputable that the Marian Rosary became a hugely popular devotion following this event, suggesting the legend may be true. Dominic became famous as a result of his mercy and work to establish an Order dedicated to promoting morality and the expulsion of heresy. After escaping at least three attempts at promotion to Bishop, in July, 1215 Dominic was granted permission to form his own religious order. He was joined by six followers. The group followed a Rule of Life which included a strict routine of discipline, prayer, and penance. They established a system of education and traveled the countryside to preach. In 1217, Pope Honorius III dubbed Dominic and his followers "The Order of Preachers." In the summer of 1217, Dominic decided it was time to send his followers out to grow the order. The men were ordered to go out across Europe to spread the order. Their efforts were incredibly successful as new members began to appear in great numbers across the European continent.

As the Order of Preachers began to spread among men and women all over Europe, Dominic spent several years traveling between his religious houses throughout Europe. During his travels, he would complete special missions given by the Pope, dedicate time to his studies, preach from town-to-town, and work to formalize the Rule of Life of the Order of Preachers. During his travels, in July 1221, Dominic took ill with a fever. After several weeks of illness, he made a last Confession and will. On August 6, 1221 he passed in the presence of his brother Dominicans. Dominic was 51 years old.

Pope Gregory IX canonized St. Dominic on July 13, 1234. His feast day is August 8, and St. Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers, the Natural Sciences, the Dominican Republic, the innocent who are falsely accused, and St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, FL. He is commonly depicted in icons with a dog, or lilies while holding a book.

1880-1916

The Roots of St. Dominic Catholic Church

Before there was Panama City, FL there was St. Andrew, FL. This is where our parish roots begin.

The historical roots of our parish actually predate our city even being named Panama City!

In 1880 Panama City was actually named St. Andrew. In St. Andrew lived a Catholic family by the name of Sheppard. Although the Sheppard family was quite at home in St. Andrew, the town had no Catholic parish. Instead, the Sheppard home was used to host celebrations of the Mass whenever missionary priests would pass through St. Andrew.

For a decade this practice continued until Commander Sheppard became determined to establish a Catholic Church in St. Andrew, even if he had to donate the land himself: and he did. In 1890, St. Andrew Catholic Church, a small chapel-sized structure, was erected at the corner of 15th St. and Foster in St. Andrew, FL.

Home to the 6-8 Catholic families of St. Andrew at the time, the town finally had a formal place to gather for Mass when the missionary priests came to town.

1917-1939

St. Dominic Parish Established

Through raging World Wars and a Great Depression, a parish in Panama City takes on life and flourishes.

The little chapel in St. Andrew, FL served its parishioners until 1916, when Bishop Edward P. Allen, of the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham, sent Father M. Hourican, who was then assigned to the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Eufaula, Alabama, to St. Andrew to build a new church.

However, by this time, St. Andrew had undergone three name changes: it was called Resort, FL; then Harrison, FL; and lastly, Panama City, FL. Thus Father Hourican came to Panama City and built a Catholic church on Harrison and 6th Street. The new church was served by Father Hourican, along with other missionary priests: Fathers J. A. Tomelin, Michael J. Keyes, and Bernard L. Platto who came every two or three months to celebrate Mass.

In June 1917, Bishop Allen dedicated the church on 600 Harrison, giving it the patron name of St. Dominic. Nine years later, St. Dominic Catholic Church had its first resident pastor: Father Charles D. Meyer. Father Meyer was now serving St. Dominic and the tiny mission of St. James in Lynn Haven (St. James, along with the church in St. Andrew, burned, in 1929); he even celebrated Mass, on a monthly basis, in Marianna, at the home of U. S. Senator and Mrs. W. H. Milton.

Although the Miltons lived in Marianna, they owned a summer home called Hurricane Hall on Seaview Avenue (now known as West Beach Drive), and spent their summers in Panama City, as many out-of-town folks did, coming from as far away as Atlanta. The Milton’s, like the Sheppard’s, did their best to promote Catholicism in Northwest Florida. Father Meyer would serve as the first resident Pastor until 1943.

1940s

War’s End and Expansion

During the 1940s Panama City boomed with the War effort. As the War came to a close, expansion became necessary to accommodate all the growth.

In June 1943, Father Meyer was succeeded as Pastor by Father Andrew McGovern, and at this time our Nation was engaged in World War II. Because of the war, the population had suddenly gone from 11,610, in 1940, to 15,000 workers employed at Wainright Shipyard, in 1943. There were thousands of other defense workers employed at either Tyndall Field or the U.S. Navy Base, then known as the Mine Defense Laboratory.

These were hard times, and Father McGovern was quite busy with taking care of the needs of his parishioners, plus saying mass at the Navy Base, and participating in USO projects as well. This hectic routine continued until the war ended.

By 1946, the nation was quite stable—the war having been over for a year—thereby making materials and other goods that had been hard to come by now readily available, and for those who wanted to build, they could build to their heart’s content. Father McGovern was one of those who not only wanted to build but needed to because the tiny church at 600 Harrison could not accommodate the 200 Catholic families that were now living in Panama City.

In 1947, these Catholic families were accommodated: the new St. Dominic's church and rectory—now located on Harrison and 11th Street—were completed, serving the parish until 1979, when the church moved to its present location at 3308 East 15th Street.

1950s—1960s

Growing and Growing

As the area continued to grow in population, so did the number of Catholic churches.

Nine years after having built the church on Harrison and 11th Street, Father McGovern found himself in the building business again: the year was 1956, and Father was supervising the construction of St. Bernadette's church, located on Panama City Beach. Prior to that church facility being erected, services during the summer seasons had been conducted in the theater.

With the completion of St. Bernadette, Father McGovern was now pastor of both St. Dominic and St. Bernadette and continued in this dual role until ill health caused his retirement in 1958, ending his illustrious 15-year career as Pastor. Although very ill, Father McGovern did not go into complete retirement. He acted as chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital, Pensacola. On May 21, 1960, three days away from celebrating being a priest 29 years, Father McGovern died; he is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Pensacola.

The pastors that succeeded Father McGovern included Monsignor Timothy Pathe, Monsignor Denis Gray, Father John P. Owen, and Father John F. Colreavy. These pastors were assisted by Fathers Joseph Kula, Francis P. Killeen, Hugh E. Dolan and Thomas Cody.

From 1960-1968, the Catholic Church in Northwest Florida underwent many changes, some of which involved St. Dominic's. In June of 1968, St. Dominic's left the Diocese of Mobile for that of St. Augustine, FL, and remained until November 6, 1975, when Bishop Rene H. Gracida was installed as the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Pensacola—Tallahassee.

In 1969, Bishop Paul F. Tanner, St. Augustine Diocese, purchased ten acres of land on East U.S. Highway 98 (15th Street), Panama City, for the express purpose of building a new St. Dominic Church. The need for a bigger church was a must—Panama City was expanding, and the growing community included a growing number of Catholic families that needed to be accommodated.

1970s—1980s

Breaking Ground

After more than 60 years St. Dominic Catholic Church is finally established in its present-day location.

In 1970, Father William A. Crowe became pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church and began planning for the new church that would ultimately meet the needs of a fast-growing parish. On September 30, 1973, a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a parish hall was held, and by September 1974, the hall was completed and available for parish activities.

In August 1976, the rectory was completed, and the first Mass in the parish hall was celebrated on March 20, 1977; seven days later Bishop Gracida dedicated the Religious Education Center.

Four years later on Friday, November 13, 1981, the new St. Dominic Catholic Church was dedicated as a symbol of love and hope.