A CATHOLIC order has established a new community in the region.

Three friars from the English Province of the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans, have made their home in Durham City, taking over running Durham University’s Catholic Chaplaincy and St Cuthbert’s RC Church, on Old Elvet.

They did so at the invitation of the Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.

The establishment of the community was marked by a celebration of Mass on Wednesday, November 7 – the Catholic Feast of All Saints of the Dominican Order – led by the Very Reverend John Farrell, Prior Provincial of England within the Dominican community.

Dominican friars arrived in the North-East in 1239AD, less than 25 years after their Order was founded.

Their medieval priory still exists on Friars Street, Newcastle. It is now a restaurant and craft centre.

The priory was suppressed in 1539, as the last prior denounced Henry VIII’s claim to be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and fled to Catholic Scotland.

However, friars were active around Hexham, Northumberland, in the 17th Century and St Dominic’s priory was re-established in Newcastle in 1860.

The new religious house represents the Order’s first ever presence in Durham.

Fr Benjamin Earl has been appointed parish priest and Catholic Chaplain to Durham University. Fr Thomas Skeats and Fr John Patrick Kenrick assist him.

Fr Earl said: “It’s a huge privilege to be asked to continue in Durham the outstanding work of priests from the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

“The new religious community has been touched by the very warm welcome received from parish, chaplaincy, University and diocesan communities and we very much look forward to working with all those groups to promote prayer, study and preaching of the good news in Durham and the North-East.”

For more information, visit english.op.org