With monastic elements in its daily life, St. Albert's is the initial formation community for the Western Province of the Order of Preachers. For five of their seven years of preparation for the priesthood after making first vows, Brothers living here study in Berkeley at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology (DSPT) and other schools of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU); they devote a year to pastoral work in one of the Province's other communities, and spend one of their years of theology at another house of studies in the Order. All students at DSPT and other GTU schools have cross-registration and library privileges at the University of California in Berkeley.
The priory was founded in 1932, following the 13th century Dominican tradition of forming young friars in a city priory near a major university. The brick eastern side and kitchen annex were built in 1934, the chapel on the northern side in 1940, and the southern and western sides of the cloister were completed by 1951. For over thirty years as St. Albert's College, the Priory was a school of philosophy and theology self-contained on these five acres, until in 1964 as DSPT it became the first Catholic School in the GTU; the Franciscans and Jesuits followed, and today the three constitute the Catholic presence in the nine-school GTU.
In the 18th century those same three Orders brought the Catholic faith to Old Spanish California. The Dominicans followed the Jesuits to the missions of Baja California in Mexico; the Franciscans founded missions there also, and every thirty miles along the State of Alta California, from San Diego in the south up to Sonoma, north of San Francisco Bay.
The U.S. Western Dominican Province began in 1850 when Joseph Alemany, O.P., arrived to become the first Archbishop of San Francisco, accompanied by Sr. Mary Goemaere, O.P., who founded the Dominican Sisters' Congregation of San Rafael, and by Fr. Francis Vilarrasa, O.P., who founded our Province.
The Province's territory includes Montana, Utah, Arizona, and all the states west of them; its administrative offices are on Birch Court, just outside the main gate of St. Albert's.
adapted from "An Introduction to St. Albert's Priory" by Fr. Finbarr Hayes, O.P.