Dothan was first mentioned in the Catholic Directory in 1898 as a mission of Eufaula. However, Dothan was not mentioned again for several years, even though it was the fastest growing town in Southeast Alabama by 1900. A priest from Eufaula would visit Dothan four times a year, along with infrequent visits from priests from as far away as Birmingham. Mass was celebrated in the Murray home on East Main Street.
In 1912 Martin Conner, a generous Catholic from Troy, died and left a large estate to the Diocese. Bishop Allen, the Bishop of the Diocese at that time, used the money to purchase land in Dothan for a church. St. Columba was built in 1914 --a white framed structure on the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Oates Streets. There were about fifteen members.
In 1941, a new brick church was built at 501 West Main Street. In 1954 ten acres of land were purchased at the site of the present church by Monsignor Jewels Keating, the pastor at the time. In 1963, the third church, now St Columba Chapel, was built. Also at that time, the rectory and small parish hall were completed while Father William Jones was pastor. Since then, classrooms have been added at different times, and O'Hara Hall, named after former pastor, Monsignor John O'Hara was built. Later additions were the preschool building and the church office building, completed by Monsignor Patrick O'Conner.
In 1999 the Boucher Activities Center was completed under Father Patrick Gallagher. After several years of planning and steadfast work, the present church was completed and dedicated on December 14, 2007. This was also under the direction of Father Patrick Gallagher.
Our patron saint, Columba was born at Gartan in Donegal County, Ireland, on December 5, 521 AD. He died in 597 AD. His parents named him Crimtham (Pronounced Criffan) meaning "a fox." This was not an unusual name at the time, as it signifies the type of attributes that a Celtic noble would need throughout his life - those of cunning and stealth. Later on Columba showed such gentleness, sweetness of nature and a desire for things sacred, that those around him called him Colm which means "a dove" and sometimes Colmcille, meaning "dove of the church." The latter is the name most often given the saint in his native Ireland. More than likely St. Columba would have been High King of Ireland had he not devoted his life to the best cause of all - proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ. He became a monk and founded many monasteries in Ireland before going into self-imposed exile in the island of Iona off the cost of Scotland.
A poet, scholar, and writer who obviously loved solitude, Columba was at the same time highly involved in pastoral ministry as head of his religious community on Iona and as a missionary to Scotland.
From Iona, he evangelized Scotland with his companions. Columba was a man for our times - a negotiator, a reconciler, a peacemaker. Columba had bridged a gap between the fledgling Christian culture and the pagan, druidic culture of his time. It was not an easy task, and the alliance had tense and difficult moments. The problems faced by Columba were the same ones that are underlying the conflicts of cultures in our world today and in his native country at present.
It is appropriate and timely to invoke the intercession of St. Columba who has gone this road before us, and has been successful in reaching that harmony and accord through which Celtic Christianity flourished for many years.