With the support of the John Desmond of the Geraldine Family, who ruled Kerry; the first Dominican Priory was established in 1243. There are no records of the work carried on in Tralee by the Dominicans during their centuries under Geraldine protection. But it is a reasonable assumption that life followed the general Dominican pattern: prayer in common, celebrating the sacraments and preaching. Two of these early Dominicans served as the Bishop of Ardfert (original name of Kerry Diocese).
The exact date of suppression is unclear, however, it is certain that by the early 1580s the abbey buildings were in the possession of Sir Edward Denny.
During the penal years the Dominican presence was continued by individual Dominicans living and ministering among the people. Such activity was considered treason by the English Crown punishable by death. One Dominican to suffer such a fate was Fr. Tadhg Moriarty OP. He was arrested at dawn on 15 August 1653, while celebrating Mass, imprisoned and executed on 15 October 1653.
Catholic Emancipation saw the Dominicans “officially” return to Tralee at the invitation from the then Bishop of Kerry, Dr David Moriarty, in April 1861.
The Dominicans established a house in Day Place under the direction of the Prior (Fr.Pius Lynch OP). A room was fitted up to serve as a Chapel and a school for the town’s youth was also opened.
In 1664 the new Prior (Fr. Thomas Raymond Rush OP) began plans for a more permanent Church. On 15 August 1866 the Bishop of Kerry, Dr. Moriarty, laid the foundation stone of the new Church. The first Mass was celebrated in the present Holy Cross Church on 14 September 1871, the Feast of the Holy Cross.
The Church remained relatively unchanged until after the Second Vatican Council when the sanctuary was changed.
The life and work of the Dominicans in Tralee has remained virtually unchanged to that of the original foundation friars - prayer in common, celebrating the sacraments and preaching.