“How can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can they preach unless they are sent?”
– Romans 10:14
St. Paul posed these two questions, along with their implied answers, to the Romans of his time.
St. Dominic acted on these words.
Thirteen centuries after St. Paul, in 1216,, St. Dominic de Guzman responded to a desperate need for informed preaching by founding the Order of Preachers. He trained his preachers to affirm the world as the place where Christ was discovered and to counter false teachings which denied the dignity of our humanity. Because of him we are called Dominicans and we continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in our world today.
While on a visit to France Dominic met, for the first time, the Albigensians, a religious sect which had a great popularity partly because of the economic situation of the times. Many people were poor and lacked the necessities of life. The Albigensians preached the things of this world were inherently evil, so the poor were told they were blessed in the lack of material things. The Church reacted by sending orthodox preachers who insisted on the inherent goodness of things, echoing the message of Genesis:
“And God saw that is was good”.
However, the message was not accepted in part because the preachers, in the mood of the times, came with a show of pomp. Dominic sensed that the Gospel message would be more readily heard if preached in poverty.
A NEW FORM OF RELIGIOUS LIFE
Dominic began a new form of religious life, the life of the friar. Before this time religious life had been monastic, but with Dominic the secluded monastery gave way to priories in the cities. From their priories, the friars went out to preach; to their priories, the friars returned to be refreshed by prayer and supported by the brothers.
Dominic knew that the preaching of the Gospel must be rooted in a deep knowledge of and love for God’s Word, as known through Scripture, Tradition and magisterial teaching. Realizing that a lack of catechesis had left the people vulnerable to the distortions the Albigensians were peddling, he wanted to send them educated preachers who could equip them with a sound knowledge of the Faith. Hence, even though Dominic was already ordained a priest with the requisite theological training, he nonetheless joined his first followers in a firm commitment to the assiduous study of theological truth.
By the time of his death in 1221, the Order had spread through Western Europe, hundreds of young men had joined, and the presence of the Order of Preachers was felt at the major universities of the time.
U.S.A. DOMINICAN FRIARS
The first Dominicans to come to this continent came with the earliest explorers, but the beginnings of the present provinces date from 1805 when Dominicans came to Kentucky. This was the beginning of the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern Province). The Province of the Holy Name (Western Province) dates from the 1850’s. The Province of St. Albert the Great began in 1939 and the Province of St. Martin de Porres (Southern Province) was founded in 1979.
THE PROVINCE OF ST. ALBERT THE GREAT
The Province of St. Albert the Great (The Central Province) includes the states of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Members of the province also minister in Bolivia, Nigeria and Central America. Provincial headquarters are in Chicago, the novitiate is in Denver and the house of theology is in St. Louis. There are about 200 members of the Province of St. Albert the Great.
BROTHERS TO ONE ANOTHER
All members of the provinces are brothers to one another. Most of the brothers are ordained as priests or are student brothers preparing for ordination. But ordination is not necessary to be a member of the Order. Cooperator brothers are those members of the province whose full time ministry is that of non-ordained ministry. For many centuries cooperator brothers in the Order provided for the material needs of the community, working in maintenance, administration and housekeeping. Some of the cooperator brothers still serve in this way, but recently many have become involved in other forms of ministry, e.g., preaching, social work, teaching, etc.
The government of the Dominican Order is located in Rome under the direction of the Master of the Order. Every three years elected representatives from the provinces meet in General Chapter and make decisions for the whole Order. Each Province has a Provincial Chapter every four years at which the Prior Provincial and the Provincial Council are elected to lead the Province for four years. Local superiors are also elected and each house meets in frequent house chapters to discuss issues and make decisions which affects the local community.
THE DOMINICAN FAMILY
We Dominicans continue to draw upon our origins and the charism of Dominic to serve as preachers of the gospel. To be a Dominican is to be part of a family that includes cloistered nuns, ordained and non-ordained friars, religious sisters, and professed laity. We have been blessed for over 800 years with thousands of holy men and women, such as Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Fra Angelico, Catherine of Siena, Meister Eckhart, Vincent Ferrer, Pope Pius V, Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, Catherine de Ricci, Juan Macias, and, recently, the Japanese and Vietnamese Martyrs canonized in 1987 and 1988. Through the ministry of teaching, today’s Dominicans continue to contribute to the spiritual and intellectual heritage of the whole Dominican family. Dominican priests, brothers, sisters, and lay men and women are found around the globe, all striving in their own way to imitate the example of Dominic and live the gospel.