Although Dominicans profess vows up to four times during their formation, it is the profession of solemn vows that unites brothers to the Order and to each other for life.
On Saturday, September 5, five Dominican Friars professed solemn vows at St. Pius X Church in St. Louis. It was the largest solemn profession class in years. Together, Brothers Vincent Davila, O.P., James-Peter Trares, O.P., Raphael Christianson, O.P., Joe Trout, O.P., and Samuel Hakeem, O.P. professed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to Prior Provincial, Fr. Jim Marchionda, O.P. and to the Central Province Order of Preachers.
In a sense, the profession of solemn vows is the culmination of these brothers’ lives as Dominicans.
“Regardless of whether I’m ordained a priest or not, the bottom line is what connects me to the Order first and foremost is that I’m a Dominican. We all have that in common,” said Fr. Paul Whittington, O.P., former Student Master for the men to be solemnly professed. “We’re not all priests, but we all share the same vows—that’s the feature that connects us all.”
For that matter, the profession of solemn vows marks the end of initial formation for Br. Trout, who is a Cooperator Brother. He graduated from Aquinas Institute of Theology in May and is already working in full-time ministry as a Theology teacher at Fenwick High School, outside Chicago.
“These men are quite outstanding. They’re very bright and they have a real zeal for preaching and living Dominican life,” Fr. Whittington said. “I believe all of these men have the gifts and talents to go on for further academic study to pursue doctorate degrees. They will be some of our leaders in the next 10 to 15 years here in the Central Province and maybe the worldwide Order.”
The remaining four brothers are each in their fifth year of studies at Aquinas and will continue on the path to priesthood.
“Prior to solemn profession, a brother will make profession for a certain number of years,” Fr. Whittington said. “It’s such an emotional commitment to profess until death that it’s not unusual for a brother to become overwhelmed or tearful as his voice cracks. It’s like a marriage; that’s how we approach it.”
The profession of solemn vows took place in context of the Mass. Brothers processed into the church and sat with their birth family. After the reading of the Gospel, the Prior Provincial called each brother individually to announce his presence and state his willingness to follow through on the commitment. After the homily, the men approached the Provincial one by one, kneeling and placing their hands in his hands atop the Book of Constitutions of the Order of Preachers. There, the men made solemn profession and were greeted in the name of the community by the Provincial. After Communion, Dominican custom invites all professed Dominicans (brothers and sisters) to the middle aisle, where they greet the solemnly professed with a “Dominican hug,” welcoming them into the life. Mass concluded as usual and was followed by a small reception with family and friends.
The solemn profession class itself is representative of the Dominican Central Province. Both Br. Davila and Br. Trout were raised in Indiana and attended Purdue University, where they met the Dominicans at the Thomas Aquinas Catholic Newman Center. Brother Davila attended Holy Spirit Catholic Church (Fishers, IN) and Hamilton Southeastern High School, while Br. Trout attended St. Vincent de Paul (Fort Wayne, IN) and Bishop Dwenger High School.
Though Indiana is officially the Province’s easternmost border, it often draws vocation candidates from beyond. Such is the case for Br. Trares, who was raised in the Youngstown (OH) Diocese, where he attended St. Joseph Church and Crestwood High School in Mantua, OH. He later graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Dominicans now work in campus ministry.
The Central Province reaches north into Minnesota, where Br. Christianson was raised and attended St. Joseph Parish and Owatonna High School, before graduating from Carleton College. The Province also reaches far west into Colorado and New Mexico, where Br. Hakeem attended Prince of Peace and St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque (Archdiocese of Santa Fe), as well as the University of New Mexico, where he first met the Dominicans.
To learn more about solemn profession in the Dominican Order, look for the next issue of DomCentralQuarterly magazine, due out in late fall, 2015.
*Special thanks to Amy Trout Baker for the photos