The Dominican Clerical Fraternity

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Pursuant to the charge from the Master of the Order to organize an international gathering of representatives from the priestly fraternities all over the world, the first General Assembly was held on August 6-9, 2012, at Caleruega Retreat Center in Batangas, Philippines.

A number of Provinces in the Order expressed interest in the outcome of the assembly, though no representatives were able to come except for Fr. Jesper Fich, who earlier worked with Fr. Prakash Lohale (Socius for Apostolic Life) in conducting a survey in 2009. Apparently, the same conditions affirm the findings of the survey, that is, only relatively few provinces currently have an active fraternity, while others are interested in learning more about the movement. Nevertheless, participants from the Philippines give a good representation of different ecclesiastical territories all over the country.

The participants include a mixture of diocesan priests and seminarians, either working in their dioceses or undertaking further studies and formation. It is also interesting to note that 11 of these are in the field of Canon Law. Some bishops who are members of the Fraternity also expressed their best wishes even though they are not able to attend.

With the scriptural passage from Mark 3:14 as guide, the organizers adapted the theme, “We gather to be sent” for the assembly. As the Apostles were called by the Lord Jesus in order to be with him and to be sent forth, the participants were likewise gathered to affirm their Dominican identity and spirituality, and to be sent forth to mission as members of the Dominican family in the priestly fraternity of St. Dominic.

As stated in the letter of the Master, it is in the interest of further consolidating this dimension of the Order, and as a way to respond to the request of the Chapter (ACG Rome n° 233) concerning the revision of the Rule of Priestly Fraternities that the assembly shall undertake a fruitful reflection on the following:

1. the specific mission of the Dominican Priestly Fraternities;

2. recommendations concerning modifications to bring to the Rule;

3. the manner of organizing these Fraternities in the midst of the Order; and

4. the needs and expectations in order to strengthen the mission in them.

As part of the preparatory steps for the 2012 Assembly, members of the Fraternity based in the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary undertook preliminary discussions on the Rule.  Results of these discussions were included in the kits that were distributed to the participants during the assembly, along with copies of the letter from the Master, and the Rule to be evaluated. These preliminary observations served as starting points in the group sessions during the assembly, which also followed the same classification done in the UST seminary earlier. Copies of the Rule were also sent earlier to the participants in order to provide them opportunities for initial familiarization with the tasks.

 The opening mass was celebrated at the chapel of the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas, Manila, by the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, Fr. Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP. The participants later on joined the friars of the Priory for lunch before their departure for Caleruega Retreat Center in Batangas.

Fr. Florentino Bolo Jr., OP, provided on the first day a background on the history, nature and objectives of the assembly. Fr. Enrico Gonzales, OP, delivered a talk on the next day on the life and spirituality of St. Dominic, and how it is intimately linked with the love of the Eucharist that is central to the life and ministry of a priest.

The sessions that followed were alternately devoted for plenary and group workshops, which were guided by an opening question: “How do I integrate the Dominican Spirituality in my apostolic work as a Diocesan priest?” Answers to this question led to reflections on the three main topics of identity, spirituality, and mission. Among the points raised are as follows:

Identity. Belongingness to and appreciation of the Dominican Family; diocesan and Dominican spirituality; Dominican tradition of government, constitution, and habit; liturgical practices; Dominican saints; confidence in and with the Dominican Family;

Spirituality. Fidelity to one’s vows; motivating factor to persevere in spiritual life; tradition of study, preaching, prayer and community; external devotional practices such as the rosary, Dominican Saints, and the habit;

Mission. Not only living, but also promoting the Dominican spirituality; manifesting in one’s apostolic work in the diocese through sacraments, prayers and preaching; network of ministers as collaborative dimension of preaching with the Dominican family; ministering to Dominican sisters and nuns; continuous communication with all members of the fraternity and the Dominican Family.

Discussions were also made on the issues of terminology, such as confraternity and fraternity, clerical and priestly, and the issue on the status of membership of seminarians in the fraternity – a reality that is uniquely existent in the Philippine Province since the beginning of the movement. As each group presented its recommendations to the body, discussions were made on the presentations, and proposals were voted upon. Details of the specific recommendations approved shall be forwarded soon.

FLORENTINO A. BOLO JR., OP