Dominican Study Week on the Changing Landscape of the Family

Dominican Study Week on the Changing Landscape of the Family

The Emaphetelweni Dominican Community in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, organised a study week from 13th to 17th July 2015 on the theme “The Changing Landscape of the Family”. Sixteen brothers of the Dominican General Vicariate of Southern African, many of whom are students at St Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara, took part in this event in a spirit of brotherhood, enjoying each other’s contribution as the proceedings unfolded.

The initiative originated from the desire to develop a spirit of research and critical enquiry among the Dominican students in order to equip them for their future ministry. It also came as a response to Pope Francis’s call to prepare at all levels of the Church the Synod on the Family. Many challenges face the family today. They concern both the model of family which is changing and diversifying and the cultural and socio-economic difficulties which families face today.  

The conference was both an intellectual and a spiritual exercise that united the Dominican brothers when they enthusiastically presented papers after a period of research and interviews. The spirit of communion was evident during the lively and sometimes passionate discussions provoked by the papers.

During the conference, the spirit of Dominic ignited the brother's confidence to articulate issues that affect the family today, looking at their own community as part of the global family and critically addressing issues that impedes its growth.  The conference dealt with various issues including; ‘families under stress’, ‘changing family patterns in Africa’, ‘the family in the world religions’, ‘family and liturgy’, ‘dealing with painful family issues’ and ‘family responses in an age of media culture’.  

Throughout the conference, it became apparent that the traditional family model is in question. One sees a change from traditional and often conservative family structures to more liberal and diverse family models. These mutations can be seen, fifty years after Vatican II, as a sign of the times. Since culture or tradition is always in flux, the conference brought a realization that humanity has entered an age of change where traditionalism confronts calls for renewal and modernisation.

Similarly, the dichotomy between the society as it is and the Catholic Church’s response on issues such as same-sex marriages, divorce, contraceptives and so on cannot be ignored.  This highlights a tension between morality and change. The manner in which the Church and different traditions and cultures respond to change needs further debate. 

Br Isaac Mutelo, o.p.,  theological student, Emaphetelweni Dominican Community,  Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.


(10 August 2015)