Witnesses of Compassion: A Series on the Vocation of Cooperator Brothers in the Order
Ignatius Perkins, O.P,

The vocation of the Cooperator brothers in the Order remains a vital part of our preaching mission. In a bid to promote this Vocation, we will be featuring the works of different Cooperator brothers from different parts of the world. We invite you to follow this series on the website of the Order ( and on IDI.

This month, we are featuring:

Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P., currently serves as Director of Health Services for the Dominican Friars (Province of St. Joseph, USA) and as Executive Director of the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York.

How do I carry out the Order’s Mission and charism?

As Dominican Cooperator Brother, I share with our Priest Brothers, the privilege and the responsibility to announce the Kingdom of God to all those yearning for and needing His message of salvation in their lives.  As a Dominican, with every breath, every action, every suffering, every joy, I preach God’s message of salvation, a message of hope, a message of enduring love for all of us.  It is through Baptism and the consecration of my life and the profession of Solemn Vows, I have been given the freedom, the joy and indeed the responsibility to help others come to understand, believe and to cooperate with God’s Word through healing and transformation of their heart and minds.  This is the healing that Jesus desires for all persons.

How is the art and science of nursing been integrated with my vowed commitment as a Dominican Cooperator Brother?

Like other Dominican Cooperator Brothers, I fulfill my preaching from a different pulpit than that of my priest brothers.  My pulpits are varied but are centered in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, first as a Dominican Friar then as a clinician, nurse, ethicist and educator, where I engage people where ever they are in their journey in search of truth, healing and hope.  Whether it be with other friars, women and men religious, clinicians, patients or families, students and colleagues, being compassionately present to them in their dire moments of vulnerability and abandonment, reassuring them that they always possess intrinsic dignity and worth regardless of the circumstances of their lives, and helping them discern their life experiences, are ways in which I bring God’s salvific message of healing and hope to those who are suffering and in distress.  It is a privileged opportunity to be present in their lives, to protect and defend their dignity and freedom, and help re-establish the integrity of the suffering person once fractured and made vulnerable by illness or despair through caring with compassion of the whole person, and when the cure of illness it not possible, to bring healing and hope even to those nearing the end of their lives. 

As an educator in higher education in nursing I have had the enormous responsibility and privileged opportunity in today’s society and culture to help students and colleagues embrace the understanding among faith, truth and science and to apply this understanding through unlimited charity for the human person and in societies in our global world.  In this role, especially in health care ethics, I am able to help create the space for dialogue to occur, to help students, colleagues and administrators come to an understanding of the richness of the Catholic moral tradition, to help form their moral compass, to apply the Church’s moral principles in caring for others as healers of the whole person, and to facilitate the development of moral communities among clinicians so they can together become authentic moral forces in reversing the prevailing culture of individualism and moral relativism.  

Describe the source that impels you as a Dominican Cooperator Brother to live out the idea of care in the Dominican Tradition?

An excellent example that drives my energy and enthusiasm for the life and ministry of my vocation is found in the many examples of the lives of Sts. Martin dePorres and Juan Macias.  As I have written elsewhere[1]:

In the experience of Martin and Juan, we come to more fully understand what St. Thomas Aquinas means when he speaks about the Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity.  The late Fr. Thomas Gilby, a noted Thomistic scholar, in interpreting the words of Aquinas about the effects of the Eucharist, wrote that through the sacrament of the Eucharist, whether it is received or desired, grace is increased and the life of the Spirit is perfected.  The Eucharist spiritually strengthens not only the habits of grace and especially the virtue of charity but these virtues are aroused to activity in those who remain close to the Eucharistic Christ.[2]  There exists the theological warrant to ascribe the effects of the Eucharist as something specific in the lives and ministries of Martin dePorres and Juan Macias. The Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity enabled their works of mercy and compassion much as we read about in the life of St. Dominic and his own ministries to the sick and dying, the unwanted and the disenfranchised.  

Dominican Cooperator Brothers, as consolers of the sick and those in distress, we have been singularly called to respond to the radical call that evangelization evokes; to open our doors to those who seek healing and hope; to heal the sick and the abandoned in their darkest hour wherever they may be and wherever they call home; to believe and then to proclaim that every person born into the world is worthy of our respect and of our unlimited love regardless of the reasons for their distress or their station in life.

As a Dominican Friar, I preach God’s message of salvation, a message of hope, a message of enduring love and charity for one another and all those committed to my care with every breath, every action, every suffering and every joy. Impelled with the power and grace of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Charity, I “go forth into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation” (Mk 16:15). I work to freely bring to others the gift of my presence and my vowed life to our mission of evangelization through preaching.  But the greatest gift I am privileged to bring to the encounter with others is the person of Jesus in the Eucharist made flesh in us. This is the Dominican Moment.

[1]  I. Perkins, “Saints and Brothers to All: Martin dePorres, O.P. and Juan Macias, O.P.: Consolers of the Sick and Those in Distress”.  Religious Life Review, 2009, (Dublin, Ireland: Dominican Publications), Vol. 48, No 259.

[2]  T. Gilby (Ed). “Holy Communion” in Summa Theologiae (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1975), Volume 59, pp. 7.



(26 January 2016)