Regional Dominican Family Leaders Conference

Subtitle: 
Hopes and Challenges Concerning Dominican preaching in the Asia-Pacific Region.
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28th October, Sunday

An overview of the first day

This is the first day of the conference. The day began by seeking the blessings of the Lord through the morning prayer and the Eucharistic Celebration. The Eucharist was celebrated by Fr. Naveen Saldanha OP, the Prior Provincial of the province of India. In the homily Fr. Naveen reminded the congregation that discipleship is all about taking risks. And in order to do so, we should be rooted in the word of God and should be conquered by Christ. 

The participants gathered for the Inauguration at 8.45 in the conference hall. Dominican sisters of Santa Maria of Rosary lead the participants into prayer through a prayer dance. This was followed by a bhajan lead by father Sunil Jose and accompanied by the lighting of the lamp by frs. Vivian Boland, Naveen Saldanha, Gerard Timoner, Sr. Valsa, Mr. Russel Coutinho and Mrs. Noreen Pinto. Fr. Thomas Puthuparambil then welcomed the gathering and introduced fr. Peter Lobo who would deliver the keynote address.

 

Preaching, the Original Blessing of the Dominican Order (Keynote Address by Fr. Peter B. Lobo OP)

The paper was divided into four parts. Preaching, the context of preaching, Dominican preaching and the goal of preaching. Preaching for a Dominican is an original blessing and a privilege. It is announcing the good news to every stratum of the society, to bring about newness and change. The church is a missionary by nature. Preaching has three players, they are God, preacher and the congregation (triangle of preaching). God is the author of preaching. A preacher needs to be a true lover and a true bearer. People are those to whom a preacher is sent. He or she plays an intermediary role between God and the people. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ are essential to the content preaching.

 

The context of preaching: preaching is not done is abstract but in a context. People to whom we preach always have a context. This context is the situation of the people especially their culture. The four building blocks of a culture are community relation with God, relation with each other, relation with the physical world and how they use their leisure time. We need to break into a culture, understand the essential components so that our preaching is not merely an external decoration.

 

Dominican preaching is a special way of being in the church. No one is called order of preachers except us. What makes us unique is our calling to be preachers. This preaching is centered on the truth. The mode of our preaching is both by the silent presence and by the words proceeding from our mouth.

 

The final goal of our Dominican preaching:

The salvation of the souls and establishment of the values of the kingdom values is the final goal of our Dominican preaching. It also involves the restoration of all things in Christ.

 

Conclusion:

The salvation of souls through Dominican preaching is, first of all, a gift. But the Challenge is to carry the word to the ends of the world. Therefore, our task is a lifelong mission. The model we have is Jesus and St. Dominic.

 

 

“Hopes and Challenges Facing Dominican Formation for Preaching Today.” (fr. Vivian Boland OP)

 

Fr. Vivian Boland OP is the socius for fraternal life and formation in the order. He was introduced by fr. Joy Mathew OP to present his paper.

 

Fr. Vivian began his session by putting forward the question: “what do we hope for in the formation for preaching in the order today. And what are the challenges that present difficulties in realizing our hopes?” It is our hope to form men and women to participate in the mission of the church as the Dominican Order participates in it. Our formation is for the mission ‘today.’ For this, we need to know what are the preoccupations and priorities of the order. We could find these in two sources, firstly, in the letter of the Master of the Order after the Mission Congress and secondly in the Pope’s preoccupations of the evangelization today.

 

A. the Letter of the Master of the Order after the Mission Congress

In his letter, the Master of the Order speaks of three convictions namely, Preaching, fraternity, and encounter. When it comes to preaching, he stresses on the ‘language’ of our preaching. This language is not literal but cultural. Our preaching is generated in the context of our common life. Our preaching should also be an encounter with the people. Fr. Vivian gave few examples of preaching as an encounter from the Scriptures, such as Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman, the encounter of Jesus with the disciples on the way to Emmaus and with Bartimaeus the blind beggar. Another issue that was addressed by the Master of the Order is the restlessness in the church and the world which has to be addressed by us today. Both the study of philosophy and theology should help to respond to this restlessness of the world today. Study, prayer, and contemplation are part of our preaching. What should we study is the Word, the world and ourselves. In this context, the emphasis of permanent formation is worth noting.

Dominican spirituality also has a feminine touch because it is a family, not just a group of people. The Master also speaks about the importance of Salamanca process. It is to work together in community and undertake the mission of the order. We need the community to do anything well in the intellectual life, for example, to have a theological institute. He also identifies four concrete priorities of the Dominican mission. They are young people, the digital world, migration, and study. Our hope of formation is to form men and women to enter into this task.

 

B. Popes Priorities for the Order in Evangelization Today

Pope Francis, speaking to the Dominicans, said that Dominic was conquered by Christ when he sold his books to help the poor. He asked the Order to ‘rewrite Dominic’ for the present age. He also spoke about a danger that could affect the Order, which is Gnosticism. Though it is an ancient heresy, it could still be prominent in the order today. It is to get too intellectual by neglecting the other aspects of life. Human beings are not just intellect or will. But the Lord is with us and in us.  Fr. Vivian also spoke about another heresy mentioned by the Pope in his other documents, that is, the heresy of Pelagianism. This too is an ancient heresy but has its influence even today. It is the emphasis of individualism and the rejection of the common good. A form of this heresy is to put away the weak and disabled to get the way clear for the superman and superwoman.

 

Challenges:

They are the difficulties that we encounter. There are many different types of challenges, such as the seven deadly sins (which are our lifelong companions) and the growing individualism in various forms. Some of the various human challenges are fewer numbers, aging etc. Perseverance in prayer is also a great spiritual challenge. For the friars, some of the challenges are maintaining conventual and fraternal life and the drastic decline in the number of vocations to the state of the lay brother (a vocation which reminds us of the fraternal aspect of our Dominican vocation). There is also the challenge of shifting theological trends in the Order. Our formation should be apostolic formation, in which we learn how to encounter people and learn the languages of the people.

 

Group Discussion

 

The session was followed by a group discussion. The participants were divided into eight groups, named after Dominican saints. The group discussions were held in different venues and were usually around 45 minutes in length. A representative of each group then presented a summary of their discussion to the conference.

Some of the main points that emerged from these presentations are as follows:

  1. We have to reach out to the youth.
  2. We should shift from a more traditional formation to a formation that meets the needs of the modern world.
  3. We have to read the signs of the times.
  4. We have to balance the active and contemplative life and establish a link between the head and the heart.
  5. Witness value of one’s life is also very important.
  6. Collaboration is required for preaching and not individualism. Community support is very important for preaching.
  7. We must also focus on inculcating values in education.
  8. Feminine equality has to be established. Some of the other major challenges are the environment, media etc.
  9. The political situation is a big challenge in many places.
  10. Scandals in the Church are affecting the faith of the people and the number of vocations in many countries.

 

At the conclusion of the presentation, some members of the audience also put forward certain points, such as the challenge of atheism, indifference, and Islamic fundamentalism.  Fr. Vivian put forward certain observations on the discussion, such as the preoccupation of reaching out to the youth and the influence of the political scene in this regard.