The Vocation and Preaching Apostolate of A Dominican Volunteer

Report of Christian Herring, a Dominican Volunteer at Dagat-Dagatan, Manila, Philippines.
Christian Herring, a Dominican Volunteer

I have been asked to write on the subject of how the Lord’s command to “go and preach” (Mt 28:19) has played out in the life I live as a lay member of the Dominican family. My approach to this subject will be to offer brief reflections on each of the following topics: how I myself received from the Lord the call to “go and preach;” how I am striving to respond to that call in accordance with the Dominican charism; and how following this call has been beneficial to me.


I first encountered the Dominican Order in the person of the friars who ran the Catholic campus ministry center at Purdue. One of them, Fr. Patrick Baikauskas O.P., became my spiritual director for the duration of my college career. I began to see that many aspects of the Dominican charism fit well with my personal gifts and with my ideal of religious life. For example, Dominicans aim to strike a balance between active and contemplative religious life; they love Mary and the Rosary; they are generally faithful to the Magisterium; they tend to be intellectual in their approach to preaching; and their studies emphasize the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. Even those facets of the charism that do not fit well with my character tend to complement me and challenge me. For example, I easily become self-centered and isolated, whereas Dominicans live in community, and their whole mission centers on the act of preaching, of going out of oneself to share the fruits of one’s study and contemplation.


How does the Dominican charism manifest itself in my life? I will organize my discussion of this question around the four pillars of Dominican life: ministry, prayer, study, and community. Dominicans are, of course, called to ministry, specifically to the ministry of preaching. Their preaching is to draw its life from diligent study, especially of the Scriptures, and from prayerful contemplation of the Lord who is Truth. A Dominican should not be alone in the ministry, but should give and receive support and encouragement from a fraternal community united in the same mission.


I have identified six ways in which I further, or try to further, the preaching mission of the Order. These are as follows:

1. I teach religion (“Christian Living Education” or “C.L.E.”) to a class of thirty-seven students in the sixth grade at San Lorenzo Ruiz Parochial School. My class meets for forty minutes every weekday. I lead class discussions, assign readings, seatwork, and homework, and throw in the occasional fun activity to keep the students interested.

2. On Sundays, I join a group of young adult volunteers—several French and several native to the Philippines—and walk to the nastiest slum of all, Virgo Drive, to catechize the children there.

3. On Saturday afternoons, I participate in a program called the Re-entry Education Agenda for the Poor (REAP). The purpose of REAP is to help impoverished youth who were unable to complete high school to obtain a high school diploma through home study, thereby improving their employment prospects. One of the subjects they study is C.L.E. My role is to meet with the students once a week in order to answer their questions on this subject and help them understand their home study materials.

4. A significant amount of my “preaching” takes place in casual conversation or in situations not intrinsically related to faith. I have had opportunities to encourage young men to consider a priestly vocation. Once, in the course of an after-school game, I had occasion to admonish my 6th-graders about obeying their parents. Another time, I showed my miraculous medal to one of the younger schoolchildren and explained why I wore it.

5. Fifth and last, I preach by writing reports. The present report is the second I have written; I hope to write one about every two months, if possible. May the Lord use them to help someone.


Prayer is essential to Dominican life, as it is to any form of religious life or even to any Christian life. I am absolutely convinced that fruitful ministry flows from the minister’s personal intimacy with Christ; as the oft-quoted saying goes, one cannot give what one does not have. If one wants to be a preacher, one should meditate often, since meditation helps one understand and fix the mysteries of faith in one’s heart, and effective preaching generally comes from the heart. One should ask the Lord to help one persevere in the hard struggle for holiness; to make one’s ministry fruitful; to help one to say the right thing. One should pray daily for all those for whom one is responsible; this surely does them more good than any preaching. One should strive to be aware of the Lord’s powerful and merciful presence throughout the day. Yet it is so easy to forget to do these things.


I take time daily to study the Bible, usually the daily readings, to linger over them and try to understand them. This study is exceedingly valuable. It keeps me attuned to the central mysteries and practices of my faith, helping me to remember key points where I would otherwise disastrously forget. It fills in the gaps in my knowledge of my faith and helps me organize my thoughts for teaching.


Dominican community is not simply a matter of having friends; it is a communion that flows from a shared commitment to contemplation of the Truth and the handing on of that Truth to others. After ministry, community is the most challenging aspect of the Dominican charism to practice, at least for me.


My first few months as a missionary have been a grace-filled time, but the graces received have not been the ones I expected. The two most noteworthy graces have been, first, the absence of many comforts and distractions, an absence which has given me the space to grow in purity of heart; second, opportunities to experience my weakness as never before and to learn confidence in God.

For the complete report, click here.


(26 March 2014)