The Order of Preachers is a fraternal communion sent to participate in the mission of the whole Church, by preaching in word and sacrament. It takes its form and structure from that fraternal communion and common mission, dispersed throughout the world but united as one.
All the friars of the Order are directly bound by profession of obedience to the Master of the Order. They participate in the governance of the whole Order through their priors provincial and elected representatives in the General Chapter of the Order. The Chapter has the highest authority in the Order, electing the Master of the Order, making laws and deciding those matters which pertain to the good of the whole Order.
Brothers join the Order as a son of a province or a vice-province. A province typically numbers between 40 and 400 friars, and is responsible for their formation and training for the life and mission of the Order in its territory. The highest authority in the Province is the four-yearly Provincial Chapter, where superiors and elected representatives decide on matters concerning the fraternal and apostolic life of the Province, determine the more weighty administrative matters, elect the Prior Provincial, and designate the officials of the Province.
Within the context of the communion of the whole Order and the Province, the basic cell of our fraternity is the “Convent”, in English often called “Priory”. It is here that a community of friars shares the daily life of prayer, study and fraternity that is the foundation for the preaching mission. Brothers can be moved from one convent to another for the needs of the Order, but each convent has a certain autonomy. The brothers elect their own Prior and determine in the local Chapter how best to fulfil the Dominican vocation in their own setting.
Alongside the friars, in the Order there are also:
- autonomous monasteries of enclosed contemplative nuns;
- congregations of sisters, with a wide variety of apostolic works;
- secular institutes of lay consecrated women living in the world;
- fraternities of diocesan priests;
- fraternities of lay people;
- the international Dominican youth movement (IDYM);
All these branches of the Dominican Family participate, according to their own situation and vocation, in the charism of St Dominic of contemplating the good news together and passing it on to the world.