PHILIPPINES | First Gathering of the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic
Pursuant to the charge from the Master of the Order, fr. Bruno Cadoré, OP, to organize an international gathering of representatives from priestly fraternities all over the world, the first gathering was held on August 6-9, 2012, at the Caleruega Retreat Center in Batangas, Philippines.
Though a number of Provinces in the Order expressed interest in the outcome of the assembly, only Fr. Jesper Fich, a Danish priest belonging to the fraternity of the Province of France, was able to participate. It was Fr. Fich who earlier worked with the Socius for Apostolic Life, Fr. Prakash Lohale, OP, in conducting a survey in 2009, which showed that only few provinces in the Order had an active fraternity. Some began to exist a few years earlier, while others have just started to admit novices in the fraternity and were consequently not able to send participants. Despite this limited international representation, the participants took on the task given by the Master of the Order, and proceeded to evaluate the Rule of the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic.
With the scriptural passage from Mark 3:14 as a guide, the organizers adopted the theme, “We gather to be sent” for the assembly. As the Apostles were called by the Lord Jesus in order to be with him and to be sent forth, the participants were likewise gathered to affirm their Dominican identity and spirituality, and to be sent forth to mission as members of the Dominican family in the priestly fraternity of St. Dominic.
As stated in the letter of the Master, it is in the interest of further consolidating this dimension of the Order, and as a way to respond to the request of the Chapter (ACG Rome n° 233) concerning the revision of the Rule of Priestly Fraternities that the assembly shall undertake a fruitful reflection on the following:
1. the specific mission of the Dominican Priestly Fraternities;
2. recommendations concerning modifications to bring to the Rule;
3. the manner of organizing these Fraternities in the midst of the Order; and
4. the needs and expectations in order to strengthen the mission in them.
As part of the preparatory steps for the 2012 Assembly, members of the Fraternity based in the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary undertook preliminary discussions on the Rule. Results of these discussions were included in the kits that were distributed to the participants during the assembly, along with copies of the letter from the Master, and the Rule to be evaluated. These preliminary observations served as starting points in the group sessions during the assembly, which also followed the same classification done in the UST seminary earlier.
The opening mass was celebrated at the chapel of the Priory of St. Thomas Aquinas, Manila, by the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, Fr. Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP. The participants, later on, joined the friars of the Priory for lunch before their departure for Caleruega Retreat Center in Batangas.
Fr. Florentino Bolo Jr., OP, provided on the first day a background on the history, nature and objectives of the assembly. Fr. Enrico Gonzales, OP, delivered a talk on the next day on the life and spirituality of St. Dominic, and how it is intimately linked with the love of the Eucharist that is central to the life and ministry of a priest.
The sessions that followed were alternately devoted to plenary and group workshops, which were guided by the following points:
Identity. Belongingness to and appreciation of the Dominican Family; diocesan and Dominican spirituality; Dominican tradition of government, constitution, and habit; liturgical practices; Dominican saints; confidence in and with the Dominican Family;
Spirituality. Fidelity to one’s vows; motivating factor to persevere in the spiritual life; the tradition of study, preaching, prayer, and community; external devotional practices such as the rosary, Dominican Saints, and the habit;
Mission. Not only living but also promoting the Dominican spirituality; manifesting in one’s apostolic work in the diocese through sacraments, prayers, and preaching; network of ministers as a collaborative dimension of preaching with the Dominican family; ministering to Dominican sisters and nuns; continuous communication with all members of the fraternity and the Dominican Family.
Discussions were also made on the issues of terminology, such as confraternity and fraternity, clerical and priestly, and the issue on the status of membership of seminarians in the fraternity – a reality that is uniquely existent in the Philippine Province since the beginning of the movement. As each group presented its recommendations to the body, discussions were made on the presentations, and proposals were voted upon. Resolutions from this gathering were to be forwarded to the Master of the Order and his Council for approval.
fr. Florentino Bolo, OP