The Fast-Growing Friars

The Fast-Growing Friars

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Eastern Province of the Dominicans

 

Q. Rumor has it that there are many new candidates joining the Eastern Province of the Dominicans. Is this true?

Our province covers the Northeastern part of the USA, as far South as Virginia, and as far West as Kentucky and Ohio. We have had a steady stream of novices from this region in recent years (see chart). In 2013, we had 18 men enter as novices.

 

A ‘novice' is in the initial stage of entering religious life, lasting one year. After his first, simple vows, he becomes a student brother . Only after the friar has professed solemn vows (that is: “usque ad mortem” – until death), is he ordained a deacon and then a year later, a priest. Our formation is 7 years counting the novitiate year, and that is only after the man comes with a 4 year degree (which he would  have before he comes to us, unless he wishes to be a cooperator brother it would be shortened). A number of men come also with graduate or advanced degrees and have had significant work experience.

I would add that in 2009, our province added a significant extension to the Dominican House of Studies since we needed more room; this was being done even as other religious communities are closing/relocating and selling their houses around the vicinity of the Catholic University of America. 

 

in 2009, our province added a significant extension to the Dominican House of Studies since we needed more room; this was being done even as other religious communities are closing/relocating and selling their houses around the vicinity of the Catholic University of America.

Q. Could you sum up the key elements of the order's strategy and the appeal to candidates?

Well, we don’t have much of a strategy. We generally try to be faithful to our charism and way of life; I think we do a relatively good job of it – but all of us are “a work in progress.” I think that despite our limitations, the Lord is sending us intelligent men to preach the Gospel in the way of St. Dominic.

Even back when I entered in in 1992 we were doing well with vocations. I was one of 8 men who entered our province.  Four of us persevered and were ordained to the priesthood. We also have a strong formation program for our student friars in our novitiate house and our House of Studies in Washington, DC. This formation includes intellectual, pastoral and spiritual elements that are part of traditional religious formation given by the Church and other elements that are unique to the Order of Preachers.  Our formation is guided by our Dominican constitutions.

I think the draw for men to the Dominicans is pretty simple.  Dominicans have a strong intellectual tradition, with the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas (our “all-star”) and men know they will need this strong, systematic approach to understand the world and the human person in order to preach the Gospel effectively today.

I think the draw for men to the Dominicans is pretty simple.  Dominicans have a strong intellectual tradition, with the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas (our “all-star”) and men know they will need this strong, systematic approach to understand the world and the human person in order to preach the Gospel effectively today.

As one of our friars noted a few years back, it seems that many young men who come to us have had the experience of arriving to the edge of an abyss in our culture with which there is no compromise if they are to follow Christ.  This is not to say they are running from the culture, but it seems it has radicalized them before they come to us.  If they are going to follow Christ in today's environment something more rigorous is needed – something like a living tradition of 800 years of a life founded by St. Dominic that has produced many saints.  Anyone who reads the history of the Church knows Dominicans have played significant roles both intellectual and evangelical.  We are made to evangelize and to engage the culture – we do this as a community of friars (brothers).

 
Many young men who come to us have had the experience of arriving to the edge of an abyss in our culture with which there is no compromise if they are to follow Christ.  This is not to say they are running from the culture, but it seems it has radicalized them before they come to us.  If they are going to follow Christ in today's environment something more rigorous is needed – something like a living tradition of 800 years of a life founded by St. Dominic that has produced many saints.

This corporate witness that goes out to the world, is attractive for young men today. When they see us trying to follow Christ in the way envisioned by St. Dominic, they want to be a part of it. It seems that a number of men are coming to visit us because they have heard we are having a “vocations boom” and they want to see what is happening. We do have a certain momentum going. If a young man thinking of a vocation comes to visit us, well it is impressive to see the sea of white in our chapel when our 85 friars gather for prayer four times a day at the Dominican House of Studies. Most young men who come to us very much want to be faithful to the Church and they are looking for a religious community that is “with” the Church – and not working against the Church.

 If a young man thinking of a vocation comes to visit us, well it is impressive to see the sea of white in our chapel when our 80+ friars gather for prayer four times a day at the Dominican House of Studies.

I think the media brutalizes the Church today. But the Dominicans live something that goes beyond the whim of the day or the politically correct agenda of Hollywood. The guys who come to us know this and they are ready to be counter-cultural to follow Christ. The men who come to us are not about to forego the good of wife and children for the sake of the Gospel only to join a community of men who subscribe to a version of Catholicism that fails to bear witness. The men who come to us today also know we are  entering into what might be called a cultural battle. I have no doubt the Dominicans will be on the forefront of that battle in presenting the Truth in a convincing way.  Our medieval dialectic way of engaging people and the ways that we preach, manage to take other perspectives into consideration and constantly search for the Truth who ultimately is Christ – this is attractive today to just about everyone.

The men who come to us are not about to forego the good of wife and children for the sake of the Gospel only to join a community of men who subscribe to a version of Catholicism that fails to bear witness. The men who come to us today also know we are  entering into what might be called a cultural battle. I have no doubt the Dominicans will be on the forefront of that battle in presenting the Truth in a convincing way.

When a young man comes to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC, he meets normal guys, who are pious, masculine, and faithful to the Church who are happy and ready to follow Christ, no matter the cost. I think it is true that young men take a look at us not only because of our intellectual approach, but also our orthodoxy or fidelity to the teachings of Jesus Christ found within the Church.  This is not a strategy though, it simply is who we are – Dominicans have a long tradition in helping people see the Truth of Jesus Christ.

If we have a strategy, it certainly includes the new media. We have various projects in which our friars are engaged: on-line video (Kindly Light Media) now changed to Blackfriar films), radio, websites, blogs, use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) just to get the word out of what our friars are doing.  We just started a new website that carries many stories of what is happening in our province: OPEast.org

And of course, our friars are doing the typical things Dominicans do as well: writing books (Philosophy and Theology), writing articles for scholarly journals, speaking and most importantly, PREACHING! Some are even involved in the sciences, like our friars that teach at Providence College. Most of our friars are not about to broadcast all the good they do each day – so this makes my job difficult.

 
When a young man comes to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC, he meets normal guys who are pious, masculine, and faithful to the Church– and who are happy and ready to follow Christ, no matter the cost.

Q. What is the demographic description of new candidates — what is the age range, occupations, etc.

Here you will see our current novices and their bios and ages.  The ages of the men are right out of college (22) all the way up to their early 30’s.

Q. What is the turnover — what percentage of people leave the order after joining?

In years past our attrition rate for those going all the way to solemn vows or priesthood was about 50% which is actually pretty good for men's religious orders in the US.  What is notable now though, is that we have more men entering and we have lower attrition – in other words, more men are staying.  Why is that? Well, I think our screening process is perhaps more rigorous and careful. The majority of young men who enter our way of life are flourishing.

Right now our Province has 70 men in formation for the priesthood and cooperator brotherhood.

The majority of young men who enter our way of life are flourishing. Right now our Province has 70 men in formation for the priesthood and cooperator brotherhood.

Q.Dominicans talk about the importance of a clear identity and vibrant community to attract new candidates — such as the wearing of habits. Could you address that issue? Does it make a difference in recruitment?

I would say we don’t talk about the “wearing of habits” very often.  We, in fact, do wear the habit and it serves what we call the “common life” showing forth our brotherhood and the poverty we attempt to live in following Christ. But again, there is no grand “plan” to wear the habit and get vocations. We perhaps do wear the habit more than other men’s religious communities, but I am not sure about that.  For example if I am traveling to preach somewhere in the car I will wear it – even en route. But it is not rocket science, if we did not wear the habit, no one would know we are Dominicans, unless we had a conversation with them.  Occasionally our friars will also wear the clerical collar.

There is a desire among the young to recover a sense of the sacredness of liturgy and to give a public witness to their faith. This is a response in part to what they perceive as a kind of watering down of the splendors of the Catholic tradition in recent decades. So the visibility of the habit matters to them, and the integrity of life it is meant to suggest (no “time off from the vocation”).  As I said, it is a sign of poverty and a kind of visible witness to the importance of the religious liturgical element of culture to which our current age seems largely oblivious.

The habit is part of our common life and the wearing of it unifies us and does give us an identity to the world. We have a saying, “the habit does not make the monk.” And this is true, the witness of religious consecration to Christ must not simply be expressed in what we wear, but what is internal as well. I think for all of us, the habit simply says we are a work in progress.  “The habit does not make the monk” but it sure helps!

 
There is a desire among the young to recover a sense of the sacredness of liturgy and to give a public witness to their faith. This is a response in part to what they perceive as a kind of watering down of the splendors of the Catholic tradition in recent decades. So the visibility of the habit matters to them.

Q. Do economic hard times give candidates more space to think about joining the friars? In boom times would they not even consider such a choice?

People have asked me about this before. There might be some connection to the economy. I believe though something as serious as a vocation to the Dominicans might be distracted by the economy, but ultimately a man is not going to forego the good of wife and family simply because of the economy. That decision will most certainly come with a divine calling and a desire to follow Christ more radically in our world.

Donate Online

FROM THE FRIARS OF THE EASTERN PROVINCE: The world is in desperate need of a Word that opens our eyes, and gives faith, hope, and charity.  It needs the Word Himself, Jesus Christ.  It also needs preachers who will proclaim the Word fully, faithfully, and effectively. God has blessed us with many vocations already, and many more are on the way! Thank you for your incredible generosity, and may the Lord bless you and your family abundantly.

PHOTO CREDIT: www.DominicanFriars.org

Comments

comments

No Comments

Post A Comment