WHAT IS THE PRIESTLY FRATERNITY?
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic is a community of diocesan priests who have discerned a call to enroll in the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) and profess a Rule of Life suited to their state in life as diocesan priests. Members of the Priestly Fraternity become sons of St. Dominic and fully members of the Dominican Family which includes the Dominican friars, nuns, sisters, and also lay Dominicans. Together, the Dominican Family composes the entire Order of Preachers. While members of the Priestly Fraternity are fully Dominican priests (but not friars), the Order of Preachers leaves them free for the complete service of the local Church, under the jurisdiction of their own bishop. The Order continually provides them with spiritual aids and directs them to their own sanctification.
THE ORIGINS OF THE PRIESTLY FRATERNITY
The origins of Priestly Fraternity can be traced from the Dominican Third Order Secular, which previously included both priests and laity as members. With the cessation of the terminological references to the first, second, and third Orders in the Dominican Order in 1968, there ensued the creation of separate Rules for the laity and for the priests, and the corresponding constitution of one and the other as distinct fraternities. Now existing as a separate association from that of the laity, and with its own distinct Rule to follow, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic continues to be guided by the Order in embracing the gift of the spirituality of St. Dominic in the unique context of the diocesan priesthood.
THE CALLING TO THE PRIESTLY FRATERNITY
The call to join the Priestly Fraternity is a “call within a call” and thus only ordained diocesan priests are considered for membership. Priests have been set apart in the heart of the people of God but are not separated from the world. They are by virtue of their special vocation and ordination fully consecrated to the work of salvation through the fulfillment of the priestly ministry as “witnesses and stewards of a life other than the life here on earth.” Those, however, who, urged by supernatural grace, enroll in the Order of Saint Dominic, profess a Rule of perfection suited to their state. Along with the special grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which helps them to perform the acts of the sacred ministry worthily, they receive new spiritual help from their profession, which makes them members of the Dominican Family and sharers in the grace and mission of the Order, to the sure advantage of the local and universal Church.
THE LIFE OF A DOMINICAN DIOCESAN PRIEST
Priests who join the Order in this way, with a view to being a part of the Dominican Family, strive to be imbued with the spirit of Saint Dominic and tend to a more perfect apostolic life, so that from the assiduous contemplation of God which unites untiring study of Sacred Scriptures with fervent prayer and voluntary poverty, they attain a firm faith and an apostolic spirit which is fully concerned for the salvation of every creature to the ends of the earth.
The Dominican diocesan priest lives a life consecrated to God not only by his Baptism and Ordination to the priesthood, but also by sharing in the spirit and mission of the Order of Preachers. He remains under the jurisdiction of his own bishop but takes up a new relationship with the Order and with his brother priests in the Fraternity. He becomes a true member of the Dominican Family after he makes his solemn promise to live according to the Rule of the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic until death. He receives grace through his profession to live a life that is guided by the Dominican spirit of contemplation, disciplined by theological study and prayer, and combined with apostolic zeal to preach the Good News.
ORGANIZATION OF THE PRIESTLY FRATERNITIES
When a priest enters the Priestly Fraternity, he becomes part of a chapter, that is, a local fraternity attached to a Dominican priory of friars, engaging in a regular encounter with other members of the fraternity not only in fellowship, but also in days of reflection and more intense theological discussion and study. Enriched by a new way of life guided both by the Rule of the Fraternity and by the particular directory of his own chapter, he is now given more opportunities to grow in his private prayer life and to seek higher spiritual perfection. While sharing in all the spiritual benefits of being a member of the Dominican Order, in his life and ministry in the diocese, he can likewise collaborate with the friars, nuns, sisters, laity and other members of the family of St. Dominic.
There are currently 275 members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic distributed in 18 local fraternities in 16 provinces: Spain, Toulouse (France), France, St. Dominic (Italy), St. Catherine of Siena (Italy), St. Thomas Aquinas (Italy), England, Bohemia, St. Joseph (USA), St. Albert the Great (USA), the Philippines, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Australia), St. James (Mexico), St. Augustine (Argentina), Portugal (Angola) and St. Vincent Ferrer (Central America).
FOR FURTHER STUDY
For further study regarding the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic, consult Fr. Florentino Bolo, OP’s journal article “Rediscovering the Place of the Secular Priests in the Order of Preachers” in Philippiniana Sacra (Vol. LII, No. 156, May–August 2017) available to download in PDF from the link at right.
Abstract: When the Order of Preachers, in response to the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council, legislated on the use of the term Lay Fraternities in place of Third Order, the status of its priest-tertiaries was inevitably placed in an ambiguous situation. Even if the Order later on rectified the oversight by creating a separate Rule of life for the priests, there ensued decades of stagnant, if not almost oblivious, existence of the secular priests in the consciousness of both the friars and of the different branches of the Dominican Family.
This study centers on the recovery of the nature and identity of the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic, which entailed the establishment of continuity in two levels of legislation, namely, that of the Church through the Code of Canon Law, and that of the Dominican Order through its various legislative organs. Thus, the continuity established by both historical and canonical elements substantiated the official status of the fraternities as third order, as such enjoying a certain level of juridical relationship with the Order of Preachers.
With such findings, the secular priests are acknowledged with greater level of awareness, not only in their unique place in the structure of the Order, but also in their capacity to offer to the Dominican Family a distinct manner of collaborative action in the context of the diocesan ministry.