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Order of preachers celebrates 800 years

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Anniversary unites Dominicans across the globe
By Hannah Brockhaus

Photo: Dominicans carry offertory gifts as Pope Francis celebrates a Mass marking the closing of the Dominican order's 800th anniversary celebrations Jan. 21. (Paul Haring / CNS)

As the Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans, celebrate the 800th anniversary of their founding, they’re gathering in Rome to reflect on their history, their charism of preaching, and how they can continue to put this charism at the service of the Church today.

The International Congress for the Mission of the Order, taking place Jan. 17-21, comes at the close of the order’s celebration of a Jubilee Year marking the 800th anniversary of their founding by St. Dominic.

One purpose of the congress, Dominican Brother Vivian Boland told CNA, is to allow the order “to thank God for the graces of the past year, but also to try to re-own the mission of the order in the Church and to give it a fresh energy, a fresh impulse…”

The charism of the Dominicans, Brother Boland said, can sometimes be difficult to pick out, because it’s a charism “that’s at the very heart of the Church and Christianity, preaching the Gospel.”

“We’re not the only ones that preach the Gospel,” he noted. “But I think the year of celebration has been a chance for us to think about what it means to be the Order of Preachers in the Church and on behalf of the Church, and that our first task should be to help the Church in its preaching of the Gospel.”

This mission can sound simplistic, he acknowledged, but there are many challenges to that mission today, and the Dominicans should be leaders “in helping the Church to think about these challenges,” which can be found in everything from philosophy, to science, to culture, and changes in society.

One thing they can be working on is “what are the difficulties, what are the possibilities, for preaching the Gospel of Jesus today. To be helping the Church with that task,” he said.

 “You know, by the time an organization is 800 years old, that in itself is remarkable, there are very few things which remain for 800 years,” he said.

Referencing a video the order made for the Jubilee which says “we have 130 saints, and a multitude of sinners,” Brother Boland said “we have to acknowledge the humanity of the order, its mistakes, at times.”

“But also, there’s a certain pride, I hope in a good sense, in remembering who our brothers and sisters are,” including St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena.

The international congress takes place over five days and includes prayer, talks, and workshops for both lay members and men and women religious. It will close with a Mass presided by Pope Francis at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The congresses, which the order holds about every 12 or 13 years, provide a chance to put people in contact, Brother Boland said. For example, “people who might be working with indigenous people in Taiwan, with people who are working with indigenous people in Guatemala, who might otherwise not know about each other.”

Overall, the congress is a way “to bring together Dominicans from all parts of the world, who are working in particular ministries or perhaps have special projects that they’ve developed, just to be together and to hear what the order is doing in different parts of the world.”


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