Increasing awareness of the apostolic aspect of vocation:
The friars discern that the laity are not only the object of their preaching, but they are considered more and more as companions in preaching, especially in places where the friars are not so skilled: in family life, the neighborhood, in the professions, in society, the economy and politics. The laity, too, discern more and more that they are protagonists of preaching in their typical environment, where they are specialists. There is an increasing esteem and mutual respect. In the spirit of the Church, understood as Mystery of Communion, the secular branch is respected no longer like a “third Order” of Dominicans, but as integrated members of a religious family, called by the development of their own charism to respond to the same universal vocation.
Increasing consciousness of mutual cooperation:
There is an increasing cooperation between the different parts of our Order. It is laudable when the branches meet on the feast of St. Dominic or at a profession or a funeral. But there is a real permanent preaching, when there is a permanent interaction. More and more lay persons are included in Dominican Family Councils to develop and to participate in collective projects: in evangelization and teaching, the ministry of the Word, the preaching of retreats, in the commitment with youth and catechesis, in formation programs, in the promotion of vocations, in the work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Doing something for the laity is good; doing something with the laity is better!
Increasing demand and desire for better formation:
Naturally a more intensive preaching cooperation presupposes a better and more profound formation on regional, provincial and local level. The delegates of the International Congress of Lay Dominican Fraternities, held in Buenos Aires in March 2007, proposed, if it does not yet exist, that a written formation program should be developed in every province or region within three years. Of course this program will be developed with assistance of the friars, sisters or nuns. In the mean time existing written formation programs are being edited or updated. There are still provinces or vicariates where this task still has to be fulfilled. It would be very desirable that in future the different entities of our Order share their formation materials more.
New vocations by renewal in the original spirit of mission:
According to ancient documents, in 2010 the Lay Fraternities can commemorate the 725th anniversary of their first Rule. Within the Jubilee Novena of our Order this can become an opportunity for renovation in the spirit of our origin: the apostolic mission. In some regions single Lay Fraternities suffer because of the advanced age of members and lack of new blood. On the other hand, in our days we enjoy a more differentiated development among those women and men who want to follow in the tracks of St. Dominic. A tree, deeply rooted in the ground, which is alive and growing with new leaves, twigs and fruits, doesn’t maintain its former external shape. There are in the mean time within the laity branch ever more groups who wish to live the spirit of St. Dominic without necessarily making promises. They are indeed dedicated to a special project in a specific period of their life. This obligation may be very intensive or even exclusive, in case of the Dominican Voluntary Movement. Together with the traditionally integrated Lay Fraternties/Chapters those new groups are a sign of the vitality and dynamic power of our common preaching mission.
More intensive “corporate identity” through better information:
Caused by a lack of information, unfortunately local and private conflicts sometimes devour a disproportionate amount of energy which would be invested better in our spiritual objectives. The more essential informations are shared the more also the single involvments can be grouped to create a more effective apostolic synergy. The awareness of belonging to a bigger entity needs better information about what’s happening not only within the Dominican Family, but also in the global church and society. This could be a part of realizing the classic Dominican pillar of “community”. During the last few years many efforts have already been made on provincial and regional level in the regular editing of letters of information. Those lay members who have access to the new media of information can forward and share the electronic news with those who haven’t that opportunity. Regions where the distances between the entities are very large and the technical instruments not yet are available, like Africa, need special care to be linked with the worldwide Dominican Family. A better-functioning exchange of information will also strengthen mutual support and solidarity.
Organizational structures promoting the preaching mission:
Every cooperation requires a minimum of organization and also financial support. Structures allow these organizations to function properly. Already Jesus and his first itinerant “preaching team” had a common purse. The single lay entities mostly have their own structures. Although the “Economic and Finance” Commission of the 2nd International Congress of Lay Dominican Fraternities made reasonable proposals, the financial base at provincial, regional and international level is still very weak. It cannot be satisfying that delegates, sent to an annual conference, have to pay the costs from their private accounts. Especially in poor regions these financial difficulties still prevent a growth in zonal or particularly regional cooperation. Fundraising structures, that go beyond local needs, have not yet been developed. Here the link between sufficient information and additional contributions or donations is essential: the better people are informed of what’s happening and what it’s for, the more willing they are to support the “common good”! It is to be hoped that the introductory words of the Economic and Finance Commission in the Acts of Buenos Aires will find a more effective echo: “.. if we wish to be adequately organized we need to have a strong structure that would allow us to be efficient in the fulfilment of our mission, which is to preach the Gospel”.
David Kammler, o.p.