Dominican Priests' Fraternities

by Fr. David F. Wright. O.P., Representative to the Priests' Fraternities

When I entered the Order in 1961 the canonical distinction between solemn and simple vows was what defined the "Third Order." Those who did not take solemn vows were considered members of the "Third Order," whether they were "regular" (living in community as our sisters in congregations) or "secular" (lay men and women or clerics). In the post-Vatican II era, the Order began to see itself in terms of Dominican Family and the older canonical distinctions were no longer used. Today the term sister has come to refer to our active Dominican women and what we now know as Dominican Laity has emerged with a renewed vigor.

However, during the past twenty-five years the way in which secular clergy might associate themselves with the spirit and charm of the Dominican order has for all practical purposes been overlooked. The General Chapter of Tallaght (1971) did provide a Rule and a skeletal structure for what they called the Priests' Fraternities of St Dominic. But its existence seems to be largely unknown in the Province of St. Albert the Great. I first discovered their existence in the fall of 1993 when Don Goergen asked me to be a liaison to several priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago who were interested in an association with the Dominican Order. In February, 1994, the Provincial Council approved the establishment of the Priests' Fraternities within the Province, and in December, 1994, Cardinal Bernardin approved the establishment of a chapter of the priests' Fraternities in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Since then I have been actively working with three priests from the Archdiocese who wish to establish such a chapter.

The whole purpose of the Priests' Fraternities is to provide diocesan clergy, who find in the spirit and charism of St. Dominic an appropriate and helpful framework for their own personal priestly spirituality, the means of associating themselves with the Order and becoming members of the Dominican Family.

The Rule of the Priests' Fraternities very clearly sees the lives of such priests rooted in two fundamental realities: the daily priestly ministry of the diocesan priest and Dominican spirituality. The formation program for members which has been tentatively set up so far approximates the process of entering a religious community --an Initiate Phase ['pre-novitiate'], Candidacy I Phase ['novitiate'], Candidacy II Phase ['temporary profession']. Final profession simply marks a lifetime of on-going formation. Once members have made profession a chapter can be formed. Chapters are self-governing bodies such as local chapters are with the Friars or the Dominican Laity.

On the feast of St. Dominic, August 8, 1995, the three priests from the Archdiocese of Chicago began their Candidacy I Phase. This formal ceremony took place at St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, River Forest, IL, in the course of the celebration of the feast.

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