Some 1,200 members of the Dominican family from the Asia-Pacific—friars, sisters, nuns, third-order, clerical fraternities and lay people—converged this week at the University of Santo Tomas for the Asia-Pacific Dominican Family Retreat.
The retreat in connection with the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Order of Preachers (OP), or Dominicans, next year.
It was on Dec. 22, 1216 that Pope Honorius III recognized the religious order founded by St. Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish canon. As a result, the Dominicans became one of the four major mendicant orders that led the reform of the Church in the Middle Ages, the others being the Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians.
The Dominicans are known for being “contemplatives in action,” devoting their time to prayer, study and intellectual life, scholarship and activism, and their promotion of the rosary devotion, St. Dominic having been given the rosary by the Blessed Mother herself, according to Catholic lore and legend.
Prominent Dominican thinkers today include Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, the father of liberation theology; Fr. Albert Nolan, who wrote “Jesus Before Christianity” and preached against apartheid in South Africa; Cardinal Georges Cottier, former papal theologian; Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and the general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church; Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, lawyer and bioethicist; and Fr. Aidan Nichols, who wrote the best introduction to the thought of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in English even before the latter became Pope Benedict XVI.
The opening Mass was celebrated by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, also president of the episcopal conference and a member of the Dominican clerical fraternity.
Retreat master was Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Order, best-selling and award-winning author, and recently appointed by Pope Francis as consultor to the Holy See’s Pontifical Commission for
Peace and Justice.
In his talk, Father Radcliffe urged Dominican Family members to dedicate themselves to others and to renew themselves in preparation for the Dominican Jubilee.
“Happiness starts when we stop caring just about ourselves,” the British Dominican said.
“The first step to being joyful is to care whether our brothers and sisters are happy,” Radcliffe said.
He said Catholics must learn to express love and appreciation toward their brothers and sisters. Happiness is found in selfless concern for other people’s happiness, he added.
“The culmination of our freedom and joy is when we give away our lives, like what Jesus did,” Fr. Radcliffe said.
Joy, Radcliffe said, is needed in the push for a new evangelization. “Joy is important in preaching the Gospel as well. If we want to reach out to people and spread the Gospel, we must begin by celebrating.”
Holy Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Vincent Vien Ha, O.P., socius of the master for the Asia-Pacific, and Fr. Franklin Buitrago Rojas, O.P., coordinator of the Jubilee of the Order.
“Our faith is not a set of rules. It is a relationship with God who loves us and knows us better than ourselves,” Fr. Rojas said.
Closing Mass was celebrated by Irish Dominican Fr. Vivian Boland, O.P., of the theology faculty of Oxford and Fr. Bruno Cadoré, the vicar of Master of the Dominican Order.
It was the biggest gathering yet of Dominicans seen in the Asia-Pacific. Aside from the Philippines, the participants came from Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.
The delegates were welcomed to the Philippines by UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P., and Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, prior-provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province.
The 8th Centenary of the Dominican Order will be celebrated from Nov. 7, the Feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers, until Jan. 21, 2017, the date of the “Gratiarum Omnium Largitori” of Pope Honorius III.
Poem for Father Gus
Irish Fr. Gus O’Driscoll, S.M.A. has left the Philippines back to his homeland after being parish priest for 14 years of the Good Shepherd Parish Church in Las Piñas City.
Before becoming parish priest, he was formator in the SM Formation House in Silang, Cavite for nine years. He had thus spent practically a generation in the Philippine missions.
Last Aug. 15, he officiated his last Mass in the Philippines and many were teary-eyed.
His parishioners in Las Piñas are understandably sad that he has gone back to Ireland to retire.
One of them, Nora “Owwa” Carrido, has written the poem below as a tribute to Father O’Driscoll.