From the 3rd of January until late last week I was a member of the 24th Provincial Chapter of the Western Dominican Province (Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus) gathered at St. Albert Priory in Oakland, CA.
St. Albert Priory is the House of studies for the Western Dominican Province. I began my own Dominican life in its hallowed halls. I still remember with fondness the daily rituals of Office, Mass, meals and recreation ... even our common work days and bellman duties form a good part of the rich tapestry that the initial formation period offered. Then there were the classes, initially offered at St. Albert and then in facilities leased at the GTU in Berkeley. Some may remember that I was known for "Vincent van go!" Visions of one of my classmates running to try to catch the van as I drove off -- on time -- for our journey to DSPT are both amusing and sad ....
I look around and see so much good that has happened at this Priory. The priors and masters of Students and Novices came and went, but the heartbeat of the community rode out the changes remarkably well. At one time we were known as the most liberal of Dominican Provinces, then after Vatican II we were looked upon as ultra conservative. I believe we are probably seen as liberal again, although there has been very little that changed over the years. Our formation has remained on bedrock, our academic formation is even more rooted in St. Thomas Aquinas, we have not wandered as some other have ... the world just seems to keep changing around us. A good thing?? I do not know. I do know it has all happened while also deeply immersed in the world in which we live.
There have been a few bumps. After all this is a big family and it would be really remarkable if there were not a few odd characters, slackers and downright contrary personalities. There have been causes for great joy and great sadness. I would not change this ride for anything in the world. I am absolutely convinced it is a gift and manifestation of God's love for his people, and especially for those who chose to answer God's personal call within the ranks of the Dominican Order as manifested in the Western Dominican Province.
This present 24th Provincial Chapter continues the long tradition of Dominican Government handed on by Dominic himself. Every four years elected representatives of the province gather to elect a new Provincial, appoint friars to certain internal ministries, and adjust the particular laws of our province to reflect the current conditions and needs of the province. This Chapter has been, in general, a joy to me. It is my first, and the charity, insight and wisdom of the brethren has been most edifying. The desire to guide our brother as best that any laws can in the way of truth with constant care for the ministry of the word seemed to permeate even the simplest moments -- mind you there were many dull portions, as is natural when the details have to be thrashed out and coordinated with other legislation to make a cohesive whole. Thank God for secretaries! They are a real blessing!
There are a few more things to take care of before the last six (diffinitors) can sign off on the finished work (the ACTA). I ask you to join me in prayer for the successful conclusion of our Chapter and a positive response from our superiors in Rome. May God be praised, the people filled with blessings and Jesus be preached in all corners of the world!