From its foundation the order of preachers has been a fraternity with the mission to save souls through preaching of the Gospel and contemplation of the truth. The Order is composed of provinces which, in turn, are comprised of priories and houses. Following the constitutions of the Order these subdivisions help to maintain a democratic way of life that facilitates unity and fraternal sharing.
Though independent, the provinces collaborate with each other to carry out the universal mission of the Order. Unfortunately this subdivision sometimes presents a challenge to unity manifested as “provincial individualism,” whereby the needs of some provinces are ignored. While some provinces grow and overflow in numbers, others close convents and ministries for lack of friars. While some provinces enjoy the benefit of renowned universities, others, for lack of resources, do not. Such disparity creates a challenge to unity.
In order to avoid such discrepancies and create more unity among provinces, some African provinces have created the “Inter Africa Order of Preachers” (IAOP). The purpose of the IAOP is to foster unity among the African provinces especially in the area of formation. To this end, the IAOP hopes to establish an “African Studentate” and an “African Novitiate.” The master of the Order spoke of this hope at the latest general assembly in Ibadan (2017). There the master spoke about a united novitiate even as he advised the brothers to strengthen existing ones. Unfortunately, there exists no legislation that would make it a reality, and so despite much effort, it has not yet become a reality. Still, many strive to make it a reality. Some African entities strive to put this idea into practice by sending students to other parts of Africa for formation. These entities feel that a united formation would foster an authentic African identity.
Saint Dominic’s Priory in Nairobi is very open to the idea of shared formation. Every year we welcome Dominican student brothers from outside of the vicariate. Such cooperation facilitates unity among the different entities of the Dominican family. For example, St Dominic’s hosts student brothers from 3 different IAOP entities (Eastern African Vicariate, Vicariate of Rwanda-Burundi and Vicariate of Angola) in 6 different countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola). This diversity enriches Saint Dominic’s Priory and fosters the IAOP dream of common formation.
Fraternal unity remains an important aspect of the Dominican character. The IAOP hopes to realize that unity in shared formation. Such a sharing would benefit the Dominican Order in Africa by fostering an authentic African identity. The hope is that Saint Dominic’s will serve as a model for future efforts to bring together various African Dominican entities. Only then may we fulfill the dream of our founder Holy Father Dominic, who on his death bed bequeathed to his sons his wish that they might have charity for one another.
By Bro. Feliciano, OP & Bro. Jordan, OP