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800 Years of Grace

8/1/2016
by Katie Scott

The Order Of Preachers Celebrates Its 800th Jubilee, A Milestone Marked By Vibrant Communities And Flourishing Vocations

In early 1995, a graduate student of environmental engineering and chemistry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore stepped into the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

Inside, rosaries dangled from the friars’ ankle-length white tunics, chants filled the chapel, and texts of theology and philosophy lined the library shelves.

But amid the sounds and symbols of an order characterized by traditional Catholicism and rigorous study, he also encountered frequent laughter and discussions ranging from bluegrass to baseball.

The friars “were eminently human,” while “it was clear they had a strong sense of purpose,” said the now-Dominican priest, Father John Paul Walker.

That purpose – to preach the truth of Jesus Christ with intellectual reasoning and compassion – has stretched across nearly a millennium and existed under 90 popes. Founded in 1216, the order marks its 800th jubilee this year.

It is a time to celebrate not only its founding but also the increasing number of vocations around the world, including in the United States and, in particular, the St. Joseph Province, which covers the Eastern U.S. The number of active friars in the province is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 10 years, according to figures presented at a June provincial assembly.

Part of the order’s appeal is that it combines “a very traditional sense of the faith with a strong evangelical outreach,” said Father Walker, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., and a member of Father Michael J. McGivney Council 10705.

“We see the beauty in the deeper tradition of the Church, but don’t see that tradition as a shell to retreat into,” he said. “Rather, we see that tradition as something that is beautiful and compelling and can be used to bring others into the faith or into a deeper experience of the faith.”

More of the article on Columbia Magazine Online Edition