The Order of Preachers (The Dominicans) was established in 1216 by St. Dominic de Guzman “for preaching and the salvation of souls.” Following the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers, Dominican friars devote their lives to study, contemplation, and preaching, united by their common profession of obedience and the living of the Evangelical Counsels, in order to be effect instruments in Christ’s saving plan.
The Novitiate is “…a time of probation directed to this purpose, namely, that the novices come to know more deeply their divine, and indeed Dominican vocation, experience the Order’s way of life, be formed in the Dominican spirit in mind and heart, and manifest their intention and suitability to the brethren (LCO 177).”
Coming to knowledge of a religious vocation requires time, silence, prayer and solitude. Our Constitutions and the law of the Church require that a novitiate last at least one year. Silence provides the framework in which the Dominican can pray and study, which must always precede our preaching. Father Damien Byrne, O.P., the former Master of the Order wrote that vocations are drawn to us by a desire to preach the Gospel and because of a love for study, but even motives as exalted as these need to be tested by the experience of sustained prayer and solitude. And while involvement in the apostolic life of the Order must not be omitted, that is not the primary purpose of the novitiate. More than just a time of probation, the novitiate is a place and it is people.
The novitiate of the Dominican Vicariate of Eastern Africa is located at St. Martin de Porres House in Kisumu, KENYA near Lake Victoria. The novitiate year begins during first vespers of the Solemnity of Our Holy Father, St. Dominic on 7 August when the aspirants are vested in the habit of the Dominican friars and ends during the Mass of Simple Profession on the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Dominic a year and a day later. It is a time to discover whether one is fitted for the Dominican life – a blend of apostolic ministry and contemplative prayer. The emphasis is on prayer, the common life, and the study of the Dominican Constitutions and lives of Dominican men and women, both past and present. It is also a time for the Dominican community to determine the suitability of the man for Dominican life. It is a time of discernment (that is: prayerfully considering what God wishes for me and also considering my heart’s desires). It is discernment of God’s will.
Novices receive their most important formation by actually living the religious life. Classes in the life and traditions of the Order and assigned duties are part of the life but the matters that have primacy in the religious formation of our brothers are our communal celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. Each brother becomes familiar with the cycle of the Church’s celebrations by taking an active part in the planning and performance of the Mass and Divine Office. In addition to these, the novices are expected to receive the Sacrament of Penance regularly and to foster a love for Our Lord in the Eucharist and devotion to Our Lady, especially through praying of the Rosary.
The brothers engage in some apostolate. Even though the apostolic component of the life is limited by the nature and the purpose of the novitiate, it is nonetheless a component that brings before our mind that the Dominicans are a missionary Order founded for the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. The fruits of our prayer and study are the treasures that we share with our brothers and sisters.
Upon completing the novitiate year and having made his simple profession, the brother moves to St. Dominic’s Priory in Nairobi, Kenya. Formation in the <em>studium</em> focuses primarily on four different areas: human formation, spiritual formation, intellectual formation, and pastoral formation. During the years in the <em>studium</em>, the brother lives in community, primarily dedicated to prayer and study. However, he is also assigned to various part-time ministries in Nairobi, Kenya, and throughout the Vicariate during the long holidays. Friars generally are assigned to the <em>studium</em> for seven years.
While in the <em>studium</em>, clerical student brothers begin their philosophical and theological studies for priesthood and prepare for the apostolate. All brothers study at Tangaza University College, a higher education institution run by a Consortium of Religious Congregations in Eastern Africa. The motto is <em><strong>”Teaching Minds, Touching Hearts, Transforming Lives”.</strong></em> All clerical brothers study for a Bachelor of Philosophy and Sacred Theology.
Cooperator brothers prepare for the apostolate with a plan of formation suited to his particular skills and the needs of the Vicariate. This includes academic studies at Tangaza University College, with the possibility for additional professional or technical training, as needed.
The year before a clerical brother is ordained to the priesthood, he is ordained a deacon. During this last year of formation, he is assigned to any community in the Vicariate, while continuing his studies at the Tangaza Universiry College (TUC).
The “initial” formation of a clerical brother culminates with his ordination to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. This usually occurs either at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Nairobi, Kenya.
Once a clerical brother is ordained a priest, or a cooperator brother completes his formation after solemn profession, the friar’s initial formation is complete, and he receives an assignment to one of our communities and apostolates in the Vicariate of Eastern Africa.