Memory, Community, and an Encounter with the Pope

By Catherine Mulroney

When a group from the Faculty of Theology headed to Rome recently for a congress celebrating the Dominicans’ 800th anniversary, they knew their visit to the Eternal City would be full of workshops, sightseeing and celebration.

What they hadn’t anticipated was the exceptional invitation Faculty member Fr. Darren Dias, himself a Dominican, was about to receive: midway through the week, he was handed an orange card signifying a formal invitation to concelebrate at the jubilee’s closing Eucharistic celebration, at which Pope Francis was to preside.

When asked to describe what the experience was like, Fr. Dias smiles. He thinks many concelebrants shared the same initial response.

“When the Pope enters the church, there’s an excitement in seeing him, and your first instinct is to want to take a picture, but we were preparing for Eucharist, and that really became our focus,” he says. “What struck me was how simple the Pope’s vestments were, how unostentatious he looked, and how he preached not in a strong and booming preacher’s voice but in his own.  He seemed to radiate a deep and authentic spirituality.”

The closing Mass was held in St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome, a location that was particularly moving for the more than 2,000 gathered from all around the world, Fr. Dias notes. A smaller church than St. Peter’s, the Lateran Basilica offered a more intimate setting. But the site also has special significance for the Dominicans, as it was there, in 1217, that Pope Honorius III confirmed the Order of Preachers, the name by which the order is formally known.

“The Mass celebrated was the Mass of St. Dominic, so there was particularly strong sense of memory and unity for us, gathered as a community. Memory is key to Eucharist, but this Mass also had a sense of community memory, taking place in the very place where Dominic had the order confirmed,” Fr. Dias notes.

At the same time there was an eagerness for the future mission of the Order.During the celebration, the Master of the friars of the Order of Preachers, Fr. Bruno Cadore, recommitted the Order to the service to the Word, the world and the Church through a commitment to preaching, fraternity and encounter, he adds.

The Faculty had a strong presence at the Dominican conference, which was held at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, which is also known as the Angelicum.  Three professors, three alumni members and one student participated. Fr. Dias presented a workshop entitled Words Matter: Dialogue as Preaching, while college professor Dr. Michael O’Connor presented on music and theology. Master of Theological Studies student Br. Emmaus O’Herlihy, OSB, a painter and graphic artist, spoke on the topic of art and preaching. Alumnus Daniel Cadrin, O.P., director of the Dominicans’ Pastoral Institute in Montreal, spoke on Schools of Preaching, while Archbishop Roger Houngbedji, of Benin, who served as the Dominicans’ visiting scholar to the Faculty of Theology in the 2015-2016 academic year, was also present.

Faculty member Dr. Michael Attridge, as well as alumni members Dr. Mark Yenson, who teaches at King’s University College,  and Dr. Andrea Di Giovanni, who teaches at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, ON. served as facilitators. Drs. Yenson and Di Giovanni’s three children were also present.

The conference also celebrated the release of Promise of Renewal: Dominicans and Vatican II, a book that stemmed from a conference of the same name, held at the University of St. Michael’s College in May, 2015. The book, which includes essays by Faculty members Drs. Attridge,  Dias, and Nick Olkovich, is published by ATF.