Dominican Vocations - Studentate
The newly professed Dominican friar moves to the studentate community to continue his formation as a Dominican. The lifestyle of the studentate is quite similar to that of the novitiate. It is the master of students who is responsible for the students, although the simply professed students have more scope to organise their day around community engagements (prayer, meals, recreation) and their obligations as Dominican religious. During his time in the studentate, a brother who is preparing to become a priest will have some years of philosophical studies followed by some years studying theology. At present, the student brothers of our province study philosophy in a third level institute such as at university. Theology is studied, usually, in two places: one year in our centre of institutional studies (located in the studentate community) and several more years in a faculty of theology, either here in Ireland or abroad. Brothers from our province are currently studying undergraduate theology in Oxford and Fribourg (Switzerland) as well as in Ireland. Brothers who are not preparing to become priests will certainly study some philosophy and theology, but their programme of studies will be adapted to their aptitudes and needs. They may even complete the entire studies programme for priestly ordination without becoming a cleric.
As for religious formation, this continues during the brother’s time in the studentate. Again, religious formation is primarily the brother’s own responsibility. After three years in simple vows, it is common for a brother to make solemn profession, i.e. make a lifelong commitment to live as a Dominican friar. The studentate community must arrange for the brother to be interviewed, there must be a vote of both chapter and council, and then the prior provincial must decide whether he will admit a brother who has received positive votes for his profession. A brother may also request to remain in simple vows for a longer period of time, allowing him to ask to be admitted to solemn profession at a later date.
During the period of studies for priesthood and religious formation, clerical brothers (those preparing for priesthood) will receive the ministries of lector and acolyte and learn to exercise those ministries. Preparation for preaching begins early in the formation programme. Ordination to the diaconate takes place towards the end of the study of theology. Experience in pastoral ministry is arranged for students throughout their time in the studentate. A variety of experiences are valued, and the preferences and aptitudes of each student are generally taken into account. Opportunities for stepping outside ones comfort zone or experience is not neglected, of course, so as a student learns to work in areas not necessarily of his own choosing.
Study and formation in areas not mentioned here are encouraged also. Learning one of the official languages of the Order (English, French, Spanish) other than ones own native language is a serious obligation on every friar in initial formation. Music, I.T., communications, languages other than the ones mentioned, are only some of the possibilities.