Today begins another semester of school for twenty-three Dominican student brothers (12 from the Central Province, 11 for the Southern Province) here in St. Louis, Missouri. Last week, St. Dominic's Priory was humming with the excitement of friars returning from their summer assignments and home visits. Every year in a house of formation, the community is radically different, since the population changes so frequently. This year, for example, three of the solemnly professed members of the community have be reassigned elsewhere, two of the student brothers have been sent out to do pastoral year ministries, three of the student brothers have graduated to full-time ministries elsewhere, six new first year students have arrived, and two students who had been on pastoral year (myself included) have returned. In this way, the St. Dominic's Priory that I left a year ago is not the same community I return to. After four years in Dominican life, I'm used to that.
I thought I would just use this posting to give people a sense of what I will be doing this semester. As one might expect, it's going to be a busy year.
I have three official classes at Aquinas Institute of Theology, the graduate school run by St. Albert the Great Province. They are:
1) The Prophets--a class that examines the context and literature of the Hebrew prophets as found in scripture.
2) Theology of Worship--a class that explores the connection between what Catholic Christians believe and how they worship in the context of both Tradition and contemporary times.
3) Ecclesiology--a class that unpacks what the Catholic Christian community understands itself to be as an entity, the traditional foundations for that understanding, and how this self understanding plays out in Church structure, theology, etc.
[At least, this is what I suspect these classes will be about.]
I also hope to begin a tutorial in biblical Hebrew with a good friend and another friar.
Each student brother who is not in his first year of studies is expected to do about 6-8 hours of ministry during the week. Most of the brothers will do their ministry at a parish. Some have done ministry in schools, hospitals, and prisons. This year, I hope to do my ministry at the St. Louis Public Library. I learned that volunteers can work at the library helping individuals studying for the GED. I think this will be a good public outreach.
I may also begin or participate in a Bible study group connected to either the campus ministry of St. Louis University or the parish that serves the university population.
I have to begin studying for the comprehensive examine which is part of the completion of the Masters in Theology degree, while also completing applications to possible other graduate programs in English or Creative Writing which might come after I graduate from Aquinas Institute. Part of applying to other graduate programs involves studying for the GRE--the General Records Exam--with the emphasis in literature.
While trying to juggle all of that, I have the priority of maintaining connections with those I love and keeping up with the other two pillars of Dominican life, prayer and community. Not only that...I have to begin the formal process of applying for permission to profess solemn vows (vows that bind for life).
Yikes! But I'm hoping the miracle happens and come next May I will be graduating, and come next June I will be professing solemn vows. Please keep me and all the student brothers in your prayers.
Br. Paul, OP