Rome, 29-31 October 2009
1 – Since the 7th European Assembly of Lay Dominican Fraternities in Slovakia from 29 May to 3 June 2008, where the five members of the European Council of Fraternities (ECLDF) were elected, the Council has met three times: first in Brussels from 23 to 26 October 2008, then in Paris from 4 to 7 June 2008, and recently at the Santa Sabina convent in Rome from 29 to 31 October 2009.
2- The Acts of the Slovakia Assembly, which were adopted at the ECLDF meeting in Paris, have been published. The first part of the Acts was sent by email and the whole can be consulted and downloaded in French and English on the ECLDF website. A Spanish translation of the main elements of the site was done by a Spanish lay Dominican and can also be found on the site. It is up to each province or vicariate to make paper copies of the Acts at the request of those members who wish to have one or who do not have access to Internet.
3- The ECLDF website has been completely overhauled and is now accessible in its new layout at the following address: http://ecldfoud.drse.nl.
4- Another website was set up at the end of September by a project group, following the request expressed at the European Assembly in Slovakia. Accessible at the address: http://laicatuspraedicans.org, it is a platform for sharing lay Dominican preaching. We are eagerly awaiting your contributions. Those who have access to internet are asked to print the stories already online in French, English, German, Spanish and Italian in order to publish them in local Dominican newsletters and translate them into other languages.
5- The ECLDF archives are now safely stored in the Santa Sabina convent while awaiting permanent lodgings and the Master of the Order authorized the Council in July to establish its headquarters in Santa Sabina, which we are very grateful for. A permanent address was required by the bank and will also facilitate fundraising.
6- The next European Assembly of Lay Dominican Fraternities, which will be the eighth of its kind, will take place in Caleruega from 27 to 30 May 2011 with the support of the three Spanish provinces and vicariate, already very motivated. The theme chosen is: “Today’s Lay Dominicans drawing from the well of Saint Dominic”, a theme showing the characteristically Dominican tension between sources and present. As the theme of the Jubilee of the Order for 2011 is “Preaching and Culture”, it is an encouragement to find a language that can touch younger generations today.
7- Financial issues were also reviewed at our Rome meeting and the ECLDF calls for those provinces and vicariates which are late in paying their annual contributions (1.5 euros per member) to settle the matter. This money, which finances the Council’s biannual meetings, ensures its democratic character, as otherwise members could only be elected at the Council if they could afford paying for their own travel and accommodation costs. Members’ contributions also help organize the next European Assembly, but since the amounts received are insufficient, the Council is actively looking for additional funds.
8- The formation officer at the ECLDF, Anne-Marie Lee, drew up guidelines about the formation of lay Dominicans with regard to isolated, sick or elderly members of fraternities, which were published in IDI and were also sent by email to European fraternities in August. Anne-Marie is also preparing the revised, updated edition of a book by Irish friar Simon Roche o.p. with a view to proposing it for the basic formation of fraternity members all over Europe. This book is expected to come out in Ireland in English in the spring.
9- As the ECLDF meeting took place in Santa Sabina, the Council members were able to pray for European fraternities by having mass in Saint Dominic’s tiny cell and taking part in three meditation evenings prepared by Fr. David Kammler o.p., Promoter General for the Dominican laity, in the convent church where Saint Dominic used to pray: Saint Dominic as preacher of mercy, as preacher of solidarity and as an itinerant preacher, in connection with the themes chosen for the Novena of Years leading to the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the confirmation of the Order by pope Honorius III in 1216.
10- Like previous Councils, the ECLDF met the Master of the Order in Rome. During exchanges of views which lasted for an hour and a half, Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa o.p. talked about his recent visit to Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia. Regarding the role and place of lay Dominicans in the Order, he shared his reflections on the varying realities covered by the notions of Order and Family, pointing out that it all depended on the criterion used as a basis: religious life, promise to the Master of the Order, preaching, solemn vows, public vows. Each of these criteria excludes a Dominican branch. Fr. Carlos underlined that the notion of Dominican Family is not a modern invention, it has been in existence for centuries and it should be understood as a dynamic tree. The Order may also be considered as a multi-faceted diamond. Fr. Carlos also stressed the need not to waste time discussing about definitions and identity in the face of the urgency of preaching and faith transmission tasks, saying: “The world is burning while we are busy discussing the colour of the helmets of the firemen”. We should keep our eyes fixed on Saint Dominic’s example, who did not focus so much on strategy than on deciding about the best time and best place to act. In conclusion, Fr. Carlos said: “We belong to the same Order, with different specificities. The specificities of lay people are family, politics, economy, education. Teach us the Order from your own field of action”.
11-The next meeting of the European Council of Lay Dominican Fraternities will be held in Szczecin, Poland, from 15 to 18 April 2010.