By Kristen Hannum

Of the Sentinel

'When you've seen one Dominican, you've seen one Dominican,' jokes Cecilia Hoesly. 'There are so many ministries.'

Hoesly is prioress of the Holy Rosary Dominican Laity.

In some places, Dominicans work with people living with AIDS, with drug addicts, and especially with low-income groups, minorities and youth.

The order has recently reaffirmed its option for the poor, for justice and for peace. 'Every brother, every community and every province must take up the defense of the poor and the suffering,' reads a statement from a recent Dominican meeting in Mexico City.

In the Portland Archdiocese, the nearly 20 Dominican friars are especially involved in pastoral work, teaching and campus ministry. Six Dominicans staff the St. Thomas More University Parish and the Newman Center on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. Three are at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish in Ashland and the Newman Center at Southern Oregon State University there. They're also responsible for Holy Rosary Parish, Portland, and Star of the Sea Parish in Brookings. Dominican priests teach at Marist High School and the University of Oregon in Eugene. The Dominicans also operate a retreat house, St. Benedict Lodge, in McKenzie Bridge.

Dominican Father Paul Duffner is director of the Rosary Center, across Third Avenue from the church and priory.

Catholic tradition gives the Dominicans credit for the rosary and its use. A legend says that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Dominic in a dream, giving him a rosary and showing him how to use it.

The Rosary's Center's mission of sending rosaries to missions around the world is a vital one, says Hoesly, who works alongside Father Duffner, still going strong in his 80s.

His health and happiness are, perhaps, testimony to the Dominicans' balanced lives.

'It's a happy, easy house to be a prior for,' says Dominican Father Paul Raftery, prior, of the priory and the men with whom he lives. 'The priests here are patient. They know I'm doing this for the first time.'

Balanced lifestyle

Dominican Father Thomas McGreevy, whose good humor prevails over a recent surgery for cataracts, notes that Dominicans are encouraged to spend time studying and 'to share the fruits of our studies with others.'

In the United States' revved up, on-the-go culture, that activity may not be seen as a priority. But Father McGreevy and the half-dozen other Dominicans at Holy Rosary Priory in Northeast Portland see it as a primary part of their charism, as well as part of what makes their religious lives healthy.

'It's one of the most balanced lifestyles I'm aware of,' says Father McGreevy. 'The Rule encourages people to grow as Christians.'

The Dominican Rule is based on that of St. Augustine, and emphasizes communal life, ministry and study.

The Rule is almost 800 years old, as is the order, one of the major religious communities of the Catholic Church.

Dominicans take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Unlike the Benedictines, they take no vow of stability, no pledge to a particular house. They join, rather, the entire order. 'It's been said that the world is our cloister,' says Father Raftery.

And unlike diocesan priests, says Father McGreevy, the Dominicans perceive vocation to be living in community, 'sharing our lives with our brothers.'

There are three types of professed Dominicans: the fathers and brothers; the sisters; and the laity. Members of all three live in the Archdiocese of Portland.

Finding their way

Fathers McGreevy's and Raftery's journey to the order is like that of many other Dominicans. Both imagined they might like to be priests early on, Father Raftery when he was a high school senior. A couple years later, he felt certain that he had a vocation, but he wasn't sure what order he would join. He considered the Trappists, the Dominicans and the Maryknollers - the first a contemplative order, the last an active one. He decided on the Dominicans because it is both.

For Father McGreevy, who had been more familiar with diocesan priests, it was a friend who persuaded him to come with him into a Dominican seminary. Although the friend left the seminary for a secular career, marriage and fatherhood, Father McGreevy had found his place in the world.

Vocations have been looking up recently: there are nine novices for the coming year's class. To become a Dominican priest or brother, men spend one novice year at St. Albert's Priory in Oakland, Calif., and then seven years as students at the the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley. They take temporary vows after their first year and lifetime vows after their fifth.

Father McGreevy believes the natural inclination of some men to be part of a community is part of how he can tell if he would be happier as a religious or diocesan priest. 'Americans are highly individualistic,' he says. 'It works against us as Dominicans.'

The Dominicans emphasis on solid doctrine was important to Father Raftery. 'Historically, the Dominicans have had a concern making sure people get solid doctrine,' he says.

Loyalty to the Pope

Long-time Holy Rosary parishioner Joseph Foye says the Dominicans' faithfulness is important to him and other parishioners as well. 'The priests carry out the teaching so the Magisterium of the Church,' he says. 'They're loyal to the Pope.'

That loyalty, as well as many other Dominican traditions, was born with the order in 1216. This was the time of the Albigensian heresy, and St. Dominic's missions to the sect's followers. Based in southern France and northern Italy, the Albigensians believed that Satan and God were equals, with Satan's realm the earth and God's heaven. They denied the sacraments and believed that Jesus was never truly man.

St. Dominic brought many Albigensians back to the church. He was, in general, though, unsuccessful in converting members of the ascetic sect, and a crusade was launched against them by Pope Innocent III.

Although St. Dominic is often associated with that crusade, Father Raftery says that no historical document shows that he supported it.

History does show that St. Dominic loved the poor, at one point selling all his possessions to help those dying of famine in Spain.

Dominican saints include many who lived out their religious life close to the poor, including St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Martin de Porres, and St. Rose of Lima.

Dominican saints also include notable theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas.

Study key for laity

Cecelia Hoesly, prioress of the Holy Rosary Dominican Laity, and the 40 or so active members of the lay group, formerly called the Third Order, spend hours every week in study. Their reading, lectures and discussions include St. Thomas Aquinas' masterpiece, Summa Theologica, in which he argued that faith and reason are harmonious, and that theology and science cannot contradict one another.

A second Dominican Laity at Holy Rosary is made up of families; many are involved in home schooling.

The Dominican Laity were founded in Portland in 1894, the same year that the Dominican Fathers established Holy Rosary. The laity also traces its roots back to St. Dominic, says Hoesly. He depended upon lay people, often converted Albigensians, to preach to their neighbors.

The Dominican Laity, she says, is the closest a person can come to being a religious without public vows. They minister in various areas (Hoesly teaches the sixth grade catechism class at Holy Rosary), pray the rosary daily, say the liturgy of the hours, and many say the office of readings as well. Members belong to a number of parishes, both in Portland and further away.

Although she's thought of becoming a Dominican Sister (several of whom serve at St. Therese School) Hoesly says she's needed where she is now, at the Rosary Center. 'Following the spirit, I feel pretty sure that where I am is where I belong.'