This week marks the beginning of a new academic semester for the student friars in St. Louis. It seems that our study and academic formation are among the top curiosities that family, friends, and acquaintances have about our life.
There are three Dominican studia (Institutes of Studies) in the United States – the friars of the Eastern Dominican Province study at the Dominican House of Studies: Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.; the student friars of the Western Dominican Province study at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California; and we, the student friars of the Central and Southern Provinces, study at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.
At Aquinas Institute, the friars undertake a rigorous program of philosophy and theology which typically takes about six years to complete. (Some friars take less time if they enter the Dominicans having already completed philosophical or theological coursework). In the average semester, the brothers take between four and six classes. These typically include classes in systematic theology, especially focusing on the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, moral theology, pastoral theology, Church history and historical theology and, of course, preaching. The friars are also involved in weekly ministry assignments – some teach and tutor at Catholic grade schools, other serve as chaplains in the county jail, some friars minister to the poor through local parishes or the St. Vincent de Paul Society, other students attend to the sick and dying at hospice care centers. Brothers also have parishes where they are involved on weekends, helping with liturgy, RCIA and other pastoral programs. After the full course of study, the brothers earn a Masters of Arts in Theology and a Masters of Divinity.
The focus of Dominican formation is to form men to become witnesses of their faith and preachers of the Gospel so that, like St. Dominic, the friars can be profitable to the souls of their neighbors, leading others to know and love Jesus Christ.