As the academic year comes to a close in the coming weeks, the student friars at St. Dominic Priory will begin their summer assignments and ministries. While the academic year places a heavy focus on our intellectual formation, summer placements tend to focus more on pastoral formation. The brothers are generally given a wide variety of experiences over the course of formation to help them grow as preachers, future pastors and ministers of the Church.
Typically, brothers who have completed their first year of studies embarks on a “Social Justice Summer.” This experience entails working or living amongst the poor and marginalized. Very often, our brothers go to foreign countries – Kenya, Bolivia, Nigeria, Haiti – where they live with friars in that country and do apostolic work directly with the poor. Some friars might stay in the United States for that summer and work with ministries here that help serve the poor and marginalized in our midst.
Brothers in their second year normally do Clinical Pastoral Education, an internship program in a medical setting. We go to major medical centers across the country where we minister as hospital chaplains. This helps the brothers develop pastoral skills and learn crisis management. It also gives insight into one facet of parish life: pastors at Dominican parishes visit parishioners in the hospital to pray with them and their families.
Brothers in their third, fourth and fifth years have more flexibility in their summer assignments. Some enroll in language immersion programs to brush on up a foreign language. Others engage in ministry in a Dominican parish. A brother might develop the summer to writing his thesis or preparing for comprehensive exams in fulfillment of the degree requirements for our academic formation. These summers don’t have as specific as a goal as the first two summers, but can still be quite formative and enjoyable.
Our non-academic formation is just as important – sometimes even more important – in forming and training us to be effective priests and brothers who preach, minister, and witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.