We preach for the salvatiom of souls.
The Dominican Family of Trinidad and Tobago


WHAT ARE APOSTOLIC SISTERS? Speaking to religious from all Congregations and Religious Institutes on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord on 2 February 2007, Pope Benedict XVI beautifully described the call of a Religious Sister. Each sister, he said, gives a response without reserveto the initiative of God who has consecrated her to him with a special act of love. Her one expectation is the Kingdom of God: that God reign in her will, in her heart, in the world. In her burns a unique thirst for love which can be quenched by the Eternal One alone.

The Holy Father continued, “By choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, [Religious Sisters] demonstrate that any attachment or love for people and things is incapable of definitively satisfying the heart; that earthly existence is a longer or shorter period of waiting for the ‘face–to–face’ encounter with the divine Bridegroom, an expectation to be lived with an ever vigilant heart, to be ready to recognize and welcome him when he comes.

“Consecrated life, therefore, is by its nature a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God (cf.
Vita Consecrata,
n. 17). And so, when one renounces everything to follow Christ, when one gives to him all that one holds most dear, braving every sacrifice as did the divine Teacher, the consecrated person who follows in Christ's footsteps necessarily also becomes ‘a sign of contradiction’, because her way of thinking and living is often in opposition to the logic of the world, as it is almost always presented in the media.”

Dominican Sisters

There are one hundred and sixty–four Congregations of Dominican Sisters in one hundred countries in the world. They number about thirty–two thousand Sisters. Each of these Congregations is independent from the others but they coordinate in an organization called Dominican Sisters International. They have many forms of apostolate such as teaching, nursing, pastoral services, justice and peace promotion but all are united in the Dominican charism of “Holy Preaching” which consists of prayer, study, community and preaching in the manner most suited to their particular form of apostolate.

One may ask why there are so many Dominican Congregations. The answer rests with history. Religious women lived in cloistered communities until recently. This was the norm,. St. Catherine of Siena was not a religious but a member of a lay fraternity. She did  not live in a community but each member gathered with the others to live community life and apostolic mission during the day. In her time there were no Religious Congregations as we know them today. In later centuries some of the lay fraternities gathered together to live in the same house but they were not religious; they remained as lay women.

It was in the nineteenth century that religious congregations sprang up in many places. The life style of St. Catherine moved many women to found a religious institute that could follow closely her life style. Her zeal had been such that it was difficult to pin–point her apostolic work. She had many: tending to the sick and the dying, teaching, writing, encouraging the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon in France where the Popes resided for seventy years and so forth. If there was a need of the Church or of the faithful, she was involved. What she brought to each of her endeavours was the charism of St. Dominic.

It may be simply explained that the stress is not on
what the Sisters do, but on how they do it. They have a particular way of going about the work of the Church. They are not working outside the Church but are firmly rooted in the Church. They are not doing something different from what others are doing also. But they are doing it in the Dominican way. Their purpose is the salvation of souls and the glory of God.



 Dominican Secular Institutes

Secular Institutes are a relatively new development in the Church. The first official papal document was Provida Mater Ecclesia written by Pope Pius XII in 1947.

Certain lay people desired holiness by being consecrated to God but they did not feel the call to join religious life. By consecration they realised that they would take vows, like the vows of religious, consecrated widows, consecrated virgins and some others, and live in imitation of Christ who was poor, chaste and obedient. They would not necessarily live in community but would live in the world as single lay people either alone or with their families. Nevertheless, they further understood that as they would be following their vocation in the midst of world realities, and without the support of a community where they would live their dedication as lay people, it would be necessary to follow a rule and charism.

The Dominican Order was appreciative of this way of living in the secular world and early on Dominican Secular Institutes were encouraged. For people in Trinidad and Tobago it is of interest that the Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of Etrepagny, who are established in this country, were responsible for the foundation of one of the five Dominican Secular Institutes in France. There are no Dominican Secular Institutes in the English–speaking Caribbean

Twenty–five years after Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Paul VI wrote to the members of Secular Institutes around the world: “Now what was the original inspiration of secular institutes? .... It was a longing, a search, deep and preoccupying, for a synthesis, a way of life combining the two characteristic features of your way of life: full consecration according to the evangelical counsels and freedom to take on the responsibility of a presence and transforming action in the world, from the inside, to shape it, to make it a better world, to sanctify it.”

The question immediately arises: what are Secular Institutes? The quotation from Paul VI is an excellent answer but Pope John Paul II has given a more detailed response in his Apostolic Exhortation
Vita Consecrata
following the Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life. We sum up his teaching in Article 10 as follows:

·        Members of Secular Institutes are a leaven of wisdom and a witness of grace within cultural, economic and political life.

They are a distinctive blending of presence in the world and consecration.

They seek to make present in society the newness and power of Christ’s Kingdom, striving to transfigure the world from within by the power of the Beatitudes.

·        In this way, while they belong completely to God and are thus fully consecrated to his service, their activity in the ordinary life of the world contributes, by the power of the Spirit, to shedding the light of the Gospel on temporal realities.

Secular Institutes, each in accordance with its specific nature, thus help to ensure that the Church has an effective presence in society.

The members of Secular Institutes, by their presence in fields more suited to the lay vocation, can engage in the valuable work of evangelizing all sectors of society, as well as the structures and the very laws which regulate it. Moreover, they can bear witness to Gospel values, living in contact with those who do not yet know Jesus.

There are more than 200 Secular Institutes throughout the world, some in the other West Indian Islands but none in Trinidad & Tobago. Word membership is over 60,000.




To preach, to bless and to praise.