Lay Dominicans pose for a photo with Dominican Fr David Garcia (fourth from left). From left: Mr Michael Yip (temporarily professed), Prof Richard Davis (novice), Ms Karen Seet (made temporary profession in 2009), Mr Francis Nyan (solemnly professed), Mrs Chris Yeo (solemnly professed), Mr Jason Koh (novice), Dr Sally Ho (temporarily professed), Ms Estella Young (solemnly professed), Ms Anna Low (solemnly professed), Dr Tan Hsien-Li (made temporary profession in 2010). Not in the photo: Ms Priscilla Huang (solemnly professed).
Five Singaporeans made history on Aug 7 by becoming the first solemnly professed Lay Dominicans in the country.
This act establishes the Fraternity of St Francis de Capillas, named after the Dominican friar who was the first martyr of China. Called to live the Dominican charism of prayer, study and preaching as laypeople, their mission is to share God’s love and Christian truth in the secular world.
The promise by Mr Francis Nyan, Mrs Chris Yeo, Ms Anna Low, Ms Priscilla Huang and Ms Estella Young to live by the rule of the Lay Dominicans until death was a long time coming.
Though some had been studying Scripture with the Dominican friars since the latter entered Singapore in 2000, previous efforts to start a lay fraternity had failed due to a lack of numbers. Finally, a small group met at a Serangoon Gardens sarabat stall in May 2006 and pledged to spend a year discerning whether to try again.
After studying Dominican spirituality and Church teachings on the lay vocation, eight Catholics became novices of the provisional fraternity erected in August 2007 with the approval of the Dominican Order.
A year later, they made a temporary profession (for three years). In addition to the five solemnly professed members, the group – which now comprises four men and seven women – has four temporarily professed, and two novices. Most are professionals in their 30s.
Mr Nyan, 39, a banker on the archdiocese’s Liturgical Music Committee, said he was elated to be a Dominican, having admired its dedication to truth since meeting its friars and studying St Thomas Aquinas’ theology at Oxford University.
Mrs Yeo, an accountant in her 50s, said the Dominican meetings had helped her be a better catechist by exploring how the Church’s rules were rooted in truth and love.
Real estate agent Anna Low, 44, a convert to Catholicism, said studying with the Dominicans showed her how reason was an essential part of faith. “I look forward to giving more of myself to this community and to God,” she said.
Dominican Fr David Garcia, who celebrated the Mass where the professions were made, said in his homily that he felt “very happy but a little scared, like a father bringing his newborn home from the hospital”. This was because he had guided the group over the last decade, but now the fraternity could chart its own path.
The Dominican rule emphasises prayer, study, preaching and fraternal love. Each lay member lives these according to his state of life but does not live communally or take the vows of poverty and celibacy. Four of the five who made their solemn professions are married with children.
Many are also parish catechists or support the Church at the diocesan level. The fraternity meets twice monthly to deepen their spiritual lives. Meetings are open to all.
Fraternity members lead discussions on a wide range of topics, such as inter-religious dialogue, bioethics, IT and education.
Dr Sally Ho, Master of the Catholic Medical Guild, was one of two who made their temporary professions also on Aug 7. The Dominicans “helped me get to the roots of my faith and understand what I believed”, she said.
The other who made a temporary profession was Mr Michael Yip, 33, a logistics executive.
University professor Richard Davis, 39, one of the two men who entered the novitiate in Easter, said he had been drawn to the Dominicans’ intellectual curiosity since becoming Catholic in 2002 because he liked people “who took their faith seriously but didn’t follow it blindly”.