Collaborative Library Sharing

Not only library sharing, but at the Dominican Monastery In Ortonville, Michigan, the nuns invite the priests of the Priestly Fraternity for hospitality, prayer, and even some sewing. Here Sister Maria Veronica measures Fr. Ed Fride for the Dominican scapular the fraternity priests may wear during ceremonies.    

Dominicans require books. Recently, several Dominican entities made generous offers to make their library facilities available to certain members of the Order whose circumstances provide them with scant access to Dominican literature. 

Perhaps one of the least well-known entities in the Dominican Family is the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic. Formerly, diocesan priests were admitted to chapters of the Third Order lay Dominicans and were known as tertiary priests or as “the other Brothers.” In recent years, with the disappearance of the language of First, Second and Third Orders, separate chapters of the former Third Order were established for the laity and for diocesan priests. The chapters for priests are now called the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic.

The Priestly Fraternities have been slow to form, but the friars of the Chicago Province (St. Albert the Great) have put concentrated effort into their development and currently, fifteen diocesan priests from throughout the Midwest and Puerto Rico belong to the St. Vincent Ferrer Chapter established in River Forest, IL. In one term as the Promoter, Father Thomas McDermott, O.P., did an admirable job creating the group’s structure. Father James Dominic Rooney, O.P., moderated the development of a small fraternity in St. Louis. Currently, Father Michael Monshau, O.P., serves as the Provincial Promoter.

At a recent council meeting, the members noted how difficult it was to have access to Dominican literature. Participants, none of whom reside in the same city and few of whom are even in the same State, wondered about the plausibility of maintaining a library of their own somewhere. Then mention was made of a virtual library. The council meeting adjourned without reaching clarity about a plan of action.

Several days later, Father Michael Monshau, the Promoter, thought to himself, “I have spent most of the past two decades living outside of my own Province, but I remembered that when I was a younger friar, we midwest Dominicans were known for initiating all manner of collaborative Dominican Family projects. So I wondered if that spirit would serve the fraternity brothers in the library project today. It did! I made one call of enquiry, and before I knew it, a network of excellent Dominican libraries sprinkled throughout the Midwest agreed to extend reading room privileges and in most cases, borrowing privileges as well, to our fraternity priests. It was a fine example of Dominican Family collaboration.”

The libraries have offered the priests an interesting array of privileges. Sister Judith Hilbing, O.P., local Prioress at the Motherhouse of the Springfield Dominican Sisters in Illinois, granted the Fathers library usage and full borrowing privileges; Sister Karen Fredrickson, O.P., Director of the Siena Center (Racine Motherhouse) in Wisconsin did the same. Father Michael Mascari, O.P., Dean at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO, granted reading room privileges to the priests while a construction project repurposing some of the Aquinas building and lack of staff precluded the checking out of books. Father De Porres Durham, O.P., Prior of St. Dominic Priory in St. Louis opened the priory library to the fraternity priests.    

Sister Anne Mary, O.P., Prioress of the contemplative Sisters at Our Lady of Mt, Thabor Monastery in Ortonville, MI, not only opened her library to the priests, but also invited them to use the monastery guest house for days of prayer, study or fraternity meetings.

Undoubtedly, new associations will be formed through this generous sharing of library resources that will eventually benefit the Holy Preaching of the Order. 

Father Michael Monshau, O.P.

Chicago Province