A most unusual type of Dominican event took place on Friday, October 30th. Simply speaking, a new chapter of the Priestly Fraternities of St. Dominic was formed on that day. Just before the month dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary came to an end, Regina Rosarii Chapter of Joliet, Illinois, of the Chicago Province of St. Albert the Great, became a free-standing chapter of the province, independent of its parent chapter of St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, Illinois. (Joliet is about 30 miles southwest of Chicago.)
Speaking less simply, the new chapter was inaugurated in cyberspace!
The Provincial Promoter of the Priestly Fraternities for the Chicago Province, Father Michael Monshau, O.P., is also the Prior of St. Albert the Great Priory in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The original plan had been that Father Michael would join the new chapter members in Joliet (his hometown), to inaugurate the new chapter and to lead its members on a day of retreat. It turned out, however, that on that day, one of the friars of the Minneapolis priory, Father Chuck Leute, O.P., was a patient at the well-known Mayo Brothers’ Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, seeking a diagnosis for a mysterious and serious illness, and Father Michael was needed to accompany him to the clinic that day. The trip to the clinic with a sick brother eclipsed Father Michael’s visit to be present for a retreat day and the establishment of a new fraternity chapter. Even though the 420-mile journey needed to be cancelled for Father Michael, thanks to modern technology, the retreat schedule only had to be modified, not cancelled.
Tish Azar, secretary at St. Jude Parish in Joliet, Illinois, where the fraternity priests gathered for the day, used her skills in technology to help Father Michael establish contact with the group through Zoom. Father Michael took a laptop computer with him to Mayo Brothers Clinic that day, and whenever he was free, he was in communication with the fraternity group in Joliet through Zoom. The program enabled the parties at both ends of the computer to hear and see each other. And so, Father Michael read the declaration of the establishment of the new chapter to its members from a table in the clinic’s cafeteria at lunchtime, while he delivered a retreat conference on the Dominican’s inner life of contemplation feeding the outer life of preaching from a chair in a windowed 18th-floor breezeway of a patient treatment building. When he was not in a treatment room, Father Chuck sat nearby silently with prayerful interest.
At the end of the day, members of the new fraternity chapter held their first prioral elections. After establishing that all four of the chapter’s charter members would serve as Councilors, ranked by order of their profession, they elected Father Michael Lane of the Diocese of Joliet, as the new chapter’s first prior. Father Lane is the pastor of St. Jude Parish in Joliet. The other members are Fathers Dennis Paul and Matthew Pratscher, pastors of the Diocese of Joliet, and Father Gary Blake, a pastor in the neighboring Diocese of Peoria.
Despite being quite small, interest in forming this chapter emerged when the members considered the possibility of belonging to a small chapter whose members lived close to one another so that the chapter could be a strong, fraternal unit whose members could be a ready source of priestly support to one another.