10th Anniversary of the Dominican Volunteers International (DVI)
It is probably one of the Order’s least known entities: Dominican Volunteers International (DVI), the lay missionary project of the Dominican Family. The aim of DVI is to “link persons and communities from different parts of the world in order to collaborate in the preaching mission” of the Order. Each mission involves four persons: the volunteer, DVI (which is co-ordinated from Rome), a Dominican community that forms and sends the volunteers, and a corresponding community that welcomes and receives the volunteer on mission. The project is part of the Order’s wider justice and peace work, as it works primarily with the poor and marginalised.
Since it began in 2000 under the auspices of fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP, who was then Master of the Order, four men from England have gone on mission under DVI. These four have all become friars in the English Province, although only three are still in the Order. They are fr Lawrence Lew, fr Nicholas Crowe, and fr Matthew, one of our novices.
In 2004 I was sent as a Dominican Volunteer to the Dominican parish of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Dagat-dagatan, Manila in the Philippines. It is often a cliché to say that an experience changed one’s life, but I can honestly say that my year with DVI changed my life. By stepping out of my comfort zone, and living in the slums of Manila, my eyes were opened to the ravages of poverty. But at the same time, I also saw how grace abounded in these circumstances. The dignity of the poor with whom I worked shone out in their cheerfulness, their generosity of spirit, and their openness to God and neighbour. From the abundance of their faith, hope, and love, I experienced for the first time the truth in Christ’s teaching: “blessed are the poor”.
As the first Dominican Volunteer to join the Order of Friars Preachers, and to be ordained, I was honoured with an invitation to DVI’s 10th anniversary celebrations in Santa Sabina, Rome. This took place from 20-25 October, and there were five other former volunteers, as well as representatives from a ‘sending community’, and a ‘receiving community’. We came from the Philippines, Peru, Portugal, the Congo, and Columbia. Also present were the out-going Co-Directors of DVI, Sr Rose Ann Schlitt OP, and fr Ed Ruane OP. The new Director, Sr Lucia Fernandez Riega OP, and the new friar assistant, fr. Carlos Linera Rodriguez OP, also took part. In addition, members of the General Curia at Santa Sabina, joined us in prayer, gave us talks, listened to our feedback and reflections, and even cooked for us. Coming from the USA, India, Germany, and Spain, they added to the international flavour of the week.
The six days were full of highlights: Mass in St Dominic’s cell, a celebratory dinner with the new Master, fr Bruno Cadoré, Mass in St Peter’s Basilica celebrated by the Pope. However, what I appreciated was the time together reflecting on our DVI experiences, sharing these with Dominican friars, sisters and laity who had come from across Rome to hear about our work, and planning together for the future of DVI.
Although we had all worked in different contexts, and everyone else seemed to speak Spanish (of which I have a basic grasp), there were certain common elements that united us. Not just the Dominican charism, but the experience of having been young Catholics who had gone to the frontiers of mission, and found Christ among those whom we served, and so, grown as disciples.
In conclusion, I would share just one thought I had while on mission: that before I can be a preacher, I have to be like Christ, the incarnate Word who, as a baby, first became silent and wordless. And in that silence, Christ just lived among us, and learnt to be human. So too with us. And from that silence and being will come forth the words that he will give us … But they have to be words for which we have suffered, and come from that which we have experienced. And this, I hope, is something I learnt with DVI that I shall not forget.
If you would like to be part of the DVI project, or want to find out more about it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website. Below are more photos from the DVI 10th Anniversary celebrations in Rome: