Sunday, September 05, 2010

For the OPs, an MD

For the 290th time, one of the church's most storied religious communities convened in General Chapter last week in Rome… and early this morning saw the highlight of the Dominicans' signal gathering: the election of a new Master of the Order, the ballot going to the French provincial, Fr Bruno Cadoré, who now becomes the 86th successor of St Dominic.

A medical doctor by (secular) profession, the 56 year-old friar (shown above left after his election) succeeds the Argentinian Carlos Azpiroz Costa, who maintained the order's longstanding tradition of handing over the reins after one nine-year term. Warmly hailed among his fans as a "stellar leader," Azpiroz's tenure was arguably overshadowed on the wider scene by the profile of his predecessor, the celebrated Englishman Timothy Radcliffe, who memorably declared on departing the post that "after nine years as a Jack of all trades and Master of the Dominican Order, I have no expertise on anything except airports and exotic foods."

The new Master inherits a community of some 7,000 men in 88 countries, who work in apostolates ranging from parishes to the Papal Palaces and, of course, the classroom -- its hallmark mission-field -- with the order either providing campus ministry at or operating hundreds of universities worldwide. Held every three years, the current Chapter has outlined its work in four questions on its mission, with an eye to the 800th anniversary of the order's confirmation by Pope Honorius III come 2016.

This year likewise marks the 500th anniversary of the Dominican presence in the Americas… and appropriately enough, the community's East Coast province recently made a splash by welcoming its largest novice class in almost a half-century.

Back at the Chapter, meanwhile, it's been nearly three decades since a Master of the Order hailed from French roots.

PHOTO: Lawrence Lew OP