Academics reflect on new local chapter of Third Order Dominicans

In January of this year, three Notre Dame academics organized a local fraternity of the Third Order Dominicans. Under the guidance of Fr. Henry Stephan, O.P., a doctoral student in Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute, Don Stelluto (Co-Director of the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government), David Lutz (Professor of Philosophy at Holy Cross College), and Francesca Murphy (Notre Dame Professor of Theology) will endeavor to live out Dominican spirituality in their personal and professional lives.

Members of third orders, nowadays typically termed as “professed laity,” are associated with a particular religious order. The Dominican Lay Fraternities are one branch of the Order of Preachers, more commonly known as the Dominicans.

In an email interview with the Rover, Dr. David Lutz explained why he and his colleagues organized a local lay Dominican fraternity:“Saint Dominic de Guzmán founded the Order of Preachers in 1216 for the purpose of preaching and the salvation of souls…the three of us formed this new Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic in order to promote the purpose of the Dominican Order where we live and work.”

Dr. Don Stelluto, who serves as the leader of the local lay fraternity, was also interviewed by the Rover. In the interview, he shared that he has been a lay Dominican since May of 1995, when he was a graduate student at the University of Maryland. He explained that “The Dominican call to balancing the contemplative life with life in the world spoke to [me] as [I] prepared for an academic career.” He told the Rover that within 11 months, the local chapter of lay Dominicans has quickly grown to have 25 members, 22 of whom are currently in the novitiate period of their formation.

According to Stelluto, these lay Dominican novices have been received into the order and are in formation prior to their temporary profession in the spring. A profession is a solemn promise to “live the charism of the order,” as Stelluto noted. After temporary profession, Dominican lay fraternity members continue their study and formation, leading to their perpetual profession three years later (they continue formation for the rest of their lives). Stelluto added that novices, “upon their reception into the order…are vested with the Dominican scapular and become participants in the charism and good works of the order.”

Many third orders in religious communities, including the lay Dominicans, originated in the 13th century, “a time of lay renewal and greater inclusion of laity into the life of the Church,” according to Stelluto. Many of them belong to mendicant orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Carmelites. Mendicant orders differ from monastic orders in that mendicants—called friars—live their charism out in the world, traveling and adopting a lifestyle of poverty, rather than living a more secluded life within the walls of a monastery, as do monks.

Study is an important aspect of Dominican spirituality, as it is one of the four pillars of Dominican life alongside prayer, community, and apostolate (preaching). Because of this, the academic pursuits of lay Dominican professors gain further significance. In an email to the Rover, Abigail Favale, a professor with the McGrath Institute for Church Life and lay Dominican novice, explained, “When rightly rooted in prayer and springing from a vibrant interior life, study becomes not just about the ‘life of the mind’ or academic pursuits, but about pursuing the fullness of truth in the light of Christ.” She continued, “Much of my work as a professor and writer involves ‘contemplating and sharing the fruits of that contemplation,’ which is one of the mottos of the Dominican order.”

When speaking about the Dominican pillar of apostolate, Stelluto noted that “Dominican laypersons are called upon to preach, not as the ordained friars do, from a pulpit, but through their actions, their work, the ways that they treat others, and in the daily circumstances of their lives and vocations in the world.” 

He continued by explaining the importance of study to preaching: “how can we better understand and preach the truth through our actions if we do not study, reflect on what we study, and consider how God calls us to share what we have learned? This is the great challenge of a lay Dominican but done within a supportive community of faithful brothers and sisters, also a great joy.”

When asked about why she decided to join the lay Dominicans, Favale said she was drawn by the example of St. Catherine of Siena, a lay Dominican whose life interested her even before she converted to Catholicism. “Like all Dominicans, [St. Catherine] is devoted to the pursuit of truth, but in her writings, truth is a ‘who,’ not a ‘what’—truth is Christ, and her life is marked by a profound desire to belong to him at all costs.” 

Our lay fraternity would not have ever been possible without the incredible and consistent support of Fr. Henry Stephan, O.P., St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger (where we meet), the pastor there, Fr. Bill Schooler, and Ashley Logsdon, the Director of Adult Faith Formation,” Stelluto said. 

Stelluto concluded the interview by sharing what he wishes for the future of the local lay Dominican fraternity: “We continue to receive questions about how to get started as a lay Dominican and we look forward to our Dominican fraternity here growing in faith and numbers. Our greatest hope, though, is that our work as a fraternity will aid many in the South Bend/ Michiana area to grow closer to God, to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and to love Christ more as they deepen their life of prayer, study, and fraternity with others.”

Bartosz sometimes plays the organ at Log Chapel Mass. If you would like to send an email to him about all the mistakes he made, he can be embarrassed at

Photo Credit:  “Allegory of the Virgin Patroness of the Dominicans,” By Miguel Cabrera.

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