When Kathleen Desrosiers became an empty-nester, she began to pray for a new community that would help to ease the transition. A friend soon invited her to a meeting of Third Order Dominicans.
"I just knew it was the Holy Spirit answering my prayers," recalled Desrosiers, who lives in Bath.
The Third Order Dominicans is a branch of the Order of Preachers created for lay people. The Order of Preachers — also known as the Dominican order — was founded in 1286 by St. Dominic, and the community’s practices are rooted in liturgical prayer, the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. According to www.3op.org, the Web site of the Fraternities of St. Dominic Province of St. Joseph, Eastern United States, lay Dominicans do not necessarily live in community, but they do practice many spiritual disciplines together. Members meet regularly to pray and make a commitment to living by the rule of St. Dominic, who was devoted to study and founded his order around this element of spirituality. The goal of Third Order Dominicans is to praise, to bless and to preach, according to the Web site.
Desrosiers first joined a Third Order Dominicans chapter while living in Buffalo, and now leads the Elmira chapter, which is the only lay Dominicans group in the Rochester Diocese. The Elmira chapter has about 32 members, with 16 attending the monthly meetings. Desrosiers said some members travel a long distance in order to attend these meetings, citing the 45-minute drive to Elmira that she makes from Bath and a fellow member makes from Sayre, Pa.
According to Desrosiers, lay Dominicans follow four pillars: prayer, study, community, and the apostolates. Prayer includes private prayer, common prayer, Mass and reconciliation. In study, lay Dominicans are encouraged to read books on theology and liberal arts, as St. Dominic did. Community means coming together regularly in order to further understand faith and living a Dominican life. According to www.3op.org, apostolates mean the work done for Christ and for the salvation of souls.
"We strive to develop a fuller prayer life. We pray the rosary daily, try to attend daily Mass and pray the Liturgy of the Hours," Desrosiers said.
The Elmira chapter holds meetings on the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Dominican Monastery of Mary the Queen, 1310 W. Church St., Elmira. Meetings begin with an evening prayer, followed by a community rosary, Desrosiers said.
"Then we move on to what we call the business part," she explained. "We discuss the apostolates of our chapter, which are to preach and inform. Some members have individual apostolates, so we’ll talk about those."
Desrosiers said that one member, for example, is involved with Elmira Free Community Kitchen, while others take part in the pro-life movement.
The group then pores over church documents or lessons developed by their province leaders, she said.
"We believe in ongoing formation," she remarked.
Members wrap up meetings by praying over a book of intentions and singing in Latin, Desrosiers said.
According to www.3op.org, in order to join the Third Order Dominicans a candidate must be a sincere Catholic, at least 18 years old and must possess a desire to deepen his or her baptismal vows. Desrosiers said that after spending a year studying with members of the local lay Dominicans chapter, a candidate will enter a simple profession period. This is a period of three years that the candidate dedicates to the Dominican lifestyle. After the three years, the candidate makes a final profession, sealing the person in the order for life, the Web site noted.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Third Order Dominicans chapter in Elmira, contact Kathleen Desrosiers at 607-776-4818.