There are tons of lessons I learned from my participation in the 9th Asia-Pacific Common Study program held in Seoul, Korea from July 5 to July 31, 2017. Yet, the big question is: through these myriads of inputs, am I growing? Surely, I am growing several grams heavier, thanks to the nutritious and sumptuous meals provided by the host community. Yet, am I growing in a more meaningful way? The Common Study provided me with a precious opportunity to encounter Dominican brothers from other nations in the region. Not that it was the first time since I basically spent my entire formation with foreigners, or as a foreigner to my fellow Filipino brothers, but the opportunity afforded a taste of Dominican internationality. The Order of Preachers was founded by a Spaniard saint in French soil. The first followers of Dominic were also Europeans as well. One expects that it would grow to be a Europe-centrist congregation, but gratefully, it was not the case. The missionary and itinerancy spirit propelled the friars to move from the boundaries of Christendom to the frontiers. Early Dominicans were preoccupied to engage in dialogue with the Moslem in the Middle East. China and India were always the dreamland of early Dominican evangelization. As soon as the Philippines was discovered by the Europeans, the friars immediately flooded the land.
The Order used to be very Europeans in the sense that many members were coming from this tiny continent, yet as the number of vocations were generally declining in this part of the world, the Order has becomes less European and more global. In fact, it is the internationality of the Order that saves it from crumbling. In Asia, for example, what is the point if we never know and care for each other? This Common Study gives us a venue to meet my brothers from different lands, sharing their joy, struggles and dreams. Their happiness is mine to savor, their sufferings are mine to bear. I am proud to say that I have brothers in India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Korea, South Africa, and many more. We might be fighting in different frontiers, but we fight the same fight. We might be dealing with different issues of injustice particular in our place, but we all preach justice and peace.
If the big question is “have I grown through this Common Study?” the answer is that I have grown in the sense that my identity, horizon, and world have expanded exponentially. Because I am not just my habit, my licentiate thesis, or my books, but I am my brothers working for the poor children in India, am my Pakistani brothers serving the desert people, am my brothers in Iraq living in conflict zones. Groot of the Guardians of the Galaxy used to say one sentence, “I am Groot”, but as he was ready to sacrifice his life to save the other members, he finally said “We are Groot.” I hope that through this common study, I am empowered to say “We are the Order of Preachers.”
From 9th ASIA-PACIFIC Common Study Program, Seoul, South Korea
By Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP