On July 13, 2019, the Order of Preachers welcomed the 87th successor of St. Dominic de Guzman, in the person of Fr. Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, O.P., a son of the Dominican Province of the Philippines and first Asian Master of the Order. The ceremonies took place in line with the Elective General Chapter currently being held in Bien Hoa in Vietnam.
In a message to the community gathered in Vietnam, the new Master of Order confessed to an initial resistance to the election. Had it not been for the prayers and the encouragement of the brothers, “the answer would have been ‘no.’” Recalling what Fr. Vivian Boland, O.P., Socius of the Master for North West Europe and Canada, ““We have prayed for the Holy Spirit. We must trust the brothers.”
Recognizing the challenges of the modern times, fr. Timoner said that the present times of the Church seem to point out a time “when the Church needs a Francis and a Dominic. There is a need for a new evangelization, and we are all called to do precisely that.” To do so, fr. Timoner echoed the call of his predecessor, fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P., for the Order to revisit its mission.
“‘We are preachers [said St. Dominic].’ It is not what we do. It is who we are. Mission is not what we do. It is who we are. And if that is clear, everything will just follow. We are preachers even when we are not preaching. We are preachers even if in our old age, we can no longer speak. We are preachers even if we are not ordained. We are preachers even if we are sick. We are preachers even if we are doing serious research alone in our rooms. We are preachers when we are helping the less privileged. We are preachers. That is our identity.”
The new Master of the Order called on the Dominican family to be in communion and to talk with one another, to overcome differences, and agree, “and once we have agreed, I think that is my job, to be the first among brothers to say ‘We should do what we have set to do.’”
Fr. Timoner, who hails from Camarines Norte, was the immediate past Socius of the Master for Asia-Pacific and prior to that was the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines. His formal assignment in the Province is in the Priory of Saint Thomas Aquinas in UST, where was once the Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs and Rector of the Central (Interdiocesan) Seminary. In 2014, Fr. Timoner was named a member of the International Theological Commission by Pope Francis himself. As the new Master of the Order, Fr. Timoner now takes over as UST’s Grand Chancellor.