TangcoBelen Tangco, the former Arts and Letters dean who is now head of lay Dominicans in the Philippines, plans to expand the membership of what was formerly called the Third Order by recruiting younger people to join the Order’s preaching mission.

Tangco is in Rome to witness the international order’s General Chapter, the Dominicans’ highest governing body that gathers every three years and elects the Master of the Order every nine years.

“I have tried to bring some kind of continuity of ideas,” Tangco said in an interview posted on the Dominican Order’s website following the election of the new Master, Bruno Cadoré. “I have asked for clarifications and proposed some measures pertaining to various regional situations.”

“Central importance must be given to the preaching mission itself,” Tangco said. “To be a preacher is to name grace and to point out where the blessings of God are.”

Tangco said there are 2,500 active lay Dominicans in the Philippines. While the membership is growing, the challenge is to overcome the “rising age profile” of the membership, she said.

“Our fraternities, which number around 65 canonically erected chapters, can now be found in territories of the Philippines from north to south,” Tangco said.

“[L]ately we have been receiving young people into our fraternities too and integrating them into our life. We do this by encouraging undergraduates in the University of Santo Tomas to begin their formation in their first year, so that by the time they graduate they would be professed lay Dominicans. And we also have expanded our ‘Thomasian Professionals’ program to include non-teaching staff of the University,” she added.

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Tangco said the Dominican laity collaborate with the local clergy to run medical and dental missions, visit prisoners, and help the priests prepare for baptisms and weddings.

The local Dominican laity also has a charitable group called Alab-Veritas-Caritas, which “seeks to preach the truth of the Gospel.”

It does not only do charitable work for the poor, the sick, and abandoned persons, but also relay the truth of what is happening in the country, she said. “We use the media to convey the message that truth is unchanging,” Tangco said. Robin G. Padilla

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