New General Promoter for the Laity

On 8 September 2023, the Master of the Order, Br. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, OP, appointed Br. Cristóbal Torres Iglesias, OP, son of the Province of St. Martin de Porres in the USA, as General Promoter for the Laity. Br. Cristóbal succeeding Br. Juan Ubaldo López Salamanca, OP, son of the Province of St. Louis Bertrand in Colombia.

Born in New York on 28 December 1971 to Cuban-born parents Gelacio Santiago Torres and Esperanza Iglesias Toribio, Br. Cristóbal and his sister María were raised in Hudson County, New Jersey. Br. Cristóbal entered the Dominican Order in 2009 and made his first profession on 8 August 2010. He was ordained to the diaconate on 19 2013, and the presbyterate in June 2014.

Br. Cristóbal completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers University; received a Master of Social Work at New York University; a Master of Divinity at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri; and a Doctorate of Ministry at Barry University in Miami, Florida. 

In his province he served for nine years as University Chaplain and Adjunct Professor of Theology at Barry University. He has also served the Order as an interpreter and translator at numerous gatherings, including the International Congress for the Mission of the Order (2017), and the General Chapters of Trogir (2013), Bologna (2016), Biên Hòa (2019), and Tultenango (2022). 

Br. Cristóbal is a visual artist who preaches through iconographical works and graphic novels. His works include: Dominican Last Supper; the design for the windows of St. Rose of Lima Chapel at Zanmi Beni children’s community in Port au Prince, Haiti; the Cor Jesu Chapel icon cross at Barry University; cover art for A Prophet to the Peoples: Paul Farmer’s Witness and Theological Ethics by Wipf and Stock Publishers; and various works featured in publications and private collections. 

Br. Cristóbal looks forward to accompanying the brothers and sisters of the Dominican Laity and the International Dominican Youth Movement throughout the world as they live the Order’s preaching charism in profoundly varied ways, creatively bearing to others the fruits of their contemplation.  

Fra. Angelico’s Annunciation: a Dominican fresco that preaches.

Angelico’s Annunciation sits on my desk, and I look at it daily, pondering its meaning and message. It reminds me of my recent visit to San Marco in Florence and its astonishing sacred art. The Dominicans have a remarkably rich artistic heritage. 

Fra. Angelico composed scenes of spiritual intensity, fusing piety and innovation to create opportunities for contemplation and reflection. He pioneered many stylistic trends of the early Renaissance, including the rational treatment of pictorial space and the volumetric modeling of forms with light and shadow, placing himself at the forefront of artistic innovation.

He captures the moment in Christianity when Gabriel appears to Mary and announces she will give birth to the Son of God. 

The fresco is large, 230 x 297cm, and is the first image you see as you ascend the stairs to the friars’ cells. Its location makes a dramatic impact. The scene, set under a plastered, bare arcade, reflects the Michelozzo cloisters on the ground floor of San Marco. It is different in mood from previous Annunciation paintings and icons. This artwork does not tell you how to feel; it summons or jolts you into its world. The setting is austere and intimate. Something important is happening, but the angel looks modest and confiding. There are no trumpet blasts, no immediate sense that this angel is an emissary of the Creator. 

Fra. Angelico, influenced by Masaccio’s naturalism and the innovative techniques of Brunelleschi and Alberti, has shaped and styled his work to make the mystery of the Incarnation a graspable visual language.

The painting is quiet and understated but bursts with hidden meaning. The Gothic flatness of the work belies its emotional complexity. Depth is depicted by columns receding in size, which Fra. Angelico colours and shades so that they fade into the background.

He embeds rationality and precision by creating illusionistic settings using linear perspective. He works with Michelozzo’s architecture, emphasising the continuity between an actual and a simulated space. Fra. Angelico’s artistic signature of light, with spatial and perspective simplicity,  is epitomised in this fresco.

He embeds rationality and precision by creating illusionistic settings using linear perspective. He works with Michelozzo’s architecture, emphasising the continuity between an actual and a simulated space. Fra. Angelico’s artistic signature of light, with spatial and perspective simplicity,  is epitomised in this fresco.

The figures of Mary and Gabriel are life-sized, and the location of the fresco means the viewer can read the work very closely. There is no distance between the art and the beholder, as there would be in an altarpiece or a suspended crucifix. The loggia setting is austere, with Mary modestly dressed, reflecting her chastity and seclusion. 

There are no decorative distractions as Fra. Angelico focuses on the seismic moment of the Annunciation, Mary’s unquestioning response, and the occasion’s intimacy and spirituality. He places the Annunciation scene in a space familiar to Dominicans, a place of routine, prayer, reflection, learning, serenity and community. The painting embodied Thomistic theology and the maxims of perfection, proportion, radiance and pleasure in moderation.

At first, everything in the fresco seems out of proportion. However, as you ascend the steep stairs, it begins to make perfect sense spatially, stylistically and spiritually within the context of the monastic cells at San Marco. You ascend in confusion and arrive at a point where suddenly everything makes sense. It is like looking at a blurred image, which unexpectedly comes into complete focus. Fra. Angelico suggests that the path from confusion and uncertainty to clarity and focus is challenging. This movement from chaos to order invites you into a world of reflection and spiritual awakening.

There is ambiguity in the space of the painting. The flatness on the left side, with its persistence on its two-dimensionality, complete with forest and lawn, suggests an enclosed garden. The right side is initially discombobulating as Mary is too tall for the space. The delicate pale pink of the angel’s robe matches the upper part of Mary’s garment. Mary’s shadows fall to the back of her simple wooden stool, emphasising her humanity, but Gabriel does not cast shadows, revealing his Heavenly status. 

The halo’s form is a subtle, understated choice, but Gabriel’s brightly coloured and luminously decorated wings add colour and a sense of mystery. They sparkle and must have been striking in the natural half-light of the monastery. Mary and Gabriel are idealised forms framed together but separated by a column; their gazes meet along a diagonal and interact, echoing each other’s gestures, with Mary leaning forward respectfully, listening carefully and accepting God’s command delivered by a half-kneeling Gabriel. 

Mary is composed and serenely accepts her role. A barred window in the next cell symbolises her chastity, and the high palisade enveloping the garden references Mary’s contemplative life. There is a surprising level of realism revealed in minor detail. The drapes and folds in the garments of Mary and Gabriel produce a sense of fluidity, and the plants and trees beyond the fence are flourishing, suggesting life and growth. 

The fresco’s placement defines its purpose not as a work of didacticism but as a temporal work for contemplation and reflection. It is a profoundly serene, deeply spiritual piece that makes the viewers focus on Mary’s humanity and humility. The scene is a masterpiece of narrative and calculated use of space.  Fra. Angelico’s use of emptiness, visual transformation, and displacement gives visual form to the mystery of faith. 

Christopher J. Crowley, Cardiff

A ‘New St Dominic’

In the Pauluskerk in Antwerp (Belgium), which is full of art from past centuries, a ‘new St. Dominic’ was revealed on Saturday 7 May, made by the Dutch painter Egbert Modderman.

The painting is a gift from the lay Domincans to the brothers of the new province of Belgian and the Netherlands, which will be formally erected by the end of May. The Prior of Antwerp fr. Didier Croonenberghs OP unveiled the man-sized canvas, together with lay Dominicans Karin Bornhijm (NL) and Tommy Vandendriesche (B). It was the crowning glory  day of study of Dutch and Flemish lay Dominicans, with about a hundred participants.

The painting shows Saint Dominic cleaning his feet before putting on his shoes, just before entering a city. It was created as a result of the project ‘Leven in Volheid’ (in translation: ‘Life in Fullness’. In this project, named after the translated book by fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP (English title: Alive in God), twelve artists and members of the Dominican family met about the Christian imagination. They created dance, music, theatre and other art in the process.

The internationally renowned young painter Egbert Modderman was invited by professor of theology and lay Dominican Stephan van Erp to work together. He asked the painter to create a new image of Saint Dominic. By means of crowdfunding, a substantial personal contribution and a donation of the Dutch province the painting could be realised.

At the presentation Egbert Modderman said that he noticed with how much affection Dominican sisters and brothers speak about their founder, who never put himself on the foreground and who, as Dominican historian Anton Milh put it, was often strict to himself but mild to others.

Modderman wanted to paint the gentleness, the contemplation and the earthiness of the holy mendicant brother. The story that St. Dominicus liked to travel barefoot but put on shoes when he went into a city had struck him.

There was a loud round of applause at the unveiling of the canvas. The painter Modderman, who became known for his depiction of Saint Martin for the protestant Martinikerk in Groningen, also indicated that he was really satisfied with the work. People described the work as moving, deceptively simple, pointing a way in.

University Chaplaincy – a Lay Dominican’s perspective

I have been a University Chaplain for almost 20 years now, first for 12 years at Keele University and now, since 2016 at Bangor University. Over the years I have seen a number of changes that impact on Chaplaincy. There are less Catholic students from the UK than there used to be, but the number of Catholic international students has increased. Recently we have seen significant numbers coming from India and Nigeria, and a significant number of these coming with families. The level of knowledge of their faith is often higher with the international students, and they also tend to be more committed to its regular practice. There seems to be a significant increase in the number of students with extra support needs. 

There are several different aspects to my role – I am a member of a Chaplaincy Team that is affiliated to the University through Student Services, in that I am a Chaplain to the whole University. I am also the Chaplaincy Team Coordinator – trying to bring together the actions of a 12-person strong multifaith Team in regard to our shared activities and being the first point of contact for University staff. 

But the core of my role, where my heart is, is in working with students who are, or who are interested in being, Catholic. As the Catholic Chaplain I am here to offer help and support in any way I can, whether that be through the hospitality that Allison (my wife) and I provide, through the events I arrange, through catechesis and faith guidance or as a listening ear.

Statistics show that many who are brought up as practicing Catholics stop when they get to university – not because they have actually decided that they no longer believe – but rather because it ‘just happens’. So, I want to highlight to students how important it is to strive to maintain and grow their faith whilst at university.  It’s not easy – there are many competing distractions, many students now have to get jobs on top of doing their academic work, there are many temptations, they may have many questions about their faith (it’s important to ask questions and it is part of my role to help find answers) – but it’s vital to find time for faith in what can be a very busy schedule. Sometimes it’s difficult too because there are lots out there who may not understand their Catholicism and some who may have a negative view, including some academics.

This is where involvement in the Chaplaincy can help. We seek to build a real community that can offer a place of safety which is also a place where students (and staff) can enjoy themselves, grow in understanding of their faith and grow closer to God, all in the company of friends. The Chaplaincy, and our student society, Cathsoc, organise a varied programme of activities throughout the academic year. Ranging from talks and discussions to film nights, from pilgrimages and retreats to walks and days out, from Sacraments to socials. Our aim is that there is something for all to grow, in faith and in friendship.

Because of the short-term dynamic, the life of a Chaplaincy has to be constantly refreshed. New students come, they are established as part of the community by building bonds of friendship, mutual support and a sharing in the exploration of faith. But blink and those same students are busy finalists looking to the future beyond university.  

Part of the reward of being a Chaplain is getting to know all of these young people, being able to walk with them in a period in their lives that is characterised by challenge, growth and development. And hopefully being able to help to see that some of that growth and development comes in terms of their relationship with Christ and his Church. Part of the reward is in helping to build a healthy community, because a healthy community is made up of people who realise that life isn’t just about self-interest. My hope and prayer is that the students who become part of the Catholic Chaplaincy community take this with them when they leave for the next phase of their lives. One of the nicest things is when, occasionally, I hear from past students how the Chaplaincy helped them to hold on to and mature in their Catholic Faith.      

 Ray Bayliss, North West Fraternal Group 

News from around the Province


During 2023 we came together for:

Dominican Seminar 2023. This year’s seminar took place from 17-19 March, at Hinsley Hall in Leeds. The seminar was attended by many branches of the Dominican family – friars, sisters, Lay Dominicans, the Priestly Fraternity, the Secular Institute and Associates.  The theme was Being Prophetic: Reading the Signs of the Times and Being a Sign for the Time.

St Dominic and his Preachers of Grace. A conference held at Assembly Hall, New College, Edinburgh in June.

The conference celebrated our history of preaching, demonstrated how we preach today and asked the question, “what does preaching in the future look like?”

Mass of Thanksgiving at Stone. On Friday 14th July, Lay Dominicans from many of our fraternities joined the Sisters of the English Dominican Congregation at a Mass of Thanksgiving for 170 years of Dominican life and mission at their convent in Stone, as the sisters prepare to leave the convent.

Lay Dominican Scotland and North East England Regional Day.  Lay Dominicans from the region came together for a day of community, prayer and learning.

Lay Dominican Assembly 2023.  This year’s annual Assembly was on the theme of Synodality. Lay Dominicans from across the Province were joined by our Prior Provincial, fr. Martin Ganeri OP and the Provincial Promoter of the Laity, fr. John Farrell OP, for a day of talks, discussion, prayer and our Annual General Meeting.

Requiescant in Pace

We remember with affection and gratitude all the recently departed.

  • Pamela McNeil
  • Ted Bachell
  • Rev. Nick Baggio
  • Maureen Hawkes
  • Anna Baidoun
  • Colin Barnes
  • Lionel Carriere
Lord, at Thy Passion love did conquer fear;
Now share that triumph with these souls so dear:
Banish their sorrows, let Thy light appear.
O grant them pardon, Jesus Saviour blest,
And give their spirits light and endless rest.

Fraternity news

Cambridge Fraternity  

Jill Gunsell, President

We began 2023 by hosting our annual Epiphany Tea Party in Blackfriars, courtesy of the Prior, for the Cambridge Friars and Sisters. Lots of great chat (because, of course, ‘OP’ stands for on parle, at least according to Fr Bob) and lots of goodies to eat and drink. The leftovers were given into the care of Brother George Gillow OP, well-known for his skill in ensuring that not a morsel goes to waste. 

At that early point in the year, we had two Enquirers, Edmund and Helen, who were soon joined by a third, Louis. Since the summer, three more ‘Sniffers’ have come to us: Howard, Ed and Natasha, so that we are now seventeen strong. Sadly, two are unable to attend meetings because they care for a disabled son but their family is ever in our prayers and two others have poor health and come when they can. Up on the Norfolk coast is Elizabeth, for whom public transport to Cambridge is no more than a fond memory. The last surviving member of the Walsingham Fraternal Group, Sheila, is deemed (by us) to be an Hon. Member of our Fraternity. Our Religious Assistant is Father Colin Carr OP whose kindness and learned interventions are legendary. We produce a monthly newsletter which circulates to all members and some friends in the Order.

We meet from 10.00 until 16.00 in the Old Library of Blackfriars on the first Saturday of each month except August. The Brethren are famously hospitable to us, and we return their kindness by leaving nothing behind us on Saturday evenings except our footprints, i.e. we wash up and remove our rubbish. We give the Priory a little Christmas thank-you, often a piece of kitchen equipment or whatever the Bursar decides they need.

Our monthly meeting is in three parts. The Early Formation Group (Enquirers, Admitted, Temporarily Professed) meets for an hour from ten o’clock during which the rest gather for coffee and catch-up. Everyone joins up at eleven o’clock for prayers and a Formation/Study session until Mass and Rosary at noon. After our bring-and-share-lunch- cum-business-meeting, we have a second Study session until Evening Prayer at about 15.30. Our Formation sessions are very varied. We follow the Province’s guidelines on topic-headings for the most part, with a talk and discussion in which we learn a great deal from listening to each other. One of us will lead the session unless we have an invited guest speaker. This year we have welcomed inter alia Father Dominic White OP (Dominican chant) Sister Tamsin Geach OP (The Priesthood of the Laity) and Sister Maria Pavlina OP (Preaching through the Creative Arts and Performance). Topics led by Fraternity members have included Job (Jill), Iconography (Steven), Catholic Art (Ian) St Catherine (Helen), Creation in Catholicism and Scientism (Louis) and more. 

During the year, some of us were able to go to Dominican Family events at Walsingham, Edinburgh, Stone, Leeds and Leicester and shared their experience at those meetings with us. Our Fraternity highlights this year were our Admissions. Louis and Helen were Admitted at Mass on our annual Day of Recollection at Clare Priory, with their respective spouses present and the sun beaming down (Deo gratias).  The following day, Edmund was Admitted during the Sunday 11.00 Mass at Blackfriars, with his wife and three sons present to support him, and the Lay Dominican vocation on show for the Priory’s large, regular Mass community.  

Radio Maria England is just across town and one of our members, Eddie Zengeni, is a regular presenter there. He has broadcast Desert Island Discs-type interviews with some of us this year, and for 2024 he is leading us in hatching a Big On Air Fraternity Thing! We’ll let you know in advance when it’s coming up!

Greetings to all from Cambridge. 

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Zlata (Formation), Louis, Helen, Eddie, Jill (President) in the Blackfriars garden

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Jill, Louis, Helen, Fr Colin, Zlata, in Clare Priory Oratory

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Jonathan, Ian, Helen, Helen’s husband, Steven, Zlata, Howard, Fr Colin, Br George, Louis, Louis’ wife in the grounds at Clare Priory

Here is the latest from the Crawley Fraternity:

  • We have had Fraternity status granted
  • On 29-Apr-2023, the feast of St Catherine of Siena, Bishop Richard Moth celebrated an Inauguration Mass marking our establishment as a Fraternity. Mass was celebrated in St Theodore’s Church, with celebrations continuing in the nearby Dominican Missionary Sisters’ convent in Gossops Green.
  • On 12-Aug-2023 we celebrated the Feast of St Dominic. The celebration began at the Friary Church (dedicated to Sts Francis and Anthony) at 12.15, followed by lunch at the Dominican Missionary Sisters’ convent.
  • On 02-Sep-2023 some of our Fraternity attended the Conference in Edinburgh. Sr Philomena, our Religious Assistant, gave a talk titled “St Dominic and His Preachers of Grace”    
  • On 16-Sep-2023 some of our Fraternity attended the Lay Dominican Assembly
  • We have 5 fully professed and 5 temporary professed members
  • 1 person has been admitted to our Fraternity
  • We have recently welcomed 3 enquirers
  • 4 members attended the Lay Dominican Provincial Council meeting in Leicester

Upcoming news:

  • In December: Advent Retreat 2023, during which we will have a photo call
  • In the New Year: 1 x temporary profession and 1 x full profession with arrangements in progress

London Fraternity

We recently elected a new council with the following being elected:

President: Augusta Wolff

VP/Formation: Catherine Wallis-Hughes

Secretary: William Rhind

Treasurer: Montse Redrado

Study Coordinator: James West

Augusta writes: A big thank you to Catherine Wallis-Hughes as our former president.  She managed to keep the London Fraternity together during the difficult times of the Covid lockdown, which coincided with some of our members moving out of London. As one of the council members put it, “Without her and all her efforts, the Fraternity would not exist today”. Catherine will continue to be our Formation Officer, as well as having more time for her doctoral studies.

Br Thomas Therese, as he was then, preached our Lent retreat on a subject dear to his heart, St Therese of Lisieux.

We had the pleasure of celebrating 5 temporary professions in the course of the summer.  Three of them took place during the Walsingham pilgrimage in May and the other two during our usual days in London.

One of our members, Karolina Haley recently gave birth to a baby boy, Jack!

Edinburgh Fraternity

We recently held our council elections:

President: Sara Parvis

Secretary: Biddy Gray

Formation Officer: Paul Parvis

Treasurer: Alan Cran

Catherine Nolan

Martin Colpi

Mary O’Duffin

Michael O’Duffin

Fr Thomas Therese Mannion remains our Religious Assistant

Currently, we are 13 Finally professed, 5 Admitted and 9 active enquirers.

Our next newsletter will be in the spring of 2024.  Please send any news and contributions to:

Teresa Jankowska, Communications Officer