GERARD FRANCISCO TIMONER OP
ELECTIVE CHAPTER OF BIEN HOA, 13 JULY 2019
88TH MASTER OF THE ORDER
The election of the Master of the Order took place as is customary on the fifth day of the elective General Chapter. The previous two days were spent in regional and language group meetings, discerning the characteristics and names of possible candidates for election. And on the fifth day, the names of five brothers were placed before the capitulars. From those, Gerard Francisco Timoner III was elected.
Fr. Gerard was born in 1968 in Camarines Norte, in the Philippines. He joined the Dominicans and was ordained in 1995. Previous to this, he had received a licence in Philosophy from the Dominican Centre of Studies and in Theology from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Shortly after his ordination he went to Leuven, Belgium, where he received a Doctorate in Theology under the supervision of our brother, Eduard Schillebeeckx. On his return to the Phillipines, he taught at the University of Santo Tomas and fulfilled many offices within the University, including Vice-Rector, Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs and Rector of the Central (Interdiocesan) Seminary. In 2012, he was elected Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, which he served for four years. While Provincial, he was named in 2014 as a member of International Theological Commission by Pope Francis. Finally in 2017, he was called by fr Bruno Cadore to be the Socius to the Master of the Order for the Asia Pacific region – the post he held at the time of his election as Master. He is 51 years old.
The election is notable for a number of reasons: first, it took place in Bien Hoa, a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is only the second time that a General Chapter has been held in Asia, the first being that held at Quezon City Manila in 1977, famous for its definition of the Four Priorities of the Order. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is the first time that a friar from Asia has been elected as Master of the Order. Both these events signal a new maturity in the life of the Order, a new sense of the widening of the international nature of the Order, as the “old world” shrinks and the “new world” grows. fr. Gerard is only the fourth non-European to have been elected Master in the 803 years of its existence (the others being the Mexican friar Antonin de Monroy in 1677; the South African friar, Albert Nolan, in 1983; and the Argentinian, friar Carlos Azpiroz Costa in 2001).
Before accepting his election, fr Gerard consulted other friars from the General Council of the Order present at the Chapter, and was led into the aula where he accepted the office of Master, flanked by these brothers – a singular sign of the way he wished to serve the Order: not as a solitary task, but primus inter pares, one among equals.
In responding to his election, fr Gerard recalled St Dominic’s words, “‘we (Dominicans) are preachers.’… Mission is not what we do. It is who we are. And if that is clear, everything will just follow.” He then invited the friars to “look at our very selves, to recognize what is our identity as preachers of the Gospel. We are preachers even when we are not preaching; we are preachers even when we are alone in serious study; we are preachers when we help the marginalized; we are preachers in all that we do. That is our identity.”
We thank God for the gift of fr Gerard as Master, and pray this his nine years in office will bear fruit among the Dominican Family all over the world.
With thanks to Kevin Toomey OP for this article.