Profiling Kevin Toomey OP

How and Why did you become a Dominican Friar?

I recall at the age of seven one of my two Dominican sister aunts, saying to me at Teschemakers, Oamaru, “Perhaps one day you’ll become a Dominican priest!” In 1972, at the age of 25, having completed an Arts-Law degree at the University of Otago the idea of Dominican life recurred and I took the plunge to enter the friars in Melbourne.

I had known Dominicans well from my youth. I had enjoyed hearing sisters chanting psalms in St Dominic’s priory chapel Dunedin and I knew the priory well. I also enjoyed getting to know the friars including the free-spirited Dominican chaplain, Damian Barton OP while at Otago University and the preaching, praying and contemplative dimensions of Dominicans appealed to me. I thought that possibly my mission as a priest might include helping others to discern the presence of God in their own lives.

Name two or three highlights during your time as a Dominican

First, in 2000, as Socius for the Asia Pacific region, I attended at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, the International Convention of the Dominican Family. With some 250 delegates, each branch of the family was well represented and we celebrated the giftedness of each individual and branch. I recall well the wonderful colours, liturgy, singing and costumes for this Jubilee occasion. I experienced something there of Dominic’s grace and his love for the Word of God.

Second, I had two experiences of being a University Catholic chaplain. In Dunedin (1978-1982) I enjoyed working with young people, sensing their longing for God, fielding their questions and simply being in their presence. In Auckland (1983-86) I was part of a chaplaincy team with Sister Teresa Roughan OP and two young lay students. This model was new and it was both exciting and sometimes tough. On my seeking advice for the path ahead, Bishop Denis Browne’s response was simple “Just do it!” He had total faith in our team.

Third, as Socius to the Master of the Order and on my several visits to Vietnam over the years I have never failed to admire the great spirit of the Dominican sisters and friars whose numbers there keep enlarging and whose mission keeps growing. They live in hope, quietly, undeterred by the dominant force of communism – and ever mindful of their limited power.

Where do you see signs of growth within Dominican life today?

One very fruitful sign is that of the Dominican laity, sisters and friars working closely together in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is a beauty in each branch equally voicing their views and hopes – ultimately for the good of the whole Dominican Family. I sense great trust and openness with each other.

Another life-giving sign is my experience of a deeper attentiveness to God’s Word in the daily Scriptures which is often shared within our communities. Such reflection enables both the liturgy and community to flourish.

The gift which Dominic brought to the world 800 years ago, is alive and well throughout the world!