In the Dominican family there are several branches. Although independent of one another in terms of governance, they all share in the charism of preaching, and are united under the Master of the Order of Preachers.
The Friars, both priests and cooperator brothers, profess the vow of obedience and embrace poverty and chastity. While priests are ordained for the ministry of the Sacraments, brothers minister according to their talents and abilities in other ways. Ministries among the Friars include itinerant preaching, parish and campus ministry, teaching in schools and universities, catechetical formation, social work, health care, the arts, internal administration, and much more.
The very first foundation by St. Dominic was the monastery of nuns at Prouille, France. Nuns are cloistered, usually entering a monastery and remaining there for the rest of their lives. Like the friars, they profess the vow of obedience and embrace poverty and chastity. In addition to the Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, and devotions such as perpetual adoration, their days are marked by silence, the necessary climate for contemplation and continuous prayer, for the world and the success of the friars’ preaching. Many communities support themselves by producing hosts for Mass, as well as vestments and other religious articles.
Sisters are active, vowed religious women who are organized into individual congregations. The basis of all their activity is the primary ministry of preaching, although it may manifest itself in many forms: missionary work, teaching, social work, and so on. Like the other branches of the Dominican family, the sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours, observe a regular practice of prayer and study, and live in community.
Very early in the foundations of the Order, groups of lay people began to associate with the friars and nuns. These associations grew into what we now call the Dominican Laity. They are called to preach in the secular sphere, the marketplace, or wherever their station in life finds them. They make promises to follow the Rule and Statutes of the Dominican Laity, which include meeting on a regular basis, studying, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours. They engage in active ministries such as: service to the poor, teaching, writing, and spiritual counseling. They endeavor to live lives of simplicity and generosity.