Although most brothers in the Order of Preachers are “clerical brothers” preparing for ordination to the priesthood, there are also brothers who are called to serve the Lord in a different manner. In the early days of the Order these friars were known as frater conversus, but today they are called cooperator brothers.
One of the very first cooperator brothers of the Order was Brother Oderic of Normandy. Along with Blessed Mannes (Saint Dominic’s older brother), Oderic helped found the convent of Saint Jacques in Paris. Another cooperator brother, Blessed James of Ulm, depicted the beauty and magnificence of God through the art of stained glass windows, and he is now the patron saint of all glass workers and painters. But perhaps one of the most famous cooperator brothers of the Order is Saint Martin de Porres. Saint Martin was quite gifted in medicine, using his knowledge of herbs and other remedies to cure the sick in the city of Lima. With the help of another cooperator brother, his contemporary Saint Juan Macias (who served as the porter), he cared for the poor and was an inspiring example of humility and piety.
Called to a life of prayer and service, cooperator brothers engage in the preaching mission of the Order, not through sacramental ministry, but by preaching in a number of other ways. While the ministerial work of a cooperator brother is quite different from that of a Dominican priest, cooperator brothers make profession of the same vows as do the clerical brothers, and study and work alongside them. The life of a cooperator brother is no less rooted in study, prayer, and preaching the Word of God. And like all Dominicans, the spiritual life of the cooperator brother is centered upon the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and daily meditations on the Rosary. Their study is for the sake of preaching, whether that be in word (lectures, presentations, and retreats) or deed (the very witness of a holy life as a consecrated religious). Finally, cooperator brothers share in the commitment to a life in common by encouraging the brothers to remain “of one heart and mind” by growing together in virtue and caring for one another in charity.