The History of the Province
OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
The Province of Our Lady of the Rosary was founded in order to preach the Gospel in the Philippines, in China and in the rest of the nations of the Far East.
It was the first Bishop of Manila, the Most Excellent Prelate, Don Domingo de Salazar, O.P., who contributed effectively to the foundation of the said Province. This Dominican religious was nominated by Philip II, King of All the Spains, to Pope Gregory XIII as first Bishop of the Philippines in 1578. Two years earlier Fray Domingo had returned to Spain from Mexico. At that time he immediately began to recruit friars for the exalted task of the Evangelization of the Philippines from volunteer religious from the Priories of the Iberian Peninsula. Of the eighteen religious who took ship with the new Bishop, leaving Spain for Mexico on July 10th, 1580, six died on the passage between Spain and the New World, as victims of a pestiferous illness which infested the ship they had boarded, and others died after arrival in Mexico. Some of the survivors opted to remain in Hispañola (Santo Domingo) and others to stay in Mexico. However, Bishop Domingo de Salazar, accompanied by Cristóbal de Salvatierra, arrived at last in Manila on September 17th, 1581.
Before leaving Mexico on his way to the Philippines, Bishop Salazar handed over to Juan Crisóstomo the task of accomplishing what was involved in the project of founding the new Province. When Fray Crisóstomo returned to Spain in 1581, he obtained from the Council of the Indies the permission needed for taking twelve religious to the Philippines, dated March 31, 1582. A few months later, on July 14th, the Master of the Order, Fray Paolo Constable de Ferrara, gave his approval for the foundation of the new Province, naming Fray Crisóstomo as its Vicar General with all the prerogatives of a Provincial. Furthermore, the Master authorized the Vicar General
to take with him some forty religious of our Provinces in Spain and ten more from Mexico and Chiapas (which included what is now part of Guatemala). Shortly afterwards, on September 17th, 1582, the Master of the Order passed away from earthly life. At this point Pope Gregory XIII intervened, confirming Fray Crisóstomo in office as Vicar General and giving his Apostolic Approval for the foundation of the new Province. This was proclaimed on October 20th, 1582.
Father Juan Crisóstomo
Founder of the Province
As things turned out, Fray Crisóstomo was not able to take ship with his first band of religious as soon as he had thought to do so. Difficulties in Madrid blocked his plans. After two years waiting in the Convento of San Pablo in Seville, he finally received the 'Royal Pass' on August 9th, 1585, giving him the needed permission to gather the Friars designated and head their mission to the Philippines, including fifteen more. After several months, forty religious, proceeding from various Priories in Spain left Cádiz and headed for Mexico on July 17th, 1586. Leading this first expedition was Fray Juan de Castro, as Juan Crisóstomo had resigned as Vicar General and handed over his office to Juan de Castro who was now himself in charge.
When the group had arrived in New Spain (Mexico), the new Vicar General, Fray Juan de Castro, in union with several of the religious, prepared, presented and signed the Primordial Ordinances of the Province at the Convento de Santo Domingo in Mexico City on December 17th, 1586; those not present at this act later approved of it on January 17th, 1587.
Of the forty religious who took ship from Cádiz, according to the official list preserved in the Archives of the Indies, many fell ill in the course of the sea voyage, three died in Mexico City as a result of their sufferings and deprivations during the long crossing. Some stayed in Mexico City and others went back to Spain. Three left for Macau on April 3rd, 1587 and fifteen left for Manila on April 6th. These last reached the port of Cavite in the Philippines near Manila on July 22nd, 1587 and arrived three days later, on July 25th, in the City of Manila.
On the 4th of August of that same year, the Feast of St Dominic, an Academic Act was publicly celebrated, and on the day after the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin the corner Stone of the Convento de Santo Domingo in Manila was put in place.
The new Province, with God's blessing and as outcome of a strict regular observance, grew rapidly in its various ministries and in numbers of religious in its ranks. In 1592 the conditions had been met for recognition of the group as a Province in the Order. For this reason, the General Chapter of Venice of that year recognized the Manila apostolate as constituting another new Province of the Order under the title of "Our Lady of the Rosary for the Conversion of Unbelievers".
Nonetheless, due to an error or oversight, the Decree of Erection and Establishment of the Province of Our Lady of the Rosary did not appear in the 'Acta' of the General Chapter mentioned. The letter of the Master General, Fray Hipolito Maria Becarria, dated November 3rd, 1592, as sent to our Province, clearly states what took place. In said letter the Master General bears witness that in the General Chapter of Venice, as referred to the new Province, was officially erected and instituted as a Province within the Dominican Order with the name of Our Lady of the Rosary. Later on, said Decree of Erection, previously omitted, appeared in the 'Acta' of the following Chapter, celebrated in Valencia in 1596.
The Friars of the Province have evangelized in the Philippine Islands since 1587; in Japan from 1602 till 1637 and again since 1904; in Taiwan (Formosa) from 1626 to 1642 and since 1858; in mainland China from 1633 to 1955 and from 2004; in Vietnam (Tonkín) from 1676 to 1955; in Venezuela from 1902 to 1905 and from 1951; in South Korea from 1989; in Singapore from 2001; in Myanmar (Burma) from 2010; in East Timor from 2013; and also in Peru, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and other
countries for short periods of time.
From the first days of the Province of Our Lady of the Rosary, new missionaries, nearly all from the Spanish Provinces, were arriving periodically to incorporate themselves into the Province and its ministries in the Far East. Furthermore, neither were lacking vocations which came forward from the very countries where the Province developed its apostolate. Among these we encounter Msgr Gregorio Lo, O.P., the first Chinese bishop. Since the XIXth century, the Province has relied on its
own formation centres for future missionaries: in Ocaña (1830); Ávila (1876); Rosaryville (USA) (1911-1935); Hong Kong (1935-1962); La Mejorada (1912); Santa María la Real de Nieva (1939); Valladolid (1953); Madrid (1958); Rome (1985); Korea (1994); Hong Kong - Macau (2005); Myanmar (2010); East Timor (2013), as well as other apostolic ministries in Spain and in Rome.
Finally, as a fruit of the missionary dynamics and the fervent apostolic work of the Province of Our Lady of the Rosary, two new Provinces have arisen in the Order: that of “Our Lady Queen of Martyrs” in Vietnam, on March 18th, 1967; and the
“Province of the Philippines” on December 8th, 1971. In like manner, a Vicariate General for our Chinese brethren who live there was installed in Taiwan on June 16th, 1978 under the advocacy of “Our Lady Queen of China.”
In 1987 the Province celebrated its Fourth Centenary of foundation. The many events celebrated on this occasion were crowned by the Canonizations of sixteen Martyrs of Nagasaki on October 18th, 1987, of sixty Martyrs in Vietnam on June 19th, 1988, and in Rome, by Pope Benedict XVI, of six Martyrs of China on October 1st, 2000. The same Pontiff beatified 21 Martyrs of the 20th Century of Spain, on October 28th, 2007.