St. Dominic gathered together men and women, friars and nuns and later sisters and laity, who would live the Gospel more authentically and preach its truth with both their words and their lives. From the beginning he sent his friars to the great universities of the time: Oxford, Paris and Bologna. He wanted his friars to be educated so that their preaching and teaching would be informed, able to answer the questions of the day, and meet people's longing for the Gospel. Ideally, his friars were to be men of faith, prayer, and learning who could respond to the needs of their time without fear and confident that the human mind, a mere creature, could rightly if imperfectly understand its Creator. It is perhaps no accident, therefore, that the colors of the Dominican habit -- the religious garb worn by the friars, nuns and many sisters -- are black and white, representing as they do the reconciliation of apparent opposites in a greater unity. It is certainly no accident that these are the official colors of Providence College.
Some aspects of Providence College's Catholic and Dominican identity are obvious. The friars in their habits are hard to miss, St. Dominic's Chapel is located in the very center of campus, and crucifixes adorn the walls of classrooms and offices.
Additionally most students, faculty and staff are Catholic, the 10:30 mass on Sunday nights is always standing room only, and students are required to take classes in philosophy and theology.
Other aspects of the Catholic and Dominican identity are more subtle or even unexpected. Catholic teaching guides the investment of the endowment, the enforcement of parietals in the residence halls, and the generosity extended to students and employees in need. Nearly a thousand students volunteer their service through Campus Ministry every year and at all hours someone can be found praying quietly in the chapel.
By charter Providence College was the first college or university in Rhode Island to welcome students of every faith or none, and it has a long, close and continuing relationship with Rhode Island's Jewish community. Indeed, some of the College's most devoted teachers and alumni are Jewish.
Yet in some ways the Catholic and Dominican character of Providence College precisely as a college is most evident in its approach to faith and reason. For many people, faith and reason stand in opposition to one another; they are black and white, irreconcilable and best kept apart. Not so for Dominicans. In the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dominicans assert that faith and reason are compatible, complementary, and point to a single truth.