St. Dominic longed for preaching the Gospel to every body specially the non-Christians. He tried at least twice to go to the missions, first to the Tartars, secondly to the Cumans. To the end of his life, He remained haunted by the desire to become a missionary in pagan lands, and though he never realized this dream himself, he had sent some of this followers to the pagans before he died. Dominicans never forgot his founders desire for spreading the Word of God to those who strayed from the Church, heretics and unbelievers alike, and always push further in the missionary zeal of spreading Gods Gospel .
The first Dominican Missionary wave stretched from 1222 to the middle of the 14th century. Dominicans helped to evangelize Southern Spain and Northern Africa, where under the leadership of St. Raymond of Penyafort (+1275) they founded missionary schools of languages and Theology. Similarly they worked in Easter Europe (Balkans, Poland, Russia, Tartaria, etc.) and The Near East where in 1228 the Provinces of Greece (Greece, Constantinople, Rumania and Crete) and the Holy Land (Jerusalem, Antioch and Syria) were founded. In 1300 the Society of the Pilgrim Brethren was also founded with the purpose of the conversion of the gentiles to the Catholic Faith. From its very beginning it worked from outposts on the shifting frontiers between Christendom, Islam and Paganism in Armenia, Georgia, Persia and India.
This extraordinary Dominican missionary zeal is well documented by a praising letter of Pope Innocent V written in 1250 and addressed to
the Friars Preachers who are missionaries among the Saracens, the Greeks, the Bulgarians, the Cumans and the Syrians, the Garithians, the Gothic, the Lyconians, the Ruthenians, the Jacobites and the Nubians, the Georgians and the Armenians, the Hindus and Masilitans, the Tartars and Hungarians of the greater Hungary and among the pagans of other countries of the East.
Likewise, St. Dominics successor Blessed Jordan of Saxony in 1230 made an appeal for volunteers to be sent as missionaries to the Holy Land and obtained an amazing response, with all the members of the General Chapter asking to be sent there.
While Tartar invasions were an obstacle for the missions at first, during the 14th century the Black Death (bubonic plague), a decline of discipline and the Western Schism, reduced the Order through lack of manpower and firm leadership, weakening the fervor and capacity of the Dominicans and eventually brought to a halt such missionary accomplishments.
The discovery of the New World in 1492, and the following missionary endeavor, open a second Dominican Missionary golden era. Spanish reformed provinces will contribute a leading role to the evangelization of the new continent. Dominicans arrived in the New World in 1510, and from the beginning they achieved distinction as champions of human rights. Fr. Bartolomé de las Casas first and then other brethren, fighting on behalf of the poor, obtained the title of protector of the Indians. With extraordinary missionary zeal they spread quickly throughout the continent founding convents and new provinces everywhere. At the same time new contacts with the kingdoms of India, China and Japan were established and a new desire to go further to proclaim the Gospel ignitiated a new missionary thrush towards the orient.
Finally in 1579 a Dominican, Domingo de Salazar, the first bishop appointed for the Philippines islands, started making preparations in order to bring fellow-Dominicans to his diocese. His pleading was heard by Fr. Juan Crisostomo who had served as Procurator in Madrid and Rome for Mexican work and Fr. Juan de Castro, former Provincial in Guatemala. Their dream was about converting the oriental Indies, especially China. Their plan was to recruit from Spain and elsewhere in Europe Dominican clerics (at least deacons, mostly priests) and Lay Brothers to form a new Province for missions beyond the seas.
Due to their efforts the new Missionary Province of the Far East Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary became a reality when the first group of 40 brethren departed From Cadiz (Southern Spain) on 17 July 1586 and arrived in Yucatan (Mexico) on 29 September, walked to Mexico City where they drew up their statutes and where Fr. Juan de Castro took over as Vicar. Fifteen of the original forty embarked from Acapulco on 6 April 1587 arriving at Cavite, near Manila (Philippines), on 21 July the date always used to mark the founding of the Province
Feeling in their hearts the burning fire of their missionary vocation, the members of the Province dared to cross the seas unto an unknown world, to preach the Gospel in Asia, where about three quarters of the total human population lives.
The new Province would be an international Province and would have no fixed territory and would be governed by special Statutes in order to foster its missionary work. Throughout its history the Province has remained faithful to its single-minded objective: the evangelisation of the non-Christians, primarily in the Far East. It has not been a Province with missions, but a missionary Province on the whole. It has remained faithful to its own spirituality within the Dominican Order, the master lines of which were drawn in the first Ordinances or Statutes, drafted and promulgated by the founding Fathers while still in Mexico and awaiting the galleon which would transport them to the Philippines, and which were conceived and acclaimed as the firm foundation of the Province and our way of life. Apart from absolute fidelity to the fundamentals of religious and Dominican life, the Ordinances emphasize community and individual prayer (as much as two hours of mental prayer daily at home or on the road!) self-discipline and mortification, functional and liberating poverty, serious study and intellectual preparation, flexibility in the acceptances of missionary commitments, complete uniformity in doctrine and methodology. And all these based on the sound theological principle that a missionary must be, and appear to be, not only a preacher of the Word, but a doer as well. To this we have been called (to be missionaries) so that with the rays of our doctrine and the splendor of our lives we may draw to the true light of the Gospel those who live in the shadow of death (Introduction to Ordinances).
Over 200 martyrs, 174 of them officially recognized as blessed and among them 76 already canonized, 100 bishops (among them some martyrs as well as Gregorio Lo, consecrated as the first Chinese bishop in 1685), establishments of many parishes, schools, universities, seminaries, diocese and so on, are the best prove of its generous service to the Church.
Some landmarks where the missionary activity of the Most Holy Rosary Province has been carried out are: the Philippines (From 1587), Japan (Kiushu 1602-1640; Shikoku, from 1904), Taiwan (1626-1642: from 1849), China (Fukien, 1631-1952), Vietnam (from 1676 till 1967 when a new local province was founded), Hong Kong (from 1854), Venezuela (from 1955), Korea (from 1990) and Macao (from 1994).
The Province is entrusted to the motherly protection of Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Most Holy Rosary, in recognition of the Tradition of the Order which keeps a deep filial Marian devotion, characteristic of St. Dominic and his followers.
The contribution of the Holy Rosary Province to the missionary history of the Dominican Order and the Church has been described as most glorious. Indeed a deserving accolade of praise which conveys a challenge to continue on the footsteps of such extraordinary apostles.