‘Beyond Ite Vos’ Initiative Receives Recognition

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

Three friars in the Chicago area have been recognized by their general ministers for their work and efforts in promoting Franciscan life and encouraging friars to grow in common vocation and mission. Joe Rozansky, OFM, Fr. John Celichowski, OFM Cap., and Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM Conv., received the April 25 recognition letter signed jointly by the leaders of the three branches of the Franciscan First Order.

The General Ministers of the male Franciscan orders with Pope Francis in April 2017. (Photo courtesy of ofm.org)

The letter, in part, stated: “It has been brought to our attention that the brothers in the United States, focused in the geographical area in and around Chicago, have vigorously followed up on our encouragement to study the context of the bull Ite Vos issued over 500 years ago, and to move beyond all divisions and misconceptions, looking for ways to promote our common Franciscan life and mission.”

It continued, “We commend your efforts to promote this spirit in both initial and ongoing formation. The liturgical, academic, and spiritual events that you have organized provide inspiration to all our brothers and can surely serve as a model for friars throughout the world.”

The letter signed by Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, Fr. Roberto Genuin, OFM Cap., and Fr. Marco Tasca, OFM. Conv., can be found here.

“It is good to be able to share this positive news,” said Joe, who along with the Capuchins and Conventuals organized a number of events last year to bring together friars from all communities in a spirit of fraternity. The events of 2018 grew out of a study day event organized by the three Chicago-based friars in fall 2017.

“It is wonderful to have the hard work of these friars recognized,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM.

Acknowledging the Value
The 2017 event, titled “Looking to the Future Together: Beyond Ite Vos,” was convened at the behest of the Order’s English-speaking Conference after Pope Francis urged friars from the three branches to work together. More than 100 friars gathered for talks, discussion and fraternity on Nov. 4, at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where presentations were made by Dominic Monti, OFM, who spoke about the historical context of Ite Vos, Fr. Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., who talked about common Franciscan values, and Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., who spoke about the existing collaborative efforts of the three branches.

The recent CFF letter sent to Joe Rozansky and others.

Attendees then discussed at their tables how Franciscans could continue to work together to “grow in our common vocation and ministry,” said Joe. “The sharing was lively and many ideas were raised on future possibilities. Evaluations of the event were extremely positive and those present were energized by the experience.”

Fr. Brad, who lives at St. Bonaventure Friary in Chicago, said, “I’m grateful that the general ministers have recognized the work of ‘Beyond Ite Vos” here in Chicago, and I hope that many more initiatives can bring us together in opportunities for formation and fraternity. Our three novitiate communities collaborating in California is a further example of how friars can come together from the very beginning of their Franciscan formation.”

He continued, “It would be wonderful to see established in the near future an inter-obediential friary such as is happening in the Holy Land at Emmaus. This is a great Gospel image for us to move forward: walking together on the road in company with Jesus and letting our hearts be set on fire with the good news and the richness of our Franciscan charism.”

Fr. John, pastor of St. Clare of Montefalco Parish in Chicago, said he thinks this initiative is long awaited.

“So often, various forms of collaboration and coordination in our lives as friars have been adopted for pragmatic reasons or out of desperation – for example, to deal with financial and/or personnel challenges,” said John, who professed his first vows in 1988. “This initiative invites us to remember that working, learning and spending time together is at the core of our common Franciscan charism and our fraternal identity. Hopefully, we will continue to build on this, with continued encouragement coming from both our leaders and the friars in the grassroots.”

Coming Together
The collaboration of the three Franciscan orders began in earnest after Pope Francis, in 2013, spoke to the general ministers of the OFM, OFM Capuchins and OFM Conventuals, inviting them to “stay united – walk together and grow in common vocation and mission.”

“The general ministers were moved by the words of the pope, and encouraged friars around the world to take up this challenge,” said Joe. “A task force was then created to provide resources and encouragement for a series of events.

In the U.S., the provincials of the three Franciscan branches decided in 2017 that the Orders would commemorate the 500th anniversary of the bull Ite Vos of Pope Leo X. Each Franciscan branch named a representative to form a planning committee and shepherd the process forward after Chicago was chosen as the site for the celebration.

In 1517, Ite Vos resulted in the dividing of the 300-year-old Franciscan order between the Conventual Franciscans and the Observants.

Joe said that when the planning committee discussed the event, the enthusiasm of the participants and their many suggestions about continuing in the spirit of the gathering stood out as highlights.

“Since we were already at the end of 2017 and most schedules were set for the first half of 2018, we agreed to look for ways to future inter-obediental collaboration in the 2018-19 academic year, both in initial and ongoing formation,” Joe explained.

The committee organized a six-part program:

  1. A common Transitus celebration at the Capuchin parish of St. Clare of Montefalco to build upon a tradition that has been growing over the last three to four years.
  2. Encouraging friars and students in initial formation – and all other friars in the area – to attend the symposium on Franciscan formation at the Catholic Theological Union. (Presentations at this October 2018 event were offered by Fr. Michael Perry and former Capuchin General Minister John Corriveau.)
  3. An ongoing formation session on the spirituality of St. Clare, offered by Fr. Bill Hugo, OFM Cap., in January 2019.
  4. A common Lenten Day of Reflection

    Simply professed friars of the OFMs and the OFM Caps  participate in the Palm Sunday celebration during their common Lenten Day of Recollection last month. (Photo courtesy of Joe Rozansky)

    for the simply professed friars of the Order of Friars Minor and the OFM Capuchins in April.

  5. Ongoing awareness of potential common celebrations resulting in the inclusion of an OFM diaconate candidate in the ordination ceremony of the Capuchins in April.
  6. An end-of-year social for formation students at the Conventual friary in May.

“With the initial seed money running low, each of the three branches has pledged to find new funding to continue these positive celebrations,” said Joe, adding that the Beyond Ite Vos program reflects what he has been doing in his ministry for many years.

“While I was in Rome working in the Order’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office, I participated in the group we called Romans VI, which is composed of the JPIC directors of the different parts of the Franciscan Family,” he said. “It allowed us to work together to further JPIC values and ministry, which is an integral component of our lives as followers of Jesus in the steps of Francis and Clare.”

Joe,  guardian at the Interprovincial Post-Novitiate Formation House at St. Joseph Friary in Chicago, continues to promote this same attitude in his work as chair of the board of Franciscans International, which is the only formal common initiative of the Franciscan family. “At FI, we work together to promote the dignity and human rights not only of our sisters and brothers throughout the world but of all God’s creatures as well,” he said.

 – Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.