ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The provincial ministers of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor had an addition to their group during their spring meeting — Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and chair of Pope Francis’s Group of Eight Cardinals. Cardinal Rodríguez, an affiliate of Immaculate Conception Province (USA), joined the provincials on April 8 during the group’s annual “study day.”
The cardinal spoke to the provincials on the topic “Implications of the ‘Franciscan’ Papacy on Leadership.” Throughout the day of reflection, the cardinal deviated from his prepared texts and engaged the provincials on a variety of topics affecting the Church, Franciscans and religious life in general, as well as his experiences working with Pope Francis.
The cardinal emphasized that religious are called to be the vanguard of evangelization. He shared a story that paralleled the famous quote associated with St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.”
Cardinal Rodríguez spoke of his encounter with a Lutheran minister who thanked him for the encyclicals of Pope Francis. “I responded, ‘What encyclicals? The Holy Father hasn’t written any yet,’” said the cardinal. “The man responded, ‘No, not in words, but thank you for the encyclicals of his gestures.’
“Each of the attitudes and gestures of Pope Francis is an encyclical or, at least, a real homily on the rectitude of life, love of one’s neighbor, ecumenism, compassion, friendship, tenderness, sympathy for the sick, the new evangelization, good humor and joy,” the cardinal continued. He believes that Pope Francis evangelizes through his gestures more than his words and encouraged the Franciscan leaders to find ways to do the same.
The cardinal’s day with the provincials concluded with a public Mass at nearby St. Joseph’s Church in St. Petersburg. Roughly 30 area friars and a handful of Secular Franciscans, along with St. Joseph’s parishioners, attended. A festive dinner honoring the cardinal’s visit was held afterward at St. Anthony Friary.
“I really appreciated the cardinal’s familiarity and transparency with us,” said Fr. Gino Correa, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. “That is always needed and is such an important thing.”
The provincials’ meeting — which lasted from April 7 to 12 and was hosted by Holy Name Province — also included discussions of the following topics:
• Possible future candidates for General Visitor
• Candidates for General Definitor representing the ESC
• Possible legislation to be presented at the General Chapter
• Possible lay brother delegates for the General Chapter
• An update on the Convocation of Lay Brothers scheduled for 2015
The provincials spent part of the meeting sharing their experiences and challenges, a practice that Provincial Minster John O’Connor, OFM, said he has found to be “helpful and affirming.”
Sub-conferences from the United States, Canada and Europe also held separate meetings. The Canadian sub-conference met with General Definitor Fr. Francis Walter, OFM, to discuss the possible reconfiguration of the Franciscan entities in Canada. More information is provided in the ESC’s newsletter.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province. The above image is courtesy of the English-speaking Conference.