Several friars commented on the value and the highlights of the Jan. 3 to 7 Provincial Chapter. Their thoughts on the Chapter, and how they see it affecting the future of their lives as friars, are below. John Anglin, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Fla. The week of the Chapter was a roller coaster ride between excitement and tedium. While there, we tapped into our vision as Franciscans and our contact with the God who shapes that vision. At the same time there is business to be conducted, finances to be discussed and election of new leaders. We did all of that in a very wonderful, if fatiguing, four-day period. Fortunately at the end of all, I am left with a sense of vision renewed and hope for the future in these very challenging times. The theme that we chose for the chapter was “Crossroads 2011: Where our deepest longing meets the worlds great need.” This theme is exciting for me because we chose to look outward at the world and not inward at the workings of the Church. Yes, we discussed at times our frustration with the direction that our Church and its leaders are taking, but our energy was directed at how we, as Franciscan friars, can bring the message of the Gospel to the weak, the powerless, the alienated and the marginalized and to all people of good will through our life and ministry. For us Franciscans our fraternity, rooted in our life with God, is our primary gift. Though are numbers are getting smaller and we are withdrawing from parishes and other ministries, we are at the same time identifying needs in the areas where we serve and seeking ways to be more and more a brotherhood in mission. For us, itinerancy is a core value. This means that we are not attached to places, that we can move on and be present in new ways even though are numbers are smaller. Though our numbers are smaller and vocations are less than in the past we are blessed with some quality young friars who unlike the younger members of many groups in today’s Church, are not caught up in the need for clerical trappings and positions of power to provide them with security. Many of them that I met said that they chose us because we were more real and not clerical. In addition to their many talents, that gives me good reason to have hope in our future.
Joseph Nangle, OFM, of Washington, D.C. Like many other friars in attendance, I felt that the “State of the Province” reports from Fr. Fred Link, OFM and John O’Connor, OFM, were superb. They touched especially on the internal issues facing our Province in a clear and direct manner. That clarity and directness has given me the distinct impression that matters such as our lifestyle and sexual orientations will receive serious and appropriate attention throughout our fraternity as we move forward. I also felt that the keynote from Vincent Cushing, OFM, brought us out of ourselves to face squarely the overriding issues of our world, our country and our Church. The very positive reception by the capitulars of Vincent’s talk has led me to believe that our friars are quite ready to judge our fraternal life and our ministries in the clear light of the signs of our times which he so well described. Finally, a clear highlight of the Chapter for me came with the overwhelming support given to the proposal on immigration. We have pledged ourselves as a provincial entity and in our various ministries to stand with documented and undocumented strangers and foreigners among us because they are our sisters and brothers — whatever the cost of such solidarity on our part might be. I was enormously proud of my brother friars when this vote was taken. As far as being a new member to the Provincial Council, the first reaction I had was surprise. I really did not see this election coming my way. Almost immediately there was a sense of gratitude and resignation — gratitude that my brothers would think of this senior friar as able to contribute something to our common task and resignation in the sense that if this is their will, then so be it. After just one meeting of the new Council, I am truly impressed with the gifts present among us. In addition, it seems that we have bonded very quickly, thanks in no small part to John’s quite fraternal and dialogic leadership style. Thus, I hope I can fit into the Council and contribute from my long history with the Province (60 years next August!), the variety of ministries in which I have engaged over that long period and the experience of living in our unique Assisi Community now for 25 years.
Francis Pompei, OFM, of Buffalo, N.Y. I’ve been a friar for 25 years and have participated in all the Chapters. In general, they have always been the same — a lot of words, discussions, resolutions, voting — and I’m never quite sure when they were over of how they will really impact my life and our lives as friars. This was my expectation again as we started the 2011 Chapter. However, from the opening welcome and orientation by William Beaudin, OFM, to the end, this Chapter had a very different feel to it. For me, it was a sense that we broke through the “words, words, words” format. These are words we’ve all heard and discussed in the past, and were now choosing a new path at the Crossroads, a path that would be revealed to us by experiencing Jesus and Francis. The key word and common thread is experience and not just talk, discuss, and vote. In St. Paul’s epistles, he describes the need for confirmation whenever a prophecy or the Lord’s will is revealed. As I listened to the keynote speakers, our General Visitor Fr. Fred, and John O’Connor, I heard the common thread of confirmation in all their presentations. Former Franciscan Volunteer Minister Leo Vaccaro told us that young people need to be inspired, as well as experience the Spirit in them, in us, and in what we are doing. Lawrence Anderson, OFM, shared his journey to the Franciscans, where he experienced the Lord in and through friars who emanated their own experience and love of God. Fr. Fred gave a thorough and specific look at our Province and the issues we need to address — but from a different perspective: a common and shared faith, discerning and experiencing the Spirit together. Vincent Cushing provided a new vision and model for Church, Province, fraternity, and chapters, centered and rooted not in words, but conversion, which translates to transformation by experience and by the Lord himself. And our newly re-elected Provincial Minister explained the need for spiritual renewal for all friars and the Province. But John emphasised it is not enough to just talk about and discuss it; he really shared faith and experience of Jesus and Francis. I am one friar who believes who the Holy Spirit and Francis spoke at our Chapter and did so through inspired brothers, and brothers who understood and were listening to the Spirit speak to them. My hope and prayer is and will be that all of us will believe that the Lord truly spoke and confirmed his call and the path to follow at our personal, fraternal, and provincial Crossroads, and for our newly-elected Provincial leaders to discern the forum and way for this conversion and transformation to take place. Editor’s note: Comments from other friars will be included in future issues of this newsletter.