The article below is based on an executive summary written by Fr. Edward Foley, OFM Cap, a Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality, professor of liturgy and music, and director of the Ecumenical Doctor of Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union, the 50-year-old school of theology in Chicago’s Hyde Park. Like the four presentations at the symposium, it was produced for the participants as well as for Franciscan communities. Links to the talks are provided in the text below.
CHICAGO – For three days last month, more than 40 Franciscan brothers, assisted by two OSF sisters, gathered at Catholic Theological Union for a symposium on lifelong formation for Franciscan men. They listened to – and discussed — presentations by the General Minister of the OFMs, a member of Holy Name Province, a Franciscan sister and a former General Minster of the Capuchins.
The gathering was sponsored by CTU’s Duns Scotus Chair in Spirituality – endowed in 1997 by St. John the Baptist Province – which, over the past two decades, has sponsored educational initiatives in support of the Franciscan charism.
“This event encouraged all present and all who will read any of the major presentations to ‘begin again’ as Francis of Assisi urged the friars to do,” said Fr. Patrick McCloskey, OFM, executive secretary of the OFM English-speaking Conference. “We owe it to ourselves and to the People of God whom we serve to keep allowing the grace of God to stretch our hearts and minds, following the Holy Spirit’s lead. That is the best ongoing formation.”
“The symposium was another opportunity to deepen the contacts that began last year with preparations for the Beyond Ite Vos event,” said Joseph Rozansky, OFM, a member of the Duns Scotus Chair committee and the Province’s director of post-novitiate formation. “The suggestions that emerged as follow-up to that event have sparked various joint events this year, like the Transitus, participation in the symposium itself, a reflection on the spirituality of Clare, a common Day of Recollection for Lent, and an end-of-the-year social for the men in initial formation.
“We have also begun looking for ways to participate in one another’s liturgical celebrations,” Joe continued. “The bottom line is that we are designing new ways to do formation together, both initial and ongoing; these programs, in turn, are allowing us to discover new and fruitful ways to promote our common Franciscan ministry of witness to the world in which we live.”
The four speakers at the Oct. 25 to 27 event, titled “Lifelong Formation for Franciscan Men in the U.S. in Service of God’s Mission,” were OFM General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, Daniel Horan, OFM, assistant professor of systematic theology at CTU, Sr. Meg Guider, OSF, and Br. John Corriveau, OFM. Other Franciscans helped lead and facilitate sessions.
Developing Unity and Leadership
This first-of-its-kind symposium was designed to expand the conversation by inviting first and third order brothers from a variety of communities and jurisdictions to ponder the promise and demands of forming Franciscan men for the 21st century. Participants included Atonement Friars, Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, TORs, OFM, OFM Conventual and OFM Capuchin friars from across the U.S. and some brothers from Europe.
In 1217, the Franciscan order was officially divided into two separate families by Pope Leo X in his proclamation Ite Vos. In recent years, there have been various “Beyond Ite Vos” efforts from the international to local levels to move beyond the long-standing divisions within the Franciscan family and build avenues of communication and collaboration.
As the Duns Scotus professor Edward Foley explained, the advisory board for the Duns Scotus Chair — composed of OFM, OFM Conventual, OFM Capuchin and OSF representatives — recognized that this first symposium could not address the needs of every group. Thus, it was decided that it would be appropriate to focus on the formation of Franciscan men so that they could develop a more united presence and provide leadership around the vision for the Franciscan family in the future. As previous events sponsored by this chair have invited the presence of Franciscan Sisters and Secular Franciscans, any future symposia would also expand to include these important members of the Franciscan family.
The symposium was structured around a series of presentations, two of which were open to the public. The public presentations attracted approximately 170 people over the two days.
Fr. Michael, General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor since 2013, offered an opening lecture on Thursday evening titled “‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased:’ Musings from the Margins.”
Taking his cue from the Gospel of Mark (1:9-15), Fr. Michael explored that text as one that presents necessary elements for the lifelong journey of religious life and discipleship. His presentation, live-streamed on CTU’s Facebook page and soon to be posted on CTU’s website, was attended by a large group of Franciscans, including men in initial formation from the OFM, Conventual and Capuchin communities. The following day, three symposium participants offered responses to Fr. Michael’s presentation, which spurred the morning discussion.
The event’s second presentation was offered on Friday morning by Sr. Meg Guider OSF, associate professor of missiology and chair of the Ecclesiastical Faculty at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, and a member of the Duns Scotus Advisory Board.
In her “Stewarding the Grace of Fraternity: Living out the Franciscan Charism of ‘Being Brothers’ in Service of God’s Mission,” Sr. Meg reminded the group that it was only after the Lord gave Francis brothers that the Poverello focused on the Gospel form of life. Employing Matthew’s parable of the talents (25:14-30), she invited the brothers to consider what kind of stewards of the grace of fraternitas have we, are we, and will we become. These challenges were the focus of discussion for the rest of the morning.
Discussing Trends, Challenges and Hopes
On Friday afternoon, Dan Horan offered a presentation on “Liquidity and the Abyss: Lifelong Theological Formation for U.S. Franciscans.” He focused on contemporary theological trends, challenges and hopes that need attention in forming Franciscan men today.
In this “liquid” era in which powerful forces attempt the decolonialization of standards of knowing and experience, Dan proposed that two theological areas needing attention by Franciscans are a theology of authenticity and the meaning of the human person. Small group discussion and interaction with the presenter occupied the participants for this afternoon session.
The final session on Friday afternoon was designed as a “grass roots” moment in which participants were asked to brainstorm issues not being addressed and ones that needed to be raised – as well as issues or ideas that resonated with them and needed to be remembered.
This discussion, like the whole of the symposium, was facilitated by Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF. The former director of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University, and then president of that university, Sr. Margaret brought to the task not only formidable facilitation skills but also a vast knowledge of Franciscan theology and spirituality.
Her ability to weave Franciscan sources, stories and poetry into the process contributed to the momentum of the symposium and the lively engagement of its participants. This session yielded affirmations and particularly unaddressed issues that covered seven large post-it sheets. Fr. Patrick, the Franciscan editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, who had volunteered to serve as secretary for the symposium, assisted Sr. Margaret in compiling and recording these comments.
Friday evening was the second public presentation, this time by Fr. John Corriveau, OFM Cap., former general minister of the Capuchin Order and recently retired bishop of Nelson, British Columbia. In his presentation, “A Brotherhood of Missionary Disciples,” Br. John noted that in a unique turn, Francis chose to model his form of religious life on the life of Jesus’ missionary disciples.
From this flowed his two main points: 1) the embrace of Franciscan brotherhood is the embrace of Jesus Christ, and 2) that embrace leads to Franciscan brotherhood. Br. John’s impassioned presentation was attended by a large group of friars, including many brothers in initial formation from the various Franciscan communities around Chicago. The presentation was videotaped and will be available on the CTU website.
On Saturday morning, three symposium participants responded to Br. John’s talk, which sparked the morning conversation. In the symposium’s final session, facilitator Sr. Margaret asked the group to consider, “What is your new mandatum after this symposium” and “What is our mutual mandatum from this symposium?” The participants offered many suggestions for what they could do in light of this gathering, as well as suggestions for further work of the Duns Scotus Chair.
As part of the environment for the symposium, Br. Jerry Bleem, OFM, director of formation for the OFM interprovincial temporary professed program in Chicago and an adjunct associate professor at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, coordinated a juried art show called “Prayer and Devotion: Franciscan Art, Franciscan Artists.”
This unique installation, on display at the Veeck Art Gallery at CTU through Dec. 15, features more than 25 works in glass, textiles, paint and other media. Symbolic of the Franciscan tradition for embracing beauty as a central theological theme, these beautiful works provided the setting for fellowship among the symposium participants whose meals were served in the gallery. Similar attention was given to the prayer environment that included celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours punctuated by music, texts and prayers in nine languages, reflecting the diverse heritages and ministry experiences of the symposium participants.
It was agreed that a first follow-up to the symposium would be the composition of the executive summary, which would be distributed to all participants and to other Franciscan contacts along with the talks by Dan, Fr. Michael, Sr. Meg and Br. John. These talks are copyright by CTU and can be duplicated and shared, as long as the copyright is acknowledged. Plans are underway to publish these talks in an open access book form, along with those presented last year by Dominic Monti, OFM, Br. Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., and Br. Jude Winkler OFM. Conv., at last year’s “Beyond Ite Vos Gathering” at CTU.
- Fr. Edward Foley, OFM Cap., Biographical Information
- Daniel P. Horan, OFM website
- “Ite Vos: That They May be One As We Are One” – Nov. 8, 2017, HNP Today
- “Catholic Theological Union Plans Franciscan Symposium” – June 20, 2018, HNP Today
- “Friars Celebrate St. Bonaventure University President” – Sept. 29, 2016, HNP Today
- “Post-novitiate Formation Program Relocating to Midwest” – Sept. 17, 2015, HNP Today