ESC Provincials Meet with General Minister

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

ESSEX, England — A meeting usually focused on accountability reports turned into a more unusual gathering for the English-speaking Conference provincials who met this month near London for their semi-annual meeting.

In addition to reviewing updates from 13 groups that report to the ESC, the provincial leaders met with the General Minister, elected a vice president, visited an historic London site and spontaneously chose a leader for the week. Provincial John O’Connor, OFM, was asked at the last minute to chair the week of meetings because the ESC president, Fr. John Harden, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, was not able to attend due to an urgent situation in his province.

The meeting, held at the Domus Maria Conference Center in Chigwell, Essex, was very productive, said John O’Connor, who had served as president of the ESC from 2007 to 2009. “It was a good give-and-take series of conversations.”

Sharing With the Order’s Leaders
The ESC members divided their Oct. 9 to 14 meeting into two parts. The first two days were filled with discussions about standard ESC matters, mostly updates from member provinces and issues regarding finances, administration and formation. The last three days comprised meetings with General Minister Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, the General Vicar and the General Definitorium. The General Minister meets every four years with each of the conferences of the Order of Friars Minor.

Representatives presented several reports describing the current state of affairs in the provinces of the ESC, including an actuarial outlook, positive activities, challenges with finances, ways to deal with the sexual abuse crisis, and the ESC relationship with the General Curia, among other things, according to John.

Fr. Jose addressed the group, speaking of issues affecting the Order. His words touched on “good things happening and personnel needs in new mission territories like Morocco, the Sudan, and Mayazaki, Japan,” said John. “He announced that he will be participating in the annual gathering of provincial councils in the Midwest and invited representatives from the other provincial councils of the United States and Canada to participate,” he added.

Exchanging Ideas Within the ESC
The week began, John said, with ESC members discussing issues with which they are dealing.

The attendees also discussed:
• Finances of the ESC
• Further collaboration of administrative functions of the provinces
• Potential future merger of provinces in the United States — talks that were “very preliminary,” John said
• Reports of the organizations that are connected to the ESC. They include the Franciscan Mission Service, Academy of American Franciscan History, Commission of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition and reports from the provinces’ development, vocation, communication, treasury and JPIC offices.

One of the final tasks of this meeting, hosted by Fr. Michael Copps, OFM, of the Immaculate Conception Province in Great Britain, was to elect a vice president for the conference. Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, was chosen and will become president after two years.

Voting and Touring 
John and the other ESC members used their free time on Wednesday afternoon to visit the Tower of London including St. Thomas Moore’s prison cell and burial site, which is usually off limits to tourists. “They made an exception for us because we are Franciscans,” John said.

The ESC is composed of provinces from six countries — Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta and the United States — comprising more than 10 percent of the Order’s 14,000 members, as historian Dominic Monti, OFM, noted in HNP Today.

The spring 2012 ESC meeting, hosted by the Sacred Heart Province, will be in San Antonio, Texas. Each meeting is hosted by a different ESC province.

The photos were provided by Fr. Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM, provincial minister of St. John the Baptist.

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