ESC Update: Final U.S. Province Votes on Reconfiguration Proposal

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

The following is a compilation of this month’s news from the website and Facebook page of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, composed of provinces from Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta and the United States.

All seven U.S. OFM provinces have agreed to join the national conversation regarding the reconfiguration of the American provinces.

Throughout June, five provinces — including Holy Name — held provincial gatherings to vote to be participate in the discussions about restructuring the OFM communities.

The largest province, Holy Name, voted 175-4 in favor during the Provincial Chapter held earlier this month.

“The chapter delegates discussed the desire to further integrate our lives and ministry with the friars of the other U.S. provinces,” said outgoing Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. “This, in some ways, made the vote anti-climactic. I was delighted with the actual vote as it clearly expressed the support of Holy Name Province to be a part of the process. I did not get the sense that the friars were afraid of moving ahead.”

Two provinces — Our Lady of Guadalupe and Assumption BVM — unanimously voted to approve the proposal. Our Lady of Guadalupe Province had 40 voting friars and Assumption BVM had 55 voting friars.

“For almost 10 years now, we have been actively discerning the future of Franciscan life and the structures necessary to support that life,” said Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, provincial minister of Assumption BVM, based in Wisconsin. “We approached the vote on the joint proposal being considered by our brothers in the provinces of the United States as a ratification of our place in the discernment.”

Sacred Heart Province, based in Missouri, was slightly more divided when voting on the proposal, with 82 friars in favor, 49 opposed and one abstained. Immaculate Conception, based in New York, had 37 friars in favor and 29 opposed.

In April, St. Barbara Province, based in California, approved the proposal 91 to 4, and in May, St. John the Baptist Province, of Ohio, approved the proposal 104 to 3.

Members of the provincial administrations of all the U.S. provinces will gather at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wis., from Aug. 3 to 6 to discuss participating in the continuing process.

Statistics compiled last year by the Interprovincial Commission established after the December 2012 meeting of all OFM provincial councils in the United States indicate the number of friars in the country will decline significantly during the next decade. This presents a need to consolidate the U.S. provinces’ administrative structures to better serve the Order’s mission in the country. A number of other religious congregations have taken similar steps in recent years, such as the Jesuits, who are in the process of consolidating their 10 U.S. provinces to four.

Information about the results of the recent provincial chapters can be found on the English-speaking Conference’swebsite and Facebook page.

Details about the reconfiguration process can be found in “A Place at the Table,” the newsletter of the ESC’s United States Sub-Conference, which is distributed to all friars. The most recent was provided to HNP friars through an e-bulletin on June 23.

 Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.