ROME – Guided by the theme “Renewing Our Vision, Embracing Our Future,” 118 representatives of the more than 12,000 Franciscan friars of the Order of Friars Minor around the globe gathered last month at their General Chapter at the Capuchin Collegio Internazionale San Lorenzo da Brindisi, where they elected several new leaders, including the Order’s 121st successor to founding father St. Francis of Assisi.
On July 13, Massimo Fusarelli, OFM, the provincial minister of St. Bonaventure Province in Rome, was elected to serve a six-year term as the new OFM Minister General. He succeeds Michael Perry, OFM, a member of Missouri-based Sacred Heart Province, who had served as Minister General since 2013 when he was elected to complete the term of Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM.
During the two-week Chapter, held from July 3 to 18, the Capitulars who attended this celebration of worldwide Franciscan brotherhood – including Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, who represented Holy Name Province – elected nine new leaders, who will serve from 2021 to 2027, and discussed a range of issues that will guide the Order for the next six years.
The election of the new Minister General was announced by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who was appointed by Pope Francis to serve as the cardinal delegate to the 2021 OFM General Chapter.
Massimo, 59, made his first vows in 1983 and his solemn profession in January 1989 and was ordained to the priesthood eight months later that same year. During his Franciscan life, he has worked mainly in formation roles and served in several leadership positions. He studied at the Pontifical Antonianum University and earned a licentiate degree in patristic studies from the Augustinian Patristic Institute, both in Rome.
He is known to be friendly, kind, and a skilled preacher – and deeply committed to the traditions of the Order, according to two Holy Name Province members who have personal observations about the new Minister General.
Historian and former Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, has known Massimo for roughly two decades.
“I first met him at the General Assembly of the Women in the Franciscan Secular Institute, the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ,” said Dominic, who is stationed at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York.
“Massimo was serving as spiritual assistant to the Italy Zone when I was serving in the same capacity for the U.S. Zone. He impressed me then as a very affable and bright man,” continued Dominic. “I met him again when I became secretary of formation in 2005. Massimo was serving then as General Secretary of Formation and Studies, so I attended a number of meetings at which he was in charge. I always looked forward to meeting him.”
Francis Di Spigno, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island in New Jersey, recalls spending time with Massimo – the then-prefect of formation for the Order – during his visit in 2004 to New York City, where Francis lived at the time when he was HNP’s vocation director.
“I found him to be a gracious and kind man – and a great listener,” said Francis, who described an invitation he extended to Massimo to visit his relatives in Brooklyn. “We went to a prayer service for the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and then to a family-style restaurant in the Williamsburg neighborhood. He seemed to enjoy my family and the food. Another visiting friar, who happened to be Irish, served as translator.”
Roughly 15 years later, Massimo needs little help with English translation.
In a video released by the Order on July 13 after Massimo’s election to the post, the new Minister General delivered a message in English in which he shared his thoughts about the future and a blessing of St. Francis.
In addition to the Minister General, other leaders of the Order were elected during the Chapter, including a new General Vicar – Isauro Ulises Covili Linfati, OFM, a native of Chile – and members of the Order’s General Council.
Jimmy Zammit, OFM, a native of Toronto, Canada, and member of St. Paul the Apostle Province in Malta, is the new General Councilor – for the English-speaking Conference, of which Holy Name Province is a member.
During the gathering at the international college – which is located about halfway between Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino and the historical center of Rome – three speakers addressed the friars. Archbishop Felice Accrocca spoke on July 4; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of Caritas Internationalis, addressed the group on July 6, and Daniel Horan, OFM, who was appointed theological expert at the Chapter, offered a reflection on July 10 on “Fraternitas” as the heart of the Franciscan charism.
Michael Perry, who had succeeded Abp. Carballo, whom Pope Francis had named secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, celebrated the opening Mass of the 2021 Chapter as one of his last acts as Minister General.
Throughout the two-week event, the Capitulars discussed a variety of topics subjects, such as equality of all friars as brothers, combatting individualism and clericalism, the need for a more equitable sharing of resources with emerging entities, legislation to ensure the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults, the call to live minority by greater identification with the poor, the need for enhancing projects that promote integral ecology, and the responsible use of social and digital media as an evangelization tool.
After the General Chapter concluded, three friars from the US-6 provinces – the communities working to unify as a single province – shared their thoughts about the gathering of friars from around the world in a video that was produced and released by the Office of Revitalization and Restructuring. It includes comments by Larry, who was representing HNP Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM; James Gannon, OFM, Provincial Minister of Assumption BVM Province; and Mark Soehner, OFM, Provincial of St. John the Baptist Province. Larry spoke of the legislation and proposals discussed at the gathering and of the privilege he felt in attending the gathering.
“It was a humbling experience to see the diversity and richness, and the talent and goodness of so many brothers who are gathered and who are active and doing so many good things throughout the world,” said Larry, who also spoke of the legislation and proposals discussed during meetings.
“I am grateful to my Province and to the Order for the privilege of attending this Chapter,” added Larry, who is stationed at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.
Larry closed his video reflection by thanking “our Capuchin brothers who extended such incredible hospitality to us, even to the point of serving our meals – truly a wonderful experience of hospitality in the greater Franciscan world.”
Information about the General Chapter, whose date and location were changed because of the global pandemic, can be found on the Chapter’s website. Among its contents are highlights of each day’s activities as well as videos by and about the various OFM provinces.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Franciscans Open General Chapter, Focusing on Diversity, Evangelization” – July 7, 2021, Crux
- “A 2020 Snapshot of the Order” – Sept. 3, 2020, HNP Today
- “General Chapter Change and Other OFM News” – Aug. 13, 2020, HNP Today
- “Order’s General Chapter Concludes in Assisi” – June 10, 2015, HNP Today