Franciscans Launch Plan for Revitalization

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

The provincial ministers of the OFM provinces of the United States.

The provincial ministers of the U.S. provinces and the Franciscan interprovincial team during their meeting in Albuquerque. From left to right: William Spencer (Sacred Heart), Page Polk (St. John the Baptist, FIT), William Beaudin (Holy Name, FIT), Kevin Mullen (Holy Name), John Hardin (St. Barbara), Richard McManus (St. Barbara, FIT),  Jeffrey Scheeler (St. John the Baptist) John Puodziunas (Assumption BVM), and Jack Clark Robinson (Our Lady of Guadalupe). (Photo courtesy of Thomas Washburn)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The leaders of the seven OFM provinces in the United States met last week to continue the process of planning a revitalized Franciscan presence in the U.S. They left with a plan, a website and a feeling of enthusiasm.

During the meeting, the provincial ministers approved a process proposed by the Franciscan Interprovincial Team (FIT), a group of three friars who will work together for three years on a plan to restructure the more than 1,000 friars serving the country. Appointed in October, the team comprises of William Beaudin, OFM, Fr. Richard McManus, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, and Fr. Page Polk, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province.

Discussions about the reconfiguration process formally began with a meeting in December 2012 in Burlington, Wis., where Provincial leaders gathered to discuss the future of Franciscan life in the United States. The provinces taking part in the meeting were Assumption BVM, Immaculate Conception, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. Barbara and St. John the Baptist.

Proposals for Reconfiguration Process
Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, said the Feb. 24 to 25 meeting, held at San Juan Diego Friary, was productive and collaborative. “The exchange of ideas was enthusiastic and the approval of the plan was unanimous.”

The process that will guide the renewal and reconfiguration efforts of the friars in the U.S. for the next two-and-a-half years includes four phases. Three are outlined in the US Franciscans newsletter of the United States Sub-Conference of the English-speaking Conference. The name of the plan is “Brothers for the Twenty-First Century: A Process for the Revitalization and Restructuring of Franciscan Life in the United States, 2014-2017.”

Phase one will require “a consensus of U.S. provincial administrations at their August 2015 gathering on organizational models that will be presented to the friars of the U.S for their prayerful consideration.” The goal of phase two is to achieve a consensus on a single model by spring 2016, after which relevant proposals will be presented to all friars for deliberation. Phase three will include a vote in the chapters of the U.S. provinces on the proposed model and any related proposals.

On March 6, the Franciscan Interprovincial Team will provide each province with discussion materials for use at house chapters and regional meetings.

U.S. Franciscans Online
During last week’s meeting, a website and social media sites focused on communicating information about the American Franciscan experience and the reconfiguration process were unveiled.

The website, called USFranciscans, was created by the U.S. Digital Media Committee, chaired by Fr. Thomas Washburn, OFM, executive secretary of the English-speaking Conference. The committee was established last year to create an online identity for the American friars — one that is cohesive rather than divided by province or region.

The new website includes a Friars Only section. The passcode was provided to friars as part of the provincials’ letter.

At the conclusion of last week’s meeting, the provincial ministers officially commissioned the Franciscan Interprovincial Team.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.