Friars Review African-American Ministry Needs

HNP Communications Features

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Thirteen OFM friars from three provinces around the country met here last month to begin exploring the status of Franciscan ministry with and among the African-American community.

Provinces represented at the Oct. 7 to 9 meeting were Assumption, Holy Name and Sacred Heart. Representing Holy Name were Henry Fulmer, OFM, of South Carolina; David Hyman, OFM, of Georgia; Neil O’Connell, OFM, of New York City; and Patrick Tuttle, OFM, of South Carolina. Neil said that Holy Name Province’s African-American Committee has been operating for approximately 25 years.

During the gathering, Henry served as deacon and homilist, and Neil presided at the Eucharist.

Anthony Jukes, a transitional deacon from Immaculate Conception Province in The United Kingdom, also participated in the meeting, according to Neil. He is on internship with Sacred Heart friars in East St. Louis, Ill. Michael Jennrich, OFM, vicar of Sacred Heart Province, attended the first evening. Three laypersons from Greenville, S.C., — Phil and Erena Allen, co-directors of stewardship, and Mary Corner, parish administrator – also attended.

The purpose of the meeting was to begin an interprovincial exploration of the current status of OFM Franciscan ministry with the African-American community, and to consider strategies and objectives to make it more effective. Christopher Reuter of Sacred Heart Province began the meeting by drawing parallels between Franciscan and African-American spirituality. Participants deepened their understanding of the internal and external realities of these parallels.

“We reviewed what needs to happen to make this ministry more effective,” said  Fernand Cheri, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province’s office of friar life. The gathering was the first of what is planned to be annual meetings.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants agreed on a strategy for African-American ministry, as well understanding the unique contribution that the Franciscan charism brings, Neil said.

The Drury family, owners of the Drury Inn chain and long-time benefactors of Sacred Heart Province, offered their inn for the meeting. “The Drury family was just wonderful to us – very generous,” Neil said.
The next interprovincial meeting of those involved in African-American ministry is tentatively set for March 12 – 14 in New Orleans.

The first of these meetings in 2004 was hosted by Holy Name Province at All Saints Church in Harlem.