Friars Under 55 Discuss Ideas for Future

Lawrence Hayes, OFM Friar News

The friars who attended the gathering. Click to view a larger image. (Photo courtesy of Christian)

The friars who attended the gathering. Click to view a larger image. (Photo courtesy of Christian Seno)

LONG BRANCH, N.J. — The new year kicked off at San Alfonso Retreat Center for 49 friars as three groups converged at the seaside facility where we were welcomed with warm Redemptorist hospitality.

First, students in initial formation gathered, from Sunday evening Jan. 3 through noon on Wednesday, for the annual January intersession program. Michael Blastic, OFM, provided input on the theme “Vatican II, Pope Francis and Religious Life in Holy Name Province.” His presentations were outstanding — well-grounded in Franciscan sources and in Vatican II ecclesiology — and the friars’ small group reflections after the talk were personal, spirited and deep.

Also gathered at San Alfonso, from Monday through Wednesday, were the Province’s SPUFY friars — those solemnly professed under five years — accompanied by Michael Duffy, OFM, and Walter Liss, OFM, who serve as the group’s mentors.

Thirdly, from noon on Wednesday through noon on Thursday, HNP friars who are 55 years of age and under joined with the above two groups for a gathering focused on the revitalization and reconfiguration process currently underway throughout the seven U.S. provinces. Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, joined the friars for this meeting whose purpose, as explained by Kevin, was to “give those ‘younger’ friars who will shoulder the major responsibility for living with — and implementing — the results of the revitalization/reconfiguration process in the years ahead the opportunity for additional input and discussion about our preferred future — both with regard to ‘models’ and Franciscan fraternity-in-mission in general.”


Kevin Mullen addresses those in attendance. (Photo courtesy of Christian)

The friars first explored together a number of themes relevant to our Franciscan life and values: (1) their desires for Franciscan fraternity-in-mission; (2) a social analysis of the cultural, economic and political factors affecting us and our brothers and sisters in the U.S.; (3) the Church’s and the Order’s legitimate needs from and expectations of the friars in the U.S.; and (4) their personal hopes, fears, reservations and objections to the revitalization/reconfiguration process currently underway. Bill Beaudin, OFM, a member of the Franciscan Interprovincial Team, and I led the discussion.

With these conversations serving as background and context, the focus turned to a prioritization of the four possible models for reconfiguration. The brothers were asked: Which of the four models best responds to our hopes for the future and to the legitimate expectations and vital concerns of the U.S., the Order and the Church, while minimizing our current fears and reservations about the revitalization/reconfiguration process? Can we move toward a group consensus on a preferred model?


Bill Beaudin responds to questions about the revitalization/reconfiguration process. (Photo courtesy of Christian)

After small- and large-group discussions, the group rather easily expressed a preference for the one- and two-province models (models A and C). This consensus will feed into the spring HNP regional gatherings (which will also focus on revitalization/reconfiguration) as well as the four interprovincial gatherings this summer. In addition, the consensus arrived at by our “younger” brothers will inform the discussions of the Provincial Administration as it prepares to present HNP’s preferred model at the meeting of the seven provincial councils in August 2016. It should be noted that the consensus expressed at San Alfonso last week is simply a “snapshot” of where the younger friars are leaning at this moment in the process. In other words, it is not meant to be a definitive or binding resolution by these friars.

The spirit of the gathering at San Alfonso was very positive, lively, energized and energizing. The friars were highly engaged in the discussions, frank in their input and respectful of divergent opinions. They were also deeply appreciative of the opportunity to get together and to share what matters most to them — the gift of our fraternity.

— Fr. Larry has been Provincial Vicar of Holy Name Province since June 2014.

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