The reflection below is the fifth in a series by Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, about his observations and experiences as leader of Holy Name Province. The previous installment was published in January.
Dear brothers and partners-in-ministry,
I am writing this message on the eve of the feast of Pentecost. In one sense, as members of the Church, we might want to celebrate a defining moment in our communal history. In another sense, as the Church gathered today, we have the opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the ongoing gifts of the Spirit that continue to be manifested among the people of God. The feast of Pentecost — this year on May 15 — always is a significant moment for the Church and its ongoing obligation to live and preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.
As Franciscans, we know about the significance St. Francis placed on Pentecost as he called for the friars to convene chapters during the time of this feast. So as I reflect on Pentecost, my memory leads me back to the experience and the enduring effects of the General Chapter of 2015. The numerous fraternal interactions and the many prayerful moments with brothers from around the world remain with me — though the long hours in meetings are not missed. Nonetheless, the General Chapter was a positive experience and its impact continues to inspire me and my work.
Update from the Order
Some of these effects were manifested at the spring meeting of the English-speaking Conference in Galveston, Texas, hosted by St. John the Baptist Province. Fr. Caoimhin (Kevin) O’Laoide, OFM, the general councilor who represents the friars from the English-speaking world, joined the provincials for the meeting. Caoimhin told us of some of the post-chapter activities and challenges that the Order’s new administration was addressing. We, in turn, shared our experiences of life in our individual provinces.
He was particularly interested in the progress that was being made in the United States concerning the revitalization and restructuring of the seven OFM provinces. We shared with him the preliminary results that were coming in from the provinces in terms of which models of reorganization were gaining support and which ones were fading to the background. We also shared our hope for the upcoming interprovincial gatherings that will be held at four different sites throughout the country during June and July. Caoimhin will join the seven provincial administrations in August in Techny, Ill., to select one model that will be brought to seven provincial chapters in 2017 for discussions and a vote. The results of the votes in these provincial chapters will serve as the basis for the recommendation from the provinces that will go to the General Minister for his decision about the appropriate future structure.
Another fraternal effect of the General Chapter was the presence of Fr. John Puodzinus, OFM, the former Provincial Minister of Assumption Province and current Economo General (CFO) of the Order, who provided us with an update about the finances within the Curia and the Order. Having served on the Economic Commission during the General Chapter, I was very encouraged to learn that many of the reforms that had been suggested to tighten financial controls in the Order had been already put in place and the remainder were scheduled to be implemented. In addition, John shared potential models for satisfying the internal and external debt of the Order that occurred during the fiscal crisis. John’s report was good news. He and his colleagues have accomplished a great deal in a short time — not bad for a man who is learning Italian while being on the job at the same time. We are blessed as an Order to have his skills put to such good use.
Living and Working as ‘Little Brothers’
After the ESC meeting, I came back to New York to prepare for the Provincial Council meeting that was being held the last week of April in Falmouth at Quam Bonum. I am happy to report that the style of this meeting also has roots in the effects of the General Chapter. You will recall that the post-chapter document, “Going to the Peripheries with the Joy of the Gospel,” challenged us to consider how we live as “minors and brothers” in the contemporary world. The key to everything we do is discovered in us being “little ones” who are “brothers” to all.
Our April Council meeting made these themes come alive. The content of our meeting has been made available already in the Council minutes that were distributed on April 29. What I would like to share with you is some aspects of the experience of the meeting.
First, we received hospitality from “our brother” Bill Fitzgerald, OFM — he welcomed us and did everything that he could to enable us to hold a productive meeting. A second effect that we experienced was participating in the Eucharist with “our brother” Joe Nangle, OFM, who was celebrating his anniversary of 58 years as a priest. Joe reminded us that his ministry as a priest was based on his profession of Franciscan life; he lived and worked among the ‘little ones as a minor” and he became a better minister because of this encounter.
My experience at the Cape led me back to a well established conclusion — in Franciscan life, things go better when you make time for prayer, for discussion, for sharing food (and maybe a drink or two), and time for relaxing together with your brothers. The issues that we considered in the meeting were important — some touched upon the individual lives of our brothers, others were more administrative and touched upon the facilities, the fiscal realities, and the ministries of the Province — but what will always stand out in my mind is the fact that we tried to approach these matters in a fraternal context. We took time to be with one another — to pray with one another, to prepare meals together, and to share our ideas and our selves with one another — in short, we tried to be “brothers and minors” to one another. I am happy to say that this approach works. The decisions that we made will fade and may be forgotten, but I will not forget that nine men gathered for a few days of work and came out better because they were part of a fraternal moment with one another.
I share my experience of this meeting with you since sometimes I realize that, as brothers, we get too busy and overly concerned about deadlines and the important work that we are doing so that we miss the opportunities to be with one another. I encourage each friar and every fraternity in Holy Name Province to pause now and then so that you can appreciate one another. Those of you who share common life and work — pause to pray, to discuss, to eat, and to relax — together. As you do these things, remember — to serve one another — to be a minor and to be a brother. I believe that whatever task you are undertaking, whatever project is on your plate — the experience of working alongside your brothers as ‘little ones” will make whatever results better.
A final effect of the General Chapter that I must share is the importance of education in the Order. In Chapter, we pledged to support centers of Franciscan studies throughout the world. Closer to home, Holy Name Province must acknowledge and give thanks to God for the many gifts that “our sister” Margaret Carney shared with our Province. After 12 years of dedicated and committed service to our study center, St. Bonaventure University, Sr. Margaret is stepping down as president. She preserved, enhanced and now passes on to her successor the Franciscan legacy that she received from the friars of our Province. On behalf of her brothers in Holy Name Province, I want to thank her for the care, the commitment, and the love that she gave to the mission of the university. We, her brothers, were blessed to have her leadership as president. As a former president who looked to her for guidance and encouragement, I can say without reserve — thank you, Sr. Margaret Carney. May the Lord give you peace and all good!
May the effects of Pentecost continue to give us and all people life and hope.
— Fr. Kevin, a native of Paterson, N.J., is the 16th friar to serve as Provincial Minister of Holy Name Province. His term began in summer 2014.
- “From the Provincial Minister’s Desk” — Jan. 13, 2016, HNP Today
- “SBU President to Retire” — Jan. 22, 2016, HNP Today
- “Order’s General Chapter Concludes in Assisi” — June 10, 2015, HNP Today