From the Provincial Minister’s Desk

Kevin Mullen, OFM In the Headlines

The reflection below is the third 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 December 2014. 

Dear brothers and partners-in-ministry,

It has been a memorable fall so far. I have spent much of my time in the car, driving to various functions and celebrations. These trips have given me a chance to see the beauty of the season and to reflect on recent events.

After our September Provincial Council meeting in Silver Spring, Md., I made sure I got back to New York City before the roads became congested, as was expected with the pope’s visit.

The day before autumn officially began – Sept. 23 – Pope Francis arrived in the United States. Like so many Americans, and most Catholics, I watched his appearances in the three cities and was impressed with his message. He made a significant impact on each place. To me, several aspects were most memorable.

Watching the canonization of Junípero Serra and seeing a friar be recognized was an honor for all of us in the Franciscan movement. The pope’s address to Congress on Sept. 24 was also very powerful. The four people he talked about — Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton — were highly significant. Each of them embodied the message of inclusion and compassion that Pope Francis stresses.

Shortly after the speech, I received a phone call from Bill Barrett, a former friar, who now is a professor of photography at Webster University in St. Louis. Bill told me he thinks he took the only picture that exists of Dorothy Day with Mother Theresa. It was taken in 1979 when Mother Theresa visited the Catholic Worker in New York City. Bill has since sent me three copies of this remarkable picture — one for me, one for General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and one for Pope Francis — which he hopes Michael can hand-deliver to the pope sometime in the future.

I’ll never forget the pope’s visit to New York City and all the excitement it generated here. His presence was energizing. One amusing sight that I witnessed was a “rickshaw driver” dressed as the pope riding his bike past Madison Square Garden, extending his hand in blessing to all. On a more serious note, one of the thousands of homeless people on our streets sat at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 31st Street, also known as Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, Street, with a sign that read “Pope Francis cares about me – how about you?”

Road Trip to Capital Area
Just a few days after the pope left the United States, I drove up to Albany for the inauguration of F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, as the 11th president of Siena College. It was a trip down “memory lane” for me. The day before the inauguration, I participated in a board of trustees meeting that was followed by an academic symposium on the enduring significance of a liberal arts education, led by Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ. Following her excellent presentation, trustees, faculty and administrators gathered in small groups to discuss her remarks and to identify implications to enhance Siena’s educational experience.

The process of dialogue that guided the symposium loomed large in Ed’s inaugural address to the Siena community. He shared his strong intent to lead the college in a manner that respected all and invited all to join together to address common challenges. He noted that the true strength of a college was the ability of all its parts — faculty, administrators, staff, students, alumni, trustees, friends and benefactors — to work collegially and collaboratively to advance Siena’s mission as a Catholic and Franciscan institution of higher education. His experience as the interim president over the last year helped Ed strike just the right tone in his talk. All in all, it was a great day for Ed and his family, especially for his mother, for the friars, for the Siena community, and for Holy Name Province. In a final and related matter, Mark Reamer, OFM, did an outstanding job as master of ceremonies. Similar to Ed’s talk, he brought together and explained the various parts of the inauguration ceremony. Thank you, Mark — well done.

After the inauguration, I drove back to New York City for the commemoration of the feast of St. Francis. I celebrated the Transitus and the Feast Day Mass with the friars and laypeople of St. Francis Parish. The liturgies reflected the diversity of the city and radiated joy to all who were present. Then, I found myself on the road again — this time by subway — to Thompson Street in Little Italy to participate in the fall meeting of the provincial ministers of the English-speaking Conference, hosted by Immaculate Conception Province. The highlight of the gathering was the heartfelt hospitality that was extended to all of us by our brother Fr. Primo Piscitello, OFM, and the friars in his local fraternity. The food was as good as you can imagine — pasta and homemade dishes that always put you in the right mood!

During our meeting, we evaluated our experiences at the General Chapter and made some suggestions for improvement. We also talked about common issues facing our provinces, including formation programs, personnel issues, and the financial challenges that we are currently facing within the Order. In this regard, we were very pleased to acknowledge one of our own — Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM — was selected by the General Administration to be the Economo General, the chief financial officer of the Order. John’s personal and professional skills make him an excellent choice to organize and direct the Order’s financial affairs.

Within the meeting, the seven American provincials convened separately to continue discussions on reconfiguration. We met with the Franciscan Interprovincial Team and listened to their plan for advancing the renewal and restructuring process throughout the country. We endorsed the concept of having four meetings throughout the U.S. during June and July of 2016. Each meeting would have seven representatives of each province in attendance. The purpose of these gatherings would be to discuss and evaluate the models of restructuring that are currently being considered.

Fraternal Gatherings and More
Our fall fraternal gatherings have begun. Their principal objectives are to strengthen our fraternal relations, to discuss the models of reconfiguration, and to introduce a process for assessing our current fraternities. The fraternal gatherings will continue this month and next, as our friars travel to sites throughout the Northeast and the South.

I am happy to have completed this part of my fall travels and now to be back in New York City to maintain my work and, most importantly, to be here in the city to cheer on the 2015 National League Champion New York Mets as they enter the final stage of this year’s victory cycle — the World Series!

Please know of my prayers and best wishes for all of you, especially the Mets! If you are looking for me on October 31, I will not be in a Halloween costume – but I will be at Citifield rooting for another Mets victory.

— 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 June 2014.

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