General Chapter Change and Other OFM News

Jim McIntosh OFM Franciscan World

The August-September issue of Fraternitas, the Order’s international newsletter, features the fifth anniversary of the release of Laudato Si’; the naming of St. John the Baptist Province’s St. Anthony Messenger as the Catholic Press Association’s Magazine of the Year and Holy Land Review, a publication of the Holy Land Custody, as Magazine of the Year-Mission Magazines; new Franciscan books; the announcement of an online medieval studies course at the Antonianum, the Order’s institute of higher education in Rome; and an online offered by the Order’s Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation office.

The descriptions below summarize recent developments throughout the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found on the OFM website and by following the Order on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The General Curia of the Order of Friars Minor in Rome. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

► At its meeting in July, the members of the Order’s General Council decided that the next General Chapter of the Order will be held in Rome, in a reduced form and, depending on the evolution of the pandemic, close to the Solemnity of Pentecost or, at the latest, in September or October 2021. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, provinces in Croatia, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic were able to hold their provincial chapters, and the acts of election of these provinces were ratified at this meeting of the General Council. The General Council also appointed the new provincial council of the Province in Ireland. The next “Tempo Forte meeting, is scheduled for Sept. 7 to 18.

► As part of the Laudato Si’ Revolution launched by the Order of Friars Minor in May, the JPIC Office collaborated with musician Sandesh Manuel, OFM, for a series of video campaigns to promote the initiative. The first video, released on July 15 – the feast of St. Bonaventure – is titled “Respect the Divine Good in Creation.” The video urges viewers to change their perspectives and hearts to recognize the Creator in Creation.

“Christ is found in all creation, including the earth that we call home. The theology of creation by St. Bonaventure says that God can be found in all creatures because they are created out of God’s unconditional love. But few realize that their actions and indifference towards the well-being of the earth and the people in the periphery are synonymous with the suffering of our beloved Savior.

The Laudato Si’ Revolution emphasizes creating a new culture, a new civilization that gives full respect to the infinite love and goodness of God in Creation. Only then will we be able to sing together with St. Francis of Assisi and St. Bonaventure “Praised be the Lord of Creation” (“Laudato Si’ Mi Signore”).

► The current issue of Koinōnia, the newsletter for spiritual assistants to the Secular Franciscans, includes an article by Pedro Zitha, OFM, titled “The Secular Franciscan and the Immigrant.” Migration has been a topic of debate for centuries, but many times these discussions lead simply to further discussions rather than to practical actions that help the suffering. While we say that “the world is a global village,” in reality, nations seem more divided, closed and hostile than in the past. Migration has resulted in clashes between nationalities, ethnicities, political affiliations and religious beliefs – which can be devastating to those who are persecuted in their country of origin. The author writes that “it would be nice and constructive for us all to be aware that we are pilgrims in the world.”

Hugh Macsherry with the energy saving equipment installed in Durham. (Photo courtesy of the Order’s website)

► The climate crisis has demonstrated the critical need to look for alternative renewable energy systems. In various countries, Franciscan friars have been carrying out a process of energy transition in their houses, parishes, and schools — with the majority opting for solar energy. As part of the Laudato Si’ Revolution campaign, the Order is sharing some stories about energy transition in some of the Order’s fraternities. They are practical examples of friars who, together with their fraternities and pastoral communities, have ventured into renewable and low-pollution energy for the benefit of their communities and future generations. Among the stories mentioned are HNP’s Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina, and St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Maryland.

► The Order’s General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization, or  SGME, has published a letter to friars concerning ministry in the time of COVID-19. It references this text from “Humana Communitas in the Age of Pandemic: Untimely Meditations on Life’s Rebirth” published by the Pontifical Academy for Life:

“We are called to an attitude of hope, beyond the paralyzing effect of two opposite temptations: on the one hand, the resignation that passively undergoes events; on the other, the nostalgia for a return to the past, only longing for what was there before. Instead, it is time to imagine and implement a project of human coexistence that allows a better future for each and every one”

The SGME writes, “All of us are called to collaborate in this dream and in the emergence of a better future, as this is our task as evangelizers, to announce a better world – according to the coordinates of the Kingdom of God – and to collaborate in the creation of the conditions that make it real. It also recommends writings on the subject:

Michael Perry, the Minister General of the Order. (Photo courtesy of the Order’s website)

► Michael Perry, OFM, the Minister General of the Order, celebrated Mass in Assisi on the feast of the Porziuncola on Aug. 2. In his homily, he said: “The new coronavirus has also opened the eyes of more people… to the profound long-standing social and ecological wounds present in most, if not all societies.” He pointed out that these wounds have attracted little attention among the majority or privileged classes, but are the daily lived experience of minorities.  “It is the experience of the many people all over the world – in England, France, Italy, India, South Africa, Brazil, to name only a few places – systematically excluded, reduced to a life of poverty, who ‘cannot breathe’ because of the color of their skin, of the social class to which they were assigned, due to their religious beliefs or sexual orientation,” said the Minister General.

Michael cautioned that during the coronavirus pandemic “those who control the forces of production and economic distribution – multinationals – are becoming richer at an alarming rate… while the poor, the excluded, more minorities are becoming poorer, and marginalized, and pushed to the limit of survival also at an alarming rate. They are the ones who face the greatest risks and endure the worst consequences of the pandemic because they have nothing to rely on.” The Minister General continues, “The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic allowed us, perhaps for the first time in our lives, to recognize the deeply interconnected nature of all living beings and the need for us to repent and change our lives,” he said.

He concluded, “God calls us through this great celebration of the forgiveness of Assisi to abandon everything that leads to death, everything that steals mercy, forgiveness, peace, and joy from God. We are invited to live as beloved children of a loving God, destined for freedom, destined for love, destined for God. There is no room for fear, there is no space for exclusion, there is no space for apathy or inaction. In God’s paradise, everyone is welcome, everyone is forgiven and everyone is loved. May Mary, Mother of Jesus, embrace and console us while together we renew our commitment to live an authentic friendship with God, with one another and with our mother earth, our common home.”

A group of Poor Clare nuns. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

► The Minister General wrote a letter to the Poor Clares to coincide with the feast of St. Clare on Aug. 11. Michael Perry, OFM, tied a story about Clare to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Lord God, look, I have been left here alone with you.” You probably recognize that this heartfelt cry of desolation was uttered by our Mother St. Clare on Christmas Eve 1252 when, incapacitated by her serious illness, she could not join her sisters in celebrating the Nativity of the Lord. How can we fail to see in it the lament of Jesus during his agony in the Garden of Olives? And that of so many of our brothers and sisters who, threatened by Covid-19, suffer isolation so distressing for the human heart? On that night, Clare experienced deep loneliness: Francis, who next to God was her only consolation, had died; the friars were in conflict; and she herself was alone, carrying the burden of her infirmities. It is this loneliness that she presents to the Lord, and God gives her the consolation of hearing the hymns sung by the friars in the Basilica of St. Francis.

The Minister General goes on to talk about fear, “…has not fear become our daily lot and our companion since the beginning of this pandemic? Fear of the other from whom we must protect ourselves, fear of the wolf that has entered the sheepfold, fear of the evil at work inside us, fear of transmitting death to the other, fear that becomes panic when the virus does its deadly work on our loved ones, and when our own symptoms suddenly give alarming signals.” And then he talks about hope, “Perhaps this event will also be an opportunity to build a new world based no longer on the paradigm of globalization, at the commercial or cultural level, but on a return to the local, to the family, to the regional. Can we not dream of a new vision of work, business and the economy that is more inclusive and based on solidarity, where the soul and vulnerability would be its fertile foundations?”

— Jim McIntosh, OFM, is a communications assistant for Holy Name Province.