General Chapter Closes

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

ASSISI — The 187th General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor concluded June 20 with a Solemn Eucharistic concelebration at the Portiuncula in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels here. The international gathering, held during the 800th year of the Order, will be remembered for its strengthening of fraternal bonds.

The day began for the 152 delegates, in Assisi since May 24, with a final address by General Minister José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM. He thanked Franciscans from around the world for their contributions to the Chapter’s success. He also referred to the Chapter’s past efforts to strengthen fraternal relationships between the groups of the Order, according to the Daily Briefing distributed June 20 by the English-speaking Conference (ESC).

The fraternal-building efforts seemed to have paid off, according to Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. “Fraternity among the friars was a highlight of the Chapter. There was a strong bond among all the friars,” he said. “I enjoyed talking with Provincials from around the world.”

The Provincial  Minister described the Chapter as a “very positive fraternal experience combined with well- planned prayer experiences, the most notable of which was the vesper service celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Order.  The service consisted of a narrative of the spiritual journey of Francis as well as moments of prayer and silent reflection. The performance of a 12-piece string ensemble made the service even more special,” John said.

The format of the Chapter, in general, “needs to be studied with a view toward revision,” John said.

“The length of the Chapter is much longer than is necessary. The format seemed overly verbose at times with quite a bit of redundancy. It is my understanding that a committee will be formed to review the entire process and to suggest changes. It will be helpful for this committee to study models of chapters used in some of the provinces in the world.

“Finally, it is the hope of many of the provincials who were present that General Chapters in the future will include interaction with representatives of the laity from the provinces around the world,” John said.

The Chapter concluded its business on June 19 by evaluating its process and making recommendations for the next chapter in six years. Robert Campagna, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province in the United States, proclaimed a reading from Matthew’s Gospel as part of the prayer to open the final session. Delegates then sang what had become the most popular song of the Chapter, “Mungu Ni Mwema,” Swahili for “God is Good.”

English-speaking friars and their partners-in-ministry were kept abreast of Chapter events by the ESC’s daily e-briefings.

“Our executive secretary did a superb job with his daily communications,” said John, who has served as ESC president since October 2007.

Thomas Washburn, OFM, the ESC secretary said: “I have no way of knowing how far and wide these updates went, but I know they have been sent to the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Malta, Australia, New Zealand, Lithuania, the Netherlands and other locations. More than 5,000 unique visits have been made to the photo gallery page on the Chapter’s Web site, and the videos on our YouTube page have been viewed nearly 1,000 times.”

Fr. Thomas, recently named vocation director of Immaculate Conception  Province, will continue in his role until 2011.  He and John and the other ESC members will meet next in October in Pennsylvania.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.