General Chapter Opens in Assisi

Maria Hayes In the Headlines

A group photo from the General Chapter

Participating friars in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria deli Angeli in Assisi (Photo courtesy of the English-speaking Conference)

ASSISI — Friars from around the world gathered at the Domus Pacis Hotel and Conference Center here as the General Chapter began on May 11. The participants comprise 103 provincial ministers and custodies, along with General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and 67 other friars in support roles.

The conference center is located mere steps away from the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, the Order’s mother church. During this chapter, delegates will vote on proposed changes to the constitutions and statutes, and elect a new General Minister, General Vicar and General Definitorium. They will also evaluate the current state of the Order of Friars Minor and set a course for the next six years.

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, is in attendance, along with Provincial Councilor Brian Belanger, OFM, who is serving as a delegate-at-large for the English-speaking Conference, former Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, who is serving as the “periti”, or expert, as well as on a three-man committee that will compile the final chapter report, and Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of the Order’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity for Creation.

Opening Mass
The first full day of the chapter opened with prayer in the piazza of the basilica and opening Mass in the basilica. General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, served as presider and homilist, alongside principal concelebrants Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, the papal delegate, General Vicar Fr. Julio Bunader, OFM, and General Secretary Fr. Aidan McGrath, OFM.

In his homily, the General Minister challenged the friars to not be satisfied with the status quo in the life of the Order, but, like the apostle Thomas, to probe the wounds of Christ, wounds inflicted by a lack of trust, respect, open communication and other characteristics.

Following the Mass, Fr. Michael declared the chapter open. Cardinal Ossa extended greetings from Pope Francis and Fr. Claudio Durighetto, OFM, provincial minister of Assisi, welcomed the friars. The remainder of the day was dedicated to reflection and prayer. Fr. Mauro Jöhri, OFM Cap., general minister of the Capuchin Order, provided the friars with a reflection that fit the theme of the chapter, “Brothers and Minors in Our Time.”

“Being a Friar Minor today means embarking on a project which, in communion with the Church, calls for a transformation of certain realities that touch the heart. We cannot simply call ourselves brothers without giving priority to fraternal life among us! I think it is equally important to affirm and commit ourselves to making our world a more fraternal world. There should be no parish, no ministry, no school, no reality entrusted to us, where we do not promote the cooperation and involvement of all. Being friars means we must everywhere and always live in such a way that the world around us is invited to a similar fraternal style of life. This is a big task. Someone once said that there were three ideals on which the French Revolution was built. These were freedom, equality and, the one that is often forgotten — brotherhood.”

Delegates to the chapter

John Puodziunas, of Assumption Province, on right, was appointed moderator for the English language. Brian Belanger, delegate-at-large, is third from left. (Photo courtesy of the ESC)

Business Begins
On May 12, the delegates began their first full day of business. The approximately 30 friars serving as support staff — including Dominic — took an oath to perform their duties well.

The friars were visited by Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi, who conveyed greetings from Pope Francis and provided a welcome address. The archbishop will preside over next week’s election of the General Minister.

At the end of the day, the chapter’s three moderators — for the Order’s three languages, English, Italian and Spanish — were elected. Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, of Assumption Province, will serve as moderator for the English-speaking friars; Fr. Carlo Serri, OFM, of St. Bernardine in Abruzzo, Italy, for Italian; and Fr. Edwin Segura Alvarado, OFM, of the Central American Province, for Spanish.

Today, May 13, the General Minister began his report to the delegates. He spoke about the Franciscan vocation, and how the Order is in the midst of great change. He also spoke of hope for the future, citing areas of strength growth in the Order, especially in Africa, Asia/Oceania and Eastern Europe.

As of Dec. 31, 2014, the Order’s membership included 13,632 friars, not including 689 postulants. The friars are present in 120 countries, with 103 provinces and autonomous custodies. Detailed statistics were provided in the latest issue of Fraternitas, the Order’s monthly newsletter.

The English-speaking Conference is providing daily news briefings about the chapter. Friars can subscribe to these daily briefings on the ESC website. The updates are put together by Fathers Tom Washburn, OFM, executive secretary of the ESC, and Alvin Te, OFM, both of Immaculate Conception Province. The briefings include many photos, video and other commentary about the chapter:

The previous General Chapter was held in spring 2009.

— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.