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.
► Nearly 60 friars from the four houses of the Order of Friars Minor in Rome held a chapter of mats last month. The gathering, which took place Nov. 15 and 16 at the Casa del Pellegrino Divino Amore in Rome, was intended to strengthen the relationship between the friars of the four fraternities that are dependent on the Minister General. At the chapter, the friars of the General Curia, Sant’Isidoro, the Antonianum, and the confessors at St. John Lateran reflected on their responses to the challenges posed by the Plenary Council of the Order at Nairobi, Kenya, in June 2018.
► Minister General Michael Perry, OFM, published a Dec. 1 letter to friars on World HIV/AIDS Day 2019, in which he said, “There currently are 38 million brothers and sisters living with the HIV virus, with more than 1.7 million new infections in 2018. More than 32 million others have died as a result of complications of AIDS since the HIV virus was first identified,” the General Minister said. “We unite our prayer with all who are living with HIV, most especially our own brothers: may they experience mercy, acceptance, and love, qualities that St. Francis demanded of his friars,” he continued, closing his message with the Franciscan Prayer for 2019 World AIDS Day:
“God, you who are the source of all blessings, hear the cry of our brothers and sisters who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. In your infinite goodness, transform human hearts so that all people everywhere might treat with dignity, respect, and loving care those living with HIV. May our communities become places of welcome, compassion, love, and hope for all. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
► Fraternal meetings have always been a challenge for the friars of the Russian Foundation who minister in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Ussurijsk because of the distance between these cities. So the meeting from Nov. 11 to 15 at Novosibirsk, located in the center of Siberia, was a special one for these friars in Russia. The first days of their time together were dedicated to a retreat on the theme of ongoing formation – “the identity of our charism.” They spent time discussing proposals for the revision of the foundation’s statutes, and they also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Order of Friars Minor-operated Birth of the Lord Franciscan-Catholic School – one of only two Catholic schools in the entire country. In addition to the friars of the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation, those who attended the anniversary celebration included the bishop of the diocese of Novosibirsk, religious from various congregations, teachers and staff of the school, parents and former students, and students of the current classes. The students opened the festivities with a stage performance about St. Francis.
► The General Government of the Order published a Statement of Solidarity after recent events in Latin America – particularly in Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia – and in Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East. The statement, signed by General Vicar Julio César Bunader, OFM, in part, said, “We have witnessed the looting and destruction of shops, public and religious bodies, but what pains us most and worries us is the violence perpetrated against so many men and women, violence that has led to the loss of life itself. Our Franciscan spirituality continually invites us to be bridges, promoters, and agents of dialogue; builders of humanity. We have had news of how the friars of Chile and Bolivia have been involved in the social developments of recent weeks. We encourage them to continue accompanying and supporting the weakest in society. As the General Council, we are with you and with all the people of goodwill who seek a more just and fraternal society.”
► With the help of the four ministers general of the Franciscan family (OFM, OFM Conventual, OFM Capuchin, and Third Order Regular), the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants of USA, the National Fraternity of South Korea, and the Presidency of International Council of the Secular Franciscan Order offered an international formation course for national spiritual assistants of the Secular Franciscan Order and Franciscan Youth (YouFra). Friars from the obediences of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America attended the course from Nov. 10 to 16 at the Conventual Seraphicum College in Laurentina, Rome. In addition to presenting information about the Secular Franciscans and YouFra, the course was designed to rekindle in participants the love for ministry as spiritual assistants.
► The friars of Western Canada were among the latest to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. The friars of Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre near Calgary, Alberta, along with the Calgary Interfaith Council and Calgary Chapter of the Order of St. Lazarus, marked this historic event at the B’nai Tikvah Synagogue. Jason Welle, OFM, dean of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Pontifical Institute in Rome, and Imam Fayaz Tilly, a chaplain at the University of Calgary, made presentations at the Nov. 20 event.
► The excavation at an archaeological dig in Florida has uncovered the foundations of the 17th century stone chapel dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of Milk and a Happy Delivery). The project is providing valuable insight into the daily lives of the Franciscan friars, the Timucua Indians, and others who resided at the mission for almost two centuries. The Franciscan friars arrived at the site in 1565 and founded the city of St. Augustine nearly 200 years before the establishment of the California missions. This relatively unknown period in the history of the United States is coming more clearly into focus as scholars study the archaeological site and Spanish-Timucua documents. The dig at Mission Nombre de Dios in San Augustine is open to the public through Dec. 13.
► This past spring, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and many local community partners came together to support asylum seekers through the Companions on the Journey project. With little time to prepare, staff and volunteers welcomed several migrant families and assisted them in reaching their next destinations – which included placement with sponsors and family members in the United States. More than 250 volunteers, including Bernard Keele, OFM, a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, assisted families by offering shelter, food, clothing, and hygiene items. Children were given stuffed toys and craft supplies to provide a sense of normalcy in an unfamiliar environment. The little artists created portraits of Jesus, churches, homes and other joyful scenes – all of which transformed blank shelter walls into a gallery of beautiful art. Many of the children expressed words of gratitude in their artful creations. One caption read, “Thank you to every single one of you for your love and affection. You made us feel at home.” Another read, “God bless you and thank you for the love that the country has given us each day.” Bernard said, “In the midst of this uncertain environment, the children were creating beautiful works of art. Art is universal and so unifying. It was God’s love and God’s beauty shining through these children.”
► The General Council of the Order held its recent meetings – referred to as “Tempo Forte” – from Nov. 8 to 22. Led by General Vicar Julio César Bunader, OFM, the meeting started with members of the Council sharing their activities since the previous meeting in September. The head of the organizing committee of the Chapter of Mats of the Friars Under 10, held in July in Taizé, France, shared an evaluation of the event with the Council. Between Nov. 18 and 22, the Council met at the General Curia with 20 General Visitors who are engaged in the Canonical Visitation of various entities of the Order in preparation of their provincial chapters. The next Tempo Forte, scheduled for Dec. 12 to 18, is will primarily serve as a fraternal occasion to review the work of the General Council over the past year.
► Additional news about members of the Order of Friars Minor can be found in the December issue of Fraternitas, the international publication of the Order. Among the topics covered are the English-speaking Conference provincials’ meeting in Malta and recently published Franciscan books.
— Compiled by Jim McIntosh, OFM
- “Pope looks back 800 years to St. Francis’s dialogue with Muslim sultan,” Jan. 31, 2019, Crux
- “Order Update: Franciscan Participation in Amazon Synod and Other News,” – Nov. 14, 2019, HNP Today