ROME — The Order of Friars Minor provides a glimpse into its membership statistics in the current issue of its newsletter. As of December 2012, the Order has 13,805 members, according to the July issue of Fraternitas. The friars are present in 116 countries, with the most concentrated in Western Europe. There were 1,374 members in North America as of December.
“The numbers are not the most important factor to evaluate the quality of our lives,” according to the General Curia’s monthly newsletter. “They can be, however, an ‘occasion’ to reflect, among other things, on the significance of the Gospel of our Franciscan life and ‘focus on what is essential.’” The Order has 99 provinces, according to the “OFM Fraternity in Figures” article, which is seven fewer than in 2012, due to mergers in several countries.
In other Curia news, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, traveled to Requena, Peru, from May 31 to June 2 for his first visit since his election on May 22. Requena is the site where the Amazon Project began. The project was launched by the Order in 2009 to focus on evangelization and justice and peace efforts in the Amazon region of South America.
“This visit is a clear sign to emphasize the missionary vocation of the Order,” according to the newsletter.
While in Requena, Fr. Michael visited with the four missionaries of the new fraternity of Requena, as well as with Franciscan sisters and other religious groups that minister in the area.
“The joy of meeting allowed for the fraternal sharing of life of the missionaries and the challenges coming from this place nestled in the immensity of the rivers, with all the logistical difficulties that it entails,” according to the newsletter.
Following his visit, the General Minister convened a meeting of the Missionary Franciscan Family in the Amazon from June 2 to 6. Approximately 50 brothers and sisters — namely Friars Minor, Capuchin nuns, and laypeople — traveled to Iquitos, Peru for the gathering. The theme of the meeting, “The Franciscan Presence in the Amazon: Yesterday, Today and in the Future” posted the question “Where is the Spirit leading our presence in the Amazon?”
“It was said during the meeting that our presence here in the Amazon is like a grain of sand on the beach,” Fr. Michael said. “Yes, but even a grain of sand can make a difference in the world, for every person who experiences the grace, love, mercy, peace, and hope of God spread by the living experience of the Franciscan missionaries and their collaborators here in the Amazon. It is the quality of our presence, our closeness to the people, especially the least and marginalized, that makes the Franciscan difference.”
Fr. Michael’s July agenda includes a visit to Poland, General Curia meetings in Rome, and World Youth Day in Brazil, which the Province’s vocation director Brian Smail, OFM, is also planning to attend.
The monthly newsletter also reports information about:
• The new provincial ministers of Assumption Province, Poland; St. Vigil, Italy; and the Custody of the Good Shepherd in Zimbabwe
• A summer course on Franciscanism at the Sacred Convent of St. Francis, Italy, from Sept. 23 to 27 titled “Identity on the Journey: the Constitutions of the Friars Minor and the Observance of Some Major Themes of the Rule”
• A course for priests and religious who are accompanying or planning to accompany pilgrims visiting the Holy Land, to be offered by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
— Compiled by Maria Hayes