CHICAGO — During a recent visit to Sacred Heart Province’s St. Peter’s Church, General Minister Michael Perry, OFM, shared his thoughts about restructuring in the Order with Fr. Jose Pepe Martinez Valenzuela, OFM, co-editor of the province’s newsletter. His answers were featured in a two-part series that appeared in the June 11 and June 18 issues of Around the Province newsletter, as well as on the English-speaking Conference’s website.
“I wanted to know — as I believe many of us do — what Fr. Michael’s thoughts are with regards to our approach to ‘restructuring,’” Fr. Pepe said in the June 11 issue. “I believe Mike’s responses were full of insight, and hopefully this will give us a different understanding about the future of the U.S. provinces.”
Fr. Michael emphasized that three types of restructuring are occurring throughout the global Order — in response to declining numbers, in response to increasing numbers, and in response to creating a Franciscan presence in certain regions or communities where one does not currently exist.
“The point in restructuring is that we are not trying to create something for which we have no need,” Fr. Michael said. “We are trying to respond to the needs of the Order in a changing world.”
The General Minister explained that in 2012, the number of OFM friars in the United States was 1,170. In 2025, the number is projected to be 640.
“If we go back to our Franciscan identity, we will recall that we make our solemn profession to the Order of Friars Minor, not to a [specific] province,” he said. “The identity in our province is very important, because we can’t live universally. We live locally. The advantage of restructuring is that it helps us to live what Catholic Theological Union professor Fr. Robert Schreiter, CPPS, calls ‘globcally.’ That means to have a global sense of ourselves in the world as an Order and trying to incarnate it locally, but never losing the sense of the global identity that we share as brothers.”
He continued: “Because of the global identity that we share as brothers, automatically we should be able to find ways to live across provinces. What really matters is not the restructuring process; it is not about numbers only. Numbers are pushing us, perhaps in some ways even to expand the number of provinces because of growing areas, or to reduce the number of provinces because of diminishing numbers [of friars]. It is about allowing ourselves as each individual friar together, to be able to allow the restructuring process to help us restructure ourselves.”
Fr. Michael called the friars to put the phrase “be not afraid” in their minds and hearts.
“Trust the spirit. God is with us and the future is going to be different because everything is different,” he said. “It is OK. The Gospel will get us there. Jesus will get us there. If we hold tight to one another, we will get there if we keep reaching out, not just closing in our ourselves, but to reaching out to the brothers internationally across the globe and across the USA, and to the people of God.”
He continued: “Whether it will be 20 provinces in the USA, whether there will be only a few provinces in the US, that is not the point. The point is we need to step up, we need to even encourage one another, from the grassroots to the top leadership. We need to encourage each other to be bold… and to be faithful, and to do it together… We will get there. Be not afraid.”
— by Maria Hayes