ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — “Welcome to the eighth guardians’ meeting of this administration.”
So began last week’s annual gathering of the leaders of the Province’s houses. Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, welcomed several dozen friars and staff members to a hotel around the corner from St. Anthony Friary on Monday for a guardian update and a chance to catch up with each other. From Nov. 12 through lunchtime on Nov. 15, they discussed topics ranging from the practical to the spiritual. During the week, the guardians enjoyed the fraternal aspect of visiting with friars whom they do not see often due to schedule and geography.
The three-day meeting started with a discussion by guardians about their roles and their challenges. “This ‘check-in’ has proven to be helpful to the guardians,” John said.
“I always enjoy our fraternal gatherings and the guardians’ meeting gives me the opportunity to talk over ideas and challenges that come with being a guardian,” said Andrew Reitz, OFM, of St. Francis Friary in New York City. “You can become isolated in your ministry and friary and this helps you to see what’s happening in the whole Province.”
Overview of the Province
The opening session was followed by John’s annual State of the Province presentation. This year, he included updates about:
• Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the friars, especially those on Long Beach Island, N.J.
• The Franciscan Action Network’s Nov. 9 anniversary commemoration
• The Province’s new parish in Clemson, S.C., along with an update about discussions the Provincial Administration has had about assuming management of ministries in Florida
• Discussions with St. John the Baptist Province friars about collaboratively running St. Francis Retreat Center in Easton, Pa.
• Fall fraternal gatherings, which conclude with the eighth meeting on Nov. 27 in Boston
• New visitor general, Fr. Melvin Jurisich, OFM, who will begin his work in 2013 as preparation for the Province’s chapter the following year
• The Washington Theological Union, including the building sale and the transition of students to The Catholic University of America
• Hiring practices and the importance of complying with all federal regulations
• The Province’s capital campaign
• Real estate, including updates about HNP properties for sale in Boston, Providence, R.I., and East Rutherford, N.J.
Each day of the guardians meeting began with morning prayer and included meals at the friary. Several concluded with Mass with John, Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, and Provincial Councilor Joseph Nangle, OFM, celebrating.
As it does each year, the meeting included presentations about a variety of topics of interest and importance to the guardians. They included animated discussions by the attendees.
On the agenda were reports on: spring fraternal gatherings and the need to discuss HNP ministerial commitments, employment law, initiatives of the HNP Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office, Provincial development, vocation, ongoing formation, communication, finances, wellness — with a two-part video about nutrition and weight, “Well-Fed Friar: Maintaining Taste and Health” — and reports from the Province’s Sick and Retired Directorate and the Artistic Patrimony Committee.
Many friars expressed their satisfaction with the meeting.
“The evaluations the administration received are indicating that the meeting went very well,” said John. “David Tiger’s talk on the risks of hiring undocumented immigrants and laws concerning employment seemed to stir the most interest among friars. Several asked if David could come to a future meeting and continue the discussion.
“The friars also said they enjoyed the chance to spend time with their peers in leadership positions in the Province,” The Provincial Minister continued. “All in all, it was a good week.”
“The most helpful presentations were about finances,” said Christopher VanHaight, OFM, guardian of St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J. “It is an area that is not taught in formation, yet is crucial to running any sort of ministry. A future topic could be the canonical and legal relationships between the Province and the dioceses in which we minister. Coming together is very important. Being in one room facilitates the dialog and the informal conversations are equally helpful.”
“There are more legal and financial aspects of our life that we need to know and this meeting covered many,” said Andrew. “Also, we heard from the directorates and this helps you be up to date on what’s happening. I enjoy going back to Florida because it gives me a chance to visit the friars and parishioners at Sacred Heart in Tampa, where I lived until last year. The lifestyle is much more relaxed and the weather in November is the best.”
Anthony Wilson, OFM, who in September became guardian of the Province’s mission in Lima, Peru, said he “enjoyed the presentation on immigration law most. What most impressed me at my first guardians’ meeting was how much work and thought so many friars dedicate to the concerns of the Province as a whole.”
“I always walk away from the guardians’ meeting feeling more connected to the Province and proud that I am a part of it,” said Kevin Downey, OFM, of Triangle, Va.
As is their custom, the Provincial Council members stayed in St. Petersburg a day longer than the guardians to conduct their monthly meeting.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.