Guardians Discuss Vocations, Leadership, and Provincial Programs

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Nearly 40 guardians of Holy Name Province’s friaries, scattered from Florida to New England, gathered here last week to discuss issues important to the Province and to their roles: leadership, vocations, and justice and peace. The annual four-day guardians’ meeting included liturgies, presentations, discussions, meals and fraternal time.

After a welcome by James Toal, OFM, guardian of nearby St. Anthony’s Friary, the Nov. 10 – 13 meeting opened with a state of the Province presentation by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM.  Along with a description of how the Province has been affected by the nation’s economic downturn, John provided attendees with an overview about building projects, Washington Theological Union developments, nominations for the Order’s general minster, the mission of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Office, status of the capital campaign, a task force that is reviewing a possible joint novitiate for all OFM provincesin the English-speaking Conference, and Holy Name’s leadership development initiative.

Sharing Ideas
As they did during each presentation of the guardians’ meeting, the friars participated in discussions at their tables to share ideas about the issues raised. Conversation was lively about many topics, from those of local interest to those of national importance. Friars talked with passion about the best ways to care for their brothers with health needs, the value of strong leadership in the Church, and other issues. As the basis for a Monday afternoon discussion about the role of the guardian, the participants used an article written in 2005 by Michael Blastic, OFM, titled “Custodians of the Franciscan Household.”

Tuesday’s presentations focused on the HNP Strategic Plan, finances, and updates by the Vocation and Communications Offices. In a talk called “Bringing the Plan to Life,” Francis Gunn, OFM, described to guardians the role of the Province’s directorates in executing various aspects of the strategic plan, and the goal of finalizing phase three of the Franciscan Life and Mission Plan on Finance and Vocations by June 15, 2009.  Francis is the Province’s coordinator for strategic planning and was chair of the Province’s Visioning and Planning Committee which guided the development of the Province’s strategic plan.

The financial update was shared by several friars: Provincial Treasurer Dennis Wilson, OFM,  who provided an overview; finance committee co-chairs John Piccione, OFM, Thomas Conway, OFM, and John Mahon, OFM, director of the Province’s Butler, N.J., retirement house, who spoke of the importance of knowing Medicaid regulations.

Vocation Director Brian Smail, OFM, told the audience about the more than 200 inquiries his office has received and described methods of promoting the Province and Franciscan life. He described the new Vocation Committee that serves as a “think tank” and advisory group that assists the Vocation Office in developing new strategies to attract vocations to the Province.  Brian also introduced the draft of the new HNP Strategic Plan for Vocations, which the Vocation Committee will help implement.

Brian emphasized to friars that “we are all vocation directors,” and challenged the guardians over the next two years to identify at least one man at his parish or ministry that would become a Holy Name Province novice.  An enthusiastic discussion followed, with many friars sharing suggestions of how to increase the friars’ visibility and build on the respect felt by many toward the Franciscans.

The Province’s Communications Director updated the guardians about the role of her office, describing both the internal and external responsibilities. She reminded them about useful features of the Web site and encouraged friars to offer suggestions of communications systems that might help them in their ministries.

Leadership Development
An all-day discussion about leadership was held on Wednesday. It began with an opening prayer by Daniel Riley, OFM, of Mt. Irenaeus, followed by opening remarks by John O’Connor.  He highlighted the importance of leadership as a calling for all friars, discussing how the leadership paradigm is shifting; it is no longer “just about the roles friars fulfill in ministries, but rather about distributed and active leadership as well as the visibility and reach in communities served by friars and in fraternities in which friars live.”

The day included breakout sessions facilitated by members of both Axiom Consulting Partners and the Province’s Leadership Development Committee.  These sessions were lively and engaging discussions that focused on how leadership is reflected in the Franciscan vocation and how leadership manifests in house life for guardians.  The day also included a discussion of the work of the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) to-date, including the development of a Statement of Leadership and Leadership Profiles as a way to support the call to leadership and the shifting leadership paradigm in the Province.  Friars participating in the presentation and facilitation of discussions included Francis, Michael Harlan, OFMChristopher Keenan, OFM, Steven Patti, OFM, Andrew Reitz, OFM, and Frank Sevola, OFM, as members of the LDC working with Axiom to evaluate the leadership development needs of friar leaders.

Guardians, Provincial Council members, and several other friar leaders are currently participating in a self-reflection process by completing an on-line profile analysis tool that will allow them to reflect on their strengths and areas for development.  The individual results received from this analysis are confidential and will be aggregated by Axiom. The results of the analysis will be used as input to identify current and long-range leadership development recommendations for friar leaders. The participants are submitting the surveys this week.

111908-guardians-lg3Justice and Peace
Justice and Peace  programs were the focus of the Thursday’s discussions.  Daniel Dwyer, OFM, of the Provincial Council, and Jud Weiksnar, OFM, co-chair of the Province’s JPIC Directorate, reported that the Province’s JPIC office, directed by Russell Testa, and its JPIC directorate, are available to guardians, friaries and ministries as a resource. They also recommended two useful events — the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in March and the HNP Local Contacts Retreat in May.

Jud told attendees that he learned recently of the respect that Holy Name’s JPIC programs have, and that he wants to build on this momentum. In breakout sessions, the guardians shared questions and ideas with Jud, Dan, and Francis Soucy, OFM, a member of the JPIC Directorate.

Recreation and Camaraderie
The participants in the guardians’ meeting said they appreciated the time together to renew friendships and to share ideas.

The friars spent much of their recreation time at St. Anthony’s Friary, the 30-year-old retirement house just two blocks from the Heritage Inn where the meeting was held. James and vicar John Capozzi, OFM, offered special meals to the guests.  An exhibit showing the artwork of Miguel Loredo, OFM, greeted friars and others at the entrance of the building, on Second Street North.

Each day’s prayers were timely; for example, on Veteran’s Day, the theme of morning prayer was “Litany for an End to Conflicts.” Masses were celebrated by John Piccione, John O’Connor, and Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, of Atlanta, Ga. The meeting was organized by Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM, and a planning committee comprising Andrew, Francis Gunn, Kevin Mullen, and Mark Reamer, OFM.  Documents used at the guardians’ meeting will be available in the Friars Only section of the Province’s Web site.

Guardians returned to their homes on Nov. 13 as members of the Provincial Council remained in St. Petersburg through Friday for their monthly meeting.

An assortment of photos taken at the guardians’ meeting can be seen by clicking the photo above.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.  She was pleased to meet Roy Gasnick, OFM, a resident of St. Anthony’s Friary, who founded the Province’s Office of Communications in the 1970s.