Guardians Gather to Discuss Leadership, Vocations, Finances and Legal Issues

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With the goal of becoming a more effective community, the Province’s local guardians gathered near St. Anthony Friary last week to discuss issues, hear updates, and learn more about their responsibilities as leaders of the Province’s friaries and ministries.

They listened to presentations from friars, lay staff members and consultants, who discussed a broad range of topics at the annual guardians’ meeting, including reports from the Province’s offices and directorates, presentations on reporting and compliance, and a leadership workshop.

Each year, the Provincial Administration plans a meeting, organized by Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM, on a wide variety of topics. The gathering also allows time for prayer, fraternity and small group discussions.

“We try to include on the agenda information that will help our friars succeed in their roles as leaders of local fraternities and, in many cases, as pastors of parishes and directors of other ministries,” said Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM.  Important spontaneous conversations also take place, he added.

“This year’s gathering was terrific — one of the best I’ve attended,” said Daniel Kenna, OFM, of Holy Name of Jesus Church in New York City, who said he has served as a guardian for 20 years.

Provincial Minister’s Report 
The meeting, held Nov. 15 through 17 at a hotel just two blocks from the friary, opened with a welcome by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. It was followed by John’s “state of the Province” report that included news from the larger Franciscan world. The friars then broke into small groups, sharing their individual challenges and successes as local leaders.

John discussed:

 · Finances, emphasizing that because of changes in both donations and expenses, the Province’s income “is no longer matching our expenditures”
 · The English-speaking Conference’s fall meeting, where the need to prepare for some eventual merging of U.S. provinces was discussed. This, he said, was emphasized by the Order’s General Minister.
 · The Washington Theological Union’s transition toward closure in 2013.
 · The interprovincial novitiate. John encouraged friars to visit HNP novices if they are in the Wisconsin area.
 · New ministries, especially possibilities for the future.
 · Ministry withdrawals. John cited lessons learned from recent parish withdrawals.

John also asked those attending the meeting, both guardians and Provincial Council members, for their input on two proposals concerning the Provincial Chapter and use of HNP vacation homes. The group approved setting the date and location of the 2014 Provincial Chapter for June at Siena College, and expanding use of HNP’s two vacation houses in the off season to include meetings and gatherings of staff members of Provincial ministries and offices.

Legal and Financial Issues
The agenda also included, for the first time, a presentation on financial and legal issues that highlighted the need for better accountability, reporting systems, and communication between local ministries and the Provincial Office.

The Province’s general counsel David Tiger discussed managing risk, while HNP auditor Robert Craig talked about the need for increased internal financial controls.

The experts described how the Province can improve its accountability processes to minimize legal exposure. Craig advised safeguarding “assets, including your reputation and goodwill, in the community.”

“We want to be responsible in the ways that we manage our resources,” said John. “Religious institutions are being looked at more closely than ever, and society is looking closely at non-profit organizations. Years ago, society would have given priests and brothers the benefit of the doubt, but that does not happen today.”

Provincial Councilor Thomas Conway, OFM, (pictured) said, “Our goal is to be the best-run Catholic institute that we can be.”

Both Craig and Tiger emphasized the need for two types of accountability: reporting local financial activities to the Provincial Office and for local ministries and friaries to follow specific procedures for financial and human resource matters. Tiger underscored the importance of guardians being strong leaders.

“Beyond the Provincial Council, the guardians are the people leading and the public faces of HNP,” said Tiger. “One of the great hallmarks of this organization is that you live together as brothers, but members still need to have systems of checks and balances.”

Tiger recommended that communication between the local ministries and the Provincial Office be improved.

“We’re all acting as agents of this organization,” Tom Conway said. “Anything that one friar does can affect all other friars,” added Provincial Councilor Lawrence Hayes, OFM.

Leadership Development
Fr. Robert Duggan of Washington, D.C., a management consultant who co-authored the 2009 book Resilient Leadership, gave a leadership workshop on the last day of the guardians meeting. “I had heard good things about Fr. Bob Duggan from Mark Reamer, OFM, and the friars who were part of his training sessions, and I was impressed with his presentation at the ESC meeting last spring,” said John.

Fr. Robert’s workshop followed up previous leadership programs that the Province has offered to both guardians and all friars.

Richard Mucowski, OFM, of Wood-Ridge, N.J., said he liked the workshop. “Fr. Bob’s presentation helped me to put some of my personal and community challenges into perspective. He provided me with a lens through which some of the swirling and competing agendas occur. I also learned more about the importance of finding a new spiritual director to help me through the journey.”

Directorate Reports
Throughout the guardians’ meeting, reports were given by representatives of six HNP directorates and offices.

Joseph Nangle, OFM, spoke on behalf of the Fraternal Life in Mission Directorate about “signs of the times” affecting the Province and how the directorate is addressing them.

Brian Belanger, OFM, represented the Sick and Retired Directorate. He gave an update on issues affecting the care of the Province’s senior friars, along with news about the Province’s four retirement residences.

David Convertino, OFM, director of the HNP Office of Development, gave an update on fundraising, describing the history of St. Anthony’s  Guild, and explaining challenges and projects.

Vocation director Brian Smail, OFM, provided an update on his office’s activities and engaged the guardians in a role-playing exercise.

Communications director Jocelyn Thomas gave an overview of recent communication initiatives and, with Jim McIntosh, OFM, of the Province’s Communications Advisory Committee, demonstrated collaboration tools available to friars through, hosted by Google.

Via an e-meeting service, Russell Testa, director of the Office of Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation, described the 2011 to 2012 JPIC Plan of Action. The new plan focuses on immigration, care for creation, peacemaking and interfaith dialogue, and care for the poor. Lawrence Hayes conducted an interactive portion of the program.

Positive Reactions
Several of the friars, who traveled from areas up and down the East Coast and even from the Province’s foundation in Peru, expressed their satisfaction with the guardians’ meeting, which also included liturgies and community meals.

“My overall experience was positive,” said Richard Mucowski, pastor of Assumption Parish since June. “Any chance we have to get together with friars is always a delight. Frankly, I was comforted by hearing the stories of the good work that my confreres are doing in many different places. Sometimes the challenges can seem daunting in the face of the reality of the world and national agendas that we live with.”

guardians-rDan Kenna said, “Our first session, the table-sharing about our past year as guardians, about its successes and its challenges, got the meeting off to a great start. Listening to guys speak with such care about their communities, about their hopes and dreams, about difficulties they have confronted and walked through, was inspiring.”

He added: “I also very much appreciated David Convertino’s update on St. Anthony’s Guild. The competence, energy, enthusiasm, and wit he brings to our fundraising effort will definitely bring us into the 21st century. Celebrating liturgy for the first time with George Corrigan, OFM, as presider was a treat.”

“As a new guardian,” said Francis McHugh, OFM, of St. Anthony Residence in Boston, “ I found the sharing session among the guardians most beneficial because we are dealing with similar challenges.”

The meeting concluded with a conversation with the Provincial Council, whose members stayed on in St. Petersburg an extra day to hold their monthly meeting.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. 

Editor’s note: Many of the documents distributed at the guardians meeting will be made available to friars on the HNP Extranet.