Guardians’ Meeting Focuses on Evangelization

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The friars who care for their brothers around the Province gathered last month for their annual meeting. In addition to sharing experiences and challenges, the more than 30 friars at the guardians’ meeting learned about a variety of topics through presentations by Provincial Office directors and outside speakers.

One of the most appreciated segments of the Nov. 18 to 21 gathering was the media training workshop. “I believe all of us came away with heightened confidence in ourselves with regard to media work, as well as a sense that the media serves as a wonderful tool for evangelization,” said Joseph Nangle, OFM, of Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Md. “I felt impressed with how much our friars do in this regard. All of the guardians reported significant opportunities over the past many years with using the media.”

The day-long workshop, presented by Auburn Media — an arm of the Auburn Theological Seminary that specializes in media training for religious leaders — was recommended by Russell Testa, director of the Province’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. He wanted to provide friars with tools for delivering the Franciscan message with as much accuracy, comfort and confidence as possible. The training was arranged to help “address this hesitation by providing tools that will help us to be more effective in getting our message reported correctly and to keep the focus on the message, rather than on its speaker. Use of the media is a powerful method of doing our part in sharing the Gospel and building a more just and peaceful world.”

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, said, “One of the most interesting presentations of the week was the workshop on how to deal effectively with the media. The friars had high praise for the presentation and interaction of the day.”

Joseph described the media workshop as comprehensive. “The representative from the Auburn Group guided us through several hours of entertaining and helpful interview scenarios,” he said. “She showed two short videos, one a disastrous interview, where the religious representative found himself completely overwhelmed by an overbearing host. In the other, a competent female Protestant bishop who knew her subject stayed on message and calmly dominated the interview.”

Content of Presentations   
As is traditional, after a brief “check-in” discussion among the guardians, the meeting began with a State of the Province presentation by John, Provincial Minister since 2005. His talk included updates about recent visits to Peru and Puerto Rico, Provincial properties, finances, formation, a recent survey distributed by the Vatican, the proposed St. Bonaventure University-Hilbert College alliance, and discussions about the Provincial process for withdrawal from ministries.

John was followed by an update from the Province’s General Visitor. Fr. Melvin Jurisich, OFM, said he has felt overwhelmed by the honesty of the friars, and then announced that the issue most facing the Province is identity.

“You are not the massive monolith around the world that you once were,” Fr. Melvin said. “You can’t be just a smaller version of who you’ve been. You must figure out who and what Holy Name Province is. What does it mean to be a friar of Holy Name Province?”

The importance of identity was also emphasized in the media workshop.

“We heard several guidelines for successfully approaching any interview,” said Joe, “among them ‘be who you are in the interview,’ that is, a person of faith, not a sociologist, economist or policy expert. ‘State your core message, including its foundation in faith, clearly and at once in the interview’ and keep circling back to it throughout. ‘Be succinct.’ Clergy, she said, tend to use long sentences. ‘Think about ‘sound bites,’ not to dumb down the core message, but to sharpen it. It was said that seven seconds is about the time we have to make our principle point at the outset of any interview.”

Provincial Council members, also attending the meeting, were on hand to hear updates about:
• Planning of the 2014 Chapter by Daniel McLellan, OFM
• Responsibilities related to employment, payroll of employees and volunteers, given by the Province’s attorney and auditor
• Initiatives of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office, featuring the Justice and Peace website, as well as efforts to advocate for immigration reform. A conversation about issues friars feel are most important to their communities will allow the JPIC Directorate to begin a social analysis and faith reflection process to determine future directions for JPIC
• Vocations, by Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, the Province’s secretary for formation and studies 
• Work of the Province’s Franciscan Missionary Union
• Fundraising efforts of the HNP Development Office, by David Convertino, OFM

The HNP Communications Office highlighted the need to communicate the Franciscan identity with clarity and consistency. A document titled “An Overview of HNP’s Image Management Initiative” was distributed, along with other information to assist friars in their evangelization efforts. Included were the recently released English-speaking Conference Social Media Guidelines and a list of ideas for Holy Name friars and their communities to better communicate the Franciscan identity.

Highlights of Gathering
As they reflected on the three-day gathering, friars mentioned varied appealing aspects of the meeting.

Mark Reamer, OFM, of Raleigh, N.C., appreciated both the fraternity of the gathering, as well as the opportunity to see a new section of St. Anthony Friary, where the meals and Masses were held. “It’s always great to see the retired friars and enjoy their great hospitality. Being able to celebrate Mass in the new friars’ chapel instead of at the hotel — where the meetings are held — was a welcome change from years past.”

John Hogan, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, enjoyed the opportunity to talk with friars.

“It was my first time visiting the friary in St. Pete’s and my first time attending a guardians’ meeting,” he said. “It was a delight to see the friary and to reconnect with many of the friars who live there, most of whom I had not seen in ages. It was especially wonderful to see Roy Gasnick, OFM. I first met him when he was at Bonaventure and I was a freshman.

“I also enjoyed being with the friars and partners in ministry at meals,” he said. “Those times were the most enjoyable for me. I find any meetings that go over an hour very difficult to be present to with any degree of attentiveness. I would recommend that the presentations from the different directors be sent to all participants by e-mail. Again, interacting with the participants outside of the meetings was the highlight of the occasion for me.”

Prayers and liturgies throughout the guardians meeting were led by several friars, including John O’Connor,Thomas Cole, OFM, Stephen Kluge, OFM, Christopher VanHaight, OFM, and Jud Weiksnar, OFM.

This was the final guardians’ meeting of the administration of John O’Connor, who said, “I thank you for your support over these nine years and I hope I have been supportive to you.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.