ALLEGANY, N.Y. — Nearly 175 friars, both delegates and observers, participated in the triennial chapter, June 1-5, at St. Bonaventure University here.
According to the legislation of the Franciscan Order, the Provincial chapter is “the most important institution for regulating the life and mission of the friars of a province … discussing and deciding on new undertakings and affairs of major importance.” This year, the chapter focused on three things: (1) refining and ratifying a vision statement and strategic plan for the Province, (2) election of Provincial Councilors and (3) discussion of other proposals.
In his State of the Province address given June 3, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, described the major accomplishments of his first three years in office. He highlighted these items:
1. The work of the visioning and planning committee
2. Identification of a friar resource person for personal development
3. Enhancement of justice, peace, and integrity of creation (JPIC) programs
4. Focus on leadership training
5. The work of the fraternal life directorate
6. Identification of two parishes from which to withdraw, following up on recommendations made at the Chapter of 2005.
7. The balanced general operating budget, now taking into consideration income from the New York joint building venture (the building on West 31st Street in Manhattan that opened in 2007 with 40 floors of rental apartments) which will help to strengthen the Province’s financial posture. John also described the public relations work being done as the launch of the capital campaign is planned. A DVD about Holy Name Province was shown to friars.
8. Structure of the development and communications offices. Both have been reorganized to serve the Province efficiently and cost effectively.
9. Enhancement of recruiting efforts since vocation is “a priority of this administration,” according to John.
10. Protection of minors through compliance with the USCCB’s standards. The lengthy process required changes in customary procedures (including background checks for all new candidates) and the development of new policies and procedures.
11. Status of capital improvements and facilities, including Boston; Butler and Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J.; West 31st St. in New York; Providence; and the Province’s three vacation houses.
The delegates spent most of their time discussing and refining the draft of the strategic plan for 2008 to 2013, developed over the last year by the visioning and planning committee, with input from last year’s Chapter of Mats and the friars in two series of fraternal gatherings as well as guidance by consultants. Delegates offered revisions to the plan, which was officially approved by the chapter on June 5. The plan, which will be available in the friars-only section of the Province’s Web site, focuses on fraternity, collaboration, mission, friar skills and development, finances, vocations, and Franciscan identify. Each category includes a strategy and up to six goals through 2013.
Holy Name’s vision statement, which was drafted last year, was also officially approved at the chapter. This will soon appear on www.hnp.org in the Our Work section.
New Council Members
On the last day of the Chapter, June 5, after several rounds of ballots, the friars elected Provincial Council members for the 2008 to 2011 term.
• Christopher Coccia, OFM
• Thomas Conway, OFM
• F. Edward Coughlin, POFM
• Daniel Dwyer, OFM
• Francis Di Spigno, OFM
• Kevin Mullen, OFM
These six friars meet monthly with Holy Name’s Provincial Minister, Vicar, and Secretary to discuss and resolve issues regarding the life of the friars, especially personnel, ministries, and fraternal life. During the week of June 16, the new council will meet at the Provincial Office for the post-capitular congressus, where friar assignments for the next three years ared etermined.
Proposals and Logistics
Several other proposals were discussed and ratified by Chapter participants. They are:
• Provincial statutes regarding (1) ongoing formation and (2) delegates to provincial chapters
• Scheduling of future chapters (to hold next triennial chapter in January 2011 rather than the traditional month of June to facilitate ministerial transitions).
• Supporting the General Minister and Definitorium in petitioning the Holy See that lay-brothers, as well as ordained brothers be eligible to hold all positions of leadership within the Order of Friars Minor
* Supporting a bill , currently being debated in the U.S. Senate, that works to to prevent climate change.
The five-day chapter began on Sunday with an opening session and formal convocation in SBU’s Reilly Center. That day, friars also participated in a reception, dinner, evening prayer, and social. On Wednesday, they listened to a formal welcome by Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, president of SBU. She presented a DVD titled “SBU: 15 Decades of Franciscan Tradition,” about the history of the university, which is commemorating the 150th anniversary of its 1858 founding.
Each participant was given a comprehensive binder containing documents prepared by the chapter organizers and/or by friars. It included reports by all Province directorates as well as by the vocation and JPIC offices.
Logistics of the chapter were organized by Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM, in collaboration with Edward Coughlin, OFM, a council member and former secretary, and friars from the SBU and Mt. Irenaeus communities. Others who assisted include Lori Ness, SBU’s event manager, the administrative staff of the Provincial office who duplicated and assembled the Chapter documents. Several friars in formation, including Daniel Horan, OFM, and Stephen DeWitt, OFM, provided administrative and technical help during the meetings. Consultants Dominic Perri and George Wilson, S.J., provided assistance as they did at last year’s Chapter of Mats.
On Thursday, the friars gathered in a feeling of fraternity and community for a group photo. The chapter concluded a day earlier than planned, thanks to efficient discussions and decisions. That evening, friars enjoyed a festive dinner in Hickey Dining Hall following the first profession of vows of last year’s novices in the University Chapel.
James Sabak, OFM, and Kevin McGoff, OFM, provided liturgy and music for the chapter services. Moderators of this year’s chapter were Francis Gunn, OFM, Thomas Gallagher, OFM, and J. Patrick Kelly, OFM. Michael Harlan said he was grateful to the friars and SBU staff members who helped make the chapter a success.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.