Interprovincial Convocation Emphasizes Collaboration of Midwest Friars

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

RACINE, Wis. — Friars from the four Mid America OFM provinces gathered last month for the interprovincial convocation on restructuring at which Dominic Monti was the keynote speaker.

Approximately one third of the members of the Assumption BVM Province (based in Milwaukee, Wis.), Our Lady of Guadalupe (in Albuquerque, N.M.), Sacred Heart (St. Louis, Mo.) and St. John the Baptist (in Cincinnati, Ohio) participated in the June 18 to 20 gathering, according to the newsletter of the Province of the Sacred Heart. They discussed the future of their life, ministry and structures to carry out their mission in the Church in the United States.

A four-part resolution was adopted by the four provincial councils of the participating provinces following the close of the convocation.

“We want to affirm an ongoing process which would further a shared Franciscan mission in the United States among our provinces.”

The resolution’s main points are:
1.  Each province will contribute to the formation of a task force, with the necessary support, to guide the process which has already begun.
2.  We are open to the possibility of the task force members forming an interprovincial fraternity which would live together and model the collaboration that is developing
3.  Respecting our common fraternal bonds and Franciscan identity, and our existing collaboration efforts, we recognize that individual provinces may discern varying models of closer cooperation.
4.  We recognize the need for outside facility at some point in the process.

In his June 19 presentation, Dominic offered a historical perspective of the Midwest provinces, pointing out that “the task ahead will look at our past with gratitude, our present with enthusiasm and our future with confidence in order to return to the essentials of the friars’ Gospel way of life.  He added, ”the task at hand is to thank God for this cultural conditioning and also realize that these provinces are not frozen entities but continually face adaptations and innovation to reshape their identities.”

Dominic described friar history in the Americas from the time of colonial expansion from 1493 on.  He underscored major threads in the development of the friars including the fact that the friars’ ancestors were familiar with restructuring and the fact that friars came to the United States as missionaries.

In the spirit of the “Grace of Our Origins” process that the whole Order is entering, he spoke of what lessons the  “founding friars might teach us as we attempt to renew Franciscan mission in a new era of U.S. Catholic history.”

The convocation was facilitated by Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM, of the Province of St. Barbara in California, an expert in the transitioning of parishes, and Sr. Mary Elizabeth Imler, OSF, superior general of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart (based in Frankfort, Ill).

During their discussions at the convocation, the friars agreed that the two most important characteristics for the vitality of the Friars Minor are fraternal life and ministry to the marginalized, according to Sacred Heart’s Around the Province newsletter.