The following updates summarize news from the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, composed of provinces from the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, and Malta. For more information, contact the provinces by phone or email, or visit the links to the parishes and organizations mentioned. Follow the English-speaking Conference on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date information throughout the month.
►Several provincial newsletters provided their perspectives on the first interprovincial intersession for all men in formation – postulants to simply professed friars. The 31 men spent four days together, attending workshops and enjoying time for fellowship. “A few weeks ago, Fr. Charlie Smiech, OFM, [guardian of the interprovincial post-novitiate friary] called asking if our postulancy formation program could come to Chicago for an intersession. ‘What’s an intersession?’ I asked,” said Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, director of postulancy for St. John the Baptist Province, with a smile. He described the activities offered, saying “Most of our sessions were held during the day, when the temperatures were an icy 5 degrees! The evenings had plenty of time for recreation after dinner. Cards, basketball and some light teasing were going on. The days were full of good input.” Br. Gerardo Camacho, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, wrote that “It was a great experience for me to see so many friars with hope and energy, and to realize that although I was one of the youngest in the group, there were several men present younger than me. I hope this is the first of many more interprovincial intersessions.”
►After 30 years of being a “rabble-rousing peace activist” in northern California, Fr. Louis Vitale, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, has written a book about his experiences. “Love is What Matters: Writings on Peace and Nonviolence” includes essays he wrote while demonstrating against war, racism and poverty. He also writes about starting the Gubbio Project at St. Boniface Church in San Francisco, a program that invites the homeless to sleep in the pews and offers other services, including blankets, hygiene kits, and a weekly breakfast. In the foreword to Fr. Louie’s book, actor Martin Sheen, who has been arrested at several protests with the friar, writes that “Fr. Louie Vitale is the best follower of St. Francis of Assisi that I know.”
►On Jan. 14, Sacred Heart friars participated in a march for immigrant and refugee-rights in Milwaukee. The marchers demanded a stop to mass deportations and defended DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which allows certain undocumented immigrants to the United States who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action and eligibility for a work permit. The marchers also opposed a Muslim registry and sought to welcome refugees. Sacred Heart Province asked for special prayers for novice Gerardo Camacho, OFM, who is a beneficiary of DACA.
►Provincial Minister Fr. Hugh McKenna, OFM, of the Province of Ireland, and the friars of the Galway Franciscan fraternity celebrated a Mass earlier in January to mark the 375th anniversary of the Poor Clare sisters in Galway. “The Galway Poor Clares is the longest surviving community of religious women in Ireland and has lived through many periods of religious and political unrest,” according to the Irish province’s Facebook page. “To those who can’t ‘see the point’ in the way of life of the Poor Clares, Fr. Hugh quoted Pope Francis, who recently said that the world needs contemplative nuns ‘every bit as much as a sailor on the high seas needs a beacon to guide him to a safe haven.’”
►The friars of St. Joseph and Christ the King provinces in Canada recently launched a multi-platform, interactive joint website. The website contains news articles, blog posts and links to the Canadian provinces’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. “We answered the call to work collaboratively,” said Fr. Guylain Prince, OFM, who oversees communications for Eastern Canada. “At the beginning, our respective websites worked in totally different ways, which caused technical problems, but we adjusted. In the end, we decided to present the Franciscan charism based on the approach of the West, which was simpler than that of the East. The site has a human side, which is what we wanted to highlight to be consistent with one of the values of our organization.”
►The winter 2017 issue of The Way, a magazine describing the activities of St. Barbara Province, includes an article featuring Fr. Alberto Villafan, OFM, who serves as pastor of the 100-year-old parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalupe, Ariz., as well as reflections from partners-in-ministry and a story retracting the steps of St. Junípero Serra, OFM.
►Provincial Minister Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM, provided a recap of important 2016 events from St. John the Baptist Province.
►USFranciscan.org’s #FriarFriday series continues with reflections from four friars. Fr. Gregory Friedman, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, wrote about the historical relationship between Franciscans and the authority figures of their time; Jim McIntosh, OFM, briefly described the new movie “The Sultan and the Saint” and the history of Muslim-Christian dialogue fostered by the Franciscans; Fr. Michael Suruka, OFM, of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province wrote about the return to Ordinary Time during an extraordinary point in our country’s history; and Fr. Thomas Washburn, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province, reflected on the fears that influenced world events in 2016 and the message of hope shared at Christmas.
►The news of friars who have died recently — including Fr. Ignatius Kelly, OFM, of the Custody of the Immaculate Conception in the United Kingdom, as well as Fr. Benet Fonck, OFM, and Fr. Joseph Weithman, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, and Fr. Edward Lammert, OFM, 86, and Fr. Rock Travnikar, OFM, 71, of St. John the Baptist Province – can be found on the USFranciscans.org website.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Formation Intersession Becomes Interprovincial” – Jan. 13, 2017, HNP Today
- “Order Calls for Prayers for Syria, Seeks Missionaries to Regions Around the World” – Jan. 4, 2017, HNP Today
- “ESC Friars Prepare to Serve as Visitors” – Nov. 30, 2016, HNP Today
- “St. Barbara Province to Honor Activist Louis Vitale” – Feb. 23, 2011, HNP Today