Ite Vos: That They May Be One as We Are One

John Aherne, OFM In the Headlines

Attendees of the “Beyond Ite Vos” Franciscan study day listen to Dominic Monti. (Photo courtesy of Casey Cole)

In response to Pope Francis’ request that the First Order of the Franciscan family make a collaborative effort to bring the vision of St. Francis to the world today and to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ite Vos, friars from across the country gathered recently for a study day. The HNP Communications Office welcomes information about other conferences and helpful ministry workshops. 

CHICAGO – More than 100 friars from the three branches of the First Order converged in a spirit of fraternity and joy at the Catholic Theological Union on Nov. 4 to attend “Looking to the Future Together: Beyond Ite Vos.

This Franciscan study day was convened at the behest of the Order’s English-speaking Conference after Pope Francis urged friars to work together for an “authentic and profound reconciliation” of the three branches in the hopes that such unity would renew the power of the spirit of Francis and Clare in the modern world.

The day was organized by Joseph Rozansky, OFM, the Province’s director of post-novitiate formation, Michael Kolodziej, OFM Conv., and John Celichowski, OFM Cap.

After a powerful prayer service developed by friars in formation, Dominic Monti, OFM, began the session with “The History and Context of Ite Vos,” placing the papal bull, which formally divided the First Order into two separate families, into its historical and cultural context.

Dominic Monti gives his presentation on the history of Ite Vos. (Photo courtesy of Casey Cole)

In doing so, he brought to light the common values of fraternity, minority, conversion, and mission that the branches share.

This set the stage for “Common Franciscan Values,” during which Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., highlighted the ways in which Francis was open to the revelation of the Lord when dealing with this brothers. Regis also commented on Francis’s use of John 17:11 — “may they be one, as we are one” — in the Early Documents.

Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., rounded out the morning with “Common Franciscan Projects,” by raising up some of the interobediential work that is already being done in the Order, including Franciscans International, the consolidation of the Antonionum and Seraphicum in Rome, interobediential intentional communities, and coordinated formation programs in places like California and Zambia.

In describing the bridge building being done by the Ministers and Definitors in Rome, Jude pointed out “sometimes more work gets done over the picnic table than at the conference table.” This proved to be the case in Chicago as well.

During the breaks, lunch, and the small group discussions in the afternoon, the friars from the three branches got to know one another and brought to life the common fraternity they already share.

Friars pay close attention during one of the presentations. (Photo courtesy of Casey Cole)

In addition to sparking some ideas about how the three branches might work together — many involved social media and even more involved food — these informal times and sessions were clear indicators of the shared spirit of Gospel joy that burns in the hearts of the brothers, no matter what branch.

Vito Martinez, OFM Cap., was particularly inspired by the practical bent of the study day. “I felt that the symposium wasn’t just an opportunity to think about an abstract future of collaboration but I had the chance to network with other friars who shared similar ministries,” he said. “I’m hopeful that opportunities of collaboration can occur at the local level.”

It also sparked some serious questions about the work we as Franciscans are called to do moving forward. We acknowledged the scarcity of brothers devoting themselves to the Franciscan intellectual tradition and were challenged to think more deeply about how well we were living out our charism and what kind of prophetic voice a unified Franciscan family might be able to raise, especially in the midst of the toxic political climate in the United States.

In thinking about the symposium further, Joseph Nangle, OFM questions, “After hearing in great detail the history of Ite Vos, it would be interesting to speculate on what Pope Francis would write if he issued a similar call today. Might he not say: ‘Three families or one, go out as Franciscans and smell like the sheep’?”

While working on the Early Documents, Regis came to the realization that what the text taught him about the Franciscan charism was being lived out in the experience of working on the texts in an interobediential team.

This was also the case during the Ite Vos study day. In learning and discussing that which divided us, we wound up celebrating that which unites us and putting ourselves on the path of even greater unity.

The three presentations that were part of the morning session were made available through a video livestream and will soon be posted on the US Franciscan website.

— Br. John, who professed his solemn vows as a Franciscan in 2016, lives at Blessed Giles Friary in Chicago.

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