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Largest Chapter in HNP History Meets

NEW YORK — More than 220 friars gathered Jan. 3 to 7 at the triennial Holy Name Province Chapter to elect leaders and to consider issues of importance to the mission and structure of the community.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, and Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, were re-elected and will serve until the 2014 Chapter.

According to the legislation of the Franciscan Order, the Chapter is the highest authority within each province and is responsible for examining “the life and activity of the friars; to search for and propose suitable means for its growth and improvement; to decide on undertakings and affairs of major importance” and to elect a leadership team to implement those decisions.

General Visitor Fr. Fred Link, OFM, noted that attendance was the largest ever for a triennial Chapter, which was held at a hotel in Cambridge, Md. The centenary Chapter of Mats in 2001 drew nearly 300 friars, but that was like a giant “family reunion” rather than a business meeting, Dominic said.

“For the first time in our 110-year history, all solemnly-professed friars were required to attend,” he said. “The 100 friars who did not come had received prior formal permission from the Province’s General Visitor to be excused. 1996 was the first ‘open Chapter,’” Dominic noted. “We still had ex officio and elected delegates, but in addition, all solemnly-professed friars who wished to participate could sign up to be voting members.”  Before 1996, the Chapter was composed of 22 ex-officio and 33 elected delegates, so generally 55 men participated.

Elected at the Crossroads 2011 Chapter were members of the Provincial Council. Friars chosen to serve for the 2011 to 2014 term were:
· William Beaudin, OFM, of Loudonville, N.Y., chair of the HNP Chapter Planning Committee
· Brian Belanger, OFM, of Loudonville, guardian of the Siena College friary
· Thomas Conway, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., first elected in 2008
· F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, of Allegany, N.Y., who has served on the Council since 2005
· Lawrence Hayes, OFM, of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring
· Joseph Nangle, OFM, of Washington, D.C., former director of the Franciscan Mission Service

The Chapter began Monday evening with dinner in the hotel ballroom, filled with conversation and laughter, after friars arrived from many locations around the Province as far away as Africa, Italy, Japan, and Peru.

After solemn evening prayer, HNP’s General Visitor formally convoked Crossroads 2011. On behalf of the General Minister, Fr. Fred thanked John for his term of service, and officially relieved him of his duties.

A roll call of friars was then conducted by Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM, and followed by a description of the Crossroads 2011 theme: “where our deep longing meets the world’s great need” by William who, with the planning committee, had created the theme.

State of the Province Reports
On Tuesday morning, the General Visitor presented his report. The former provincial minister of St. John the Baptist Province offered an objective analysis of the state of Holy Name Province, based on in-depth interviews of all friars and visits to each local community. His hour-long presentation examined the ministries and internal fraternal life of the Province, offering both compliments and suggested improvements.

That afternoon, John O’Connor presented his own “State of the Province” address, a detailed update that included a list of accomplishments as well as a review of challenges on manpower, leadership, finances, fraternity and the vowed life. Each of the presentations was followed by group discussions resulting in recommendations to the new administration.

The five top candidates for the office of Provincial Minister, decided by a system of “primary elections” over the past several months, participated in an open forum on Tuesday evening. Each of the five, standing between two large symbols — the Crossroads logo and the Provincial logo — shared his views on the Province’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Besides John, the discussion included Dominic, David Convertino, OFM, Thomas Gallagher, OFM, and Kevin Mullen, OFM.

Proposal Discussions and Votes
Throughout the week, Chapter participants reviewed and voted on several proposals submitted last year by friars.

Those proposals passed were:

To mandate the administration to study the objectives of each level of formation and propose the best ways to accomplish these in light of the Province’s financial and personnel situation
To authorize the administration to evaluate the time and location of the next Chapter and to announce both by January 2012
To amend the Provincial statute governing membership to the Provincial Chapter
To combine three of the Province’s directorates — Fraternal Life, Evangelization, and Ministerial Development — into one new directorate to be called Fraternal Life in Mission Directorate
To actively support and defend documented and undocumented immigrants.

The proposals defeated were:

To make evangelization a primary concern of the Province. (This and the following proposal were defeated not because of their intent, but because of their wording and because most friars believed these objectives were sufficiently stated in the Province’s existing mission statement and HNP Strategic Plan.)
To make evangelization of young adults a priority by developing and animating young adult ministries in all ministerial entities of the Province
To extend the Province’s policy on term limits for pastors
To reduce the number of Provincial councilors from six to four

Presentations
The Chapter was enlivened by three keynote addresses. The first was Monday evening by Leo Vaccaro, a 2009 to 2010 Franciscan Volunteer Minister, who discussed how friars can help younger generations, especially in fulfilling their desire for inspiration.

Day 2 began with an address by Lawrence Anderson, OFM, ordained earlier this year, who described what attracted him to the Province and what sustains him.

“I liked the way Larry described his journey to the Franciscans, where he experienced the Lord in and through the friars who emanated their own experience and love of God,” said Francis Pompei, OFM, of Buffalo, who said he noticed a common thread of experience in all of the talks given at the Chapter.

The third keynote, on Wednesday morning, was by Vincent Cushing, OFM, a past president of Washington Theological Union, who discussed Franciscan identity in mission and ministry in the eastern United States. He highlighted two points. “We are at a crossroads in male religious life in the United States, and we need a sound methodology to discern the world’s great need.” He continued: “The Church exists to bring the Kingdom of God to the world we live in. Our task in addressing contemporary Franciscan mission is to ask ourselves whether the dominating cultural narrative has confused our identity.”

The Chapter also included reports from representatives of the Province’s directorates. Thomas Conway, co-chair of the HNP Finance Directorate, presented the state of Provincial finances, describing strengths and weaknesses. Question and answer sessions followed each presentation.

The week’s schedule also offered time for meetings of interest groups, including Hispanic Ministry, Communications,  Evangelization and Apostolic Contemplation, JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creatin), Ministry of the Word, and SPUFY (friars solemnly professed under five years). It also provided time for an open forum with the new administration and a closing celebration of the Eucharist with John presiding.

Roles, Reactions and a Surprise
The format and content of the Chapter were organized by a steering committee that comprised Fr. Fred as president, Michael Harlan, secretary, Bill Beadin, Brian Belanger, Edward Coughlin, Larry Hayes and Angelus Gambatese, OFM. Tellers for the Chapter include Cidouane Joseph, OFM, Robert Lentz, OFM, Erick Lopez, OFM, and Paul O’Keeffe, OFM. Other coordinators for the week were Fred Dilger, OFM, environment; Lawrence Ford, OFM, transportation; John Maganzini, OFM, who assisted the secretary; John Mahon, OFM, hospitality; and James Sabak, OFM, prayer and liturgy. Music for the Masses and prayer services was led by Michelle Beck, music director of St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J.

Many friars commented on the value of the Chapter, emphasizing its dynamic agenda and the opportunity to reconnect with other friars.

John Anglin, OFM, of St. Petersburg, Fla., said he felt positive after leaving the Chapter. “I feel hopeful because our theme of ‘Crossroads 2011’ called us to focus on the world’s great need rather than on the inner workings of the Church,” he said. John wrote an entry for his blog about the Chapter, called “On to the Future: Looking out to the World.”

chapter-r1Francis Pompei was equally as positive. “What I heard and experienced at the Chapter was different than all the others I’ve attended the past 25 years. I believe that the Holy Spirit and Francis spoke at our Chapter, and did so through ‘inspired’ brothers — brothers who ‘got it’ and were listening to the Spirit speak to, and through, them.”

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, at the hotel for another event, visited the capitulars near the Chapter closing. “I know from my days in Catholic school and my current parish that Francis told us to preach the Gospel and, when necessary, use words,” O’Malley said with a smile during Thursday’s dinner, as friars applauded.

“I was impressed,” wrote student friar Daniel Horan, OFM, on his blog. He wrote: “Not with O’Malley’s ability to recount particular Franciscan themes or subjects, but with his implicit Franciscan sensibility.”

John O’Connor said that Gov. O’Malley’s surprise visit was a nice ending to the week. “I believe we had a productive Chapter which has given the new administration several potential initiatives for the next three years. At our first council meeting, which went very well, we began to address some of these initiatives. I want to thank the friars who attended the Chapter for their honesty in sharing their opinions, and the exceptional spirit of fraternity they displayed,” said John.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. Her office will be creating a photo album displaying the many photographs taken during the Chapter.