News from the Order of Friars Minor during the last few weeks includes two messages from the General Minister, progress with the General Chapter planning, and updates about Franciscans International and the Poor Clares.
The December issue of Fraternitas, the Order’s international newsletter, features the Fourth World Day of the Poor. It also reports on additional news of the Order and reviews of new Franciscan books – one edited by a member of Holy Name Province, Xavier Seubert, OFM. The current issue of the Communion and Communications newsletter for the Poor Clares features news about Poor Clare communities in Spain and Mexico, as well as a timely article about St. Clare’s concern for the sick.
The descriptions below summarize recent developments throughout the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found on the OFM website and by following the Order on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
► Michael Perry, OFM, the Minister General of the Order, has written two timely letters to the OFM friars. In the letter, released on Nov. 27 and titled “Finding Hope in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Michael said, “While the pandemic continues to ravage human communities, leaving in its wake untold suffering, it is having other serious social consequences. Families, friends, and brothers in the Order have felt the psychological and emotional impact that comes as a result of maintaining social distance, wearing protective masks, and refraining from expressing physical forms of affection, depriving us of something so vital and necessary for human life and community.” He went on to say, “Our commitment to be brothers to all people should lead us to engage in a deeper reflection on the many social fractures – economic, political, social – [and] the various forms of growing inequalities, such as racism and other ‘isms,’ the other ‘viruses’ that undermine the common good and commitment to global solidarity.”
► In Minister General Michael Perry’s second letter – written to the brothers for Dec. 1 Global AIDS Day – he said, “As the world turns its full attention to the COVID-19 global pandemic, there is a danger that the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic could be forgotten, that the battle to defeat it might experience a setback, and that national and international attention and funding could be reduced.” He said as disciples of the risen Lord Jesus and as “followers of our Seraphic Father Francis, may we never cease to love, support, and pray for our brothers and sisters who are living with or affected by HIV and AIDS. Let us also pray for our own brothers who live with the virus and who, despite the challenges they face, continue to serve the needs of God’s people, especially the poor and forgotten.”
► The General Council of the Order held 10 meetings between Oct. 26 and Nov. 7.
Thanks to the work of the preparatory commission, which provided a draft agenda and the rules of procedure, preparation for the 2021 General Chapter is moving forward. Additionally, acts of elections in Korea and the province of Sts. Francis and James in Mexico – and the appointment of Manuel Viera, OFM, as the general visitor to St. Barbara Province in California – were approved. The next ordinary session of the General Council is scheduled for Jan. 18 to 29, 2021.
► Earlier this fall, the pope extended the Minister General’s membership in the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples for another five years. The congregation, which is responsible for the transmission and dissemination of the faith throughout the world, was given the specific responsibility of coordinating and guiding the Church’s diverse missionary efforts and initiatives. This includes promoting the formation of clergy and local hierarchies, encouraging new missionary institutes, and providing material assistance for missionary activity.
► The General Chapter of 2015 asked the General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization to “draw up guidelines in preparation for mission, valid for the whole Order.” In presenting the new guidelines, the General Secretariat wrote, “The rapidly changing realities of the world challenge us to understand that the Lord’s call is to build up his Kingdom as leaders in the evangelization and care of ‘sister Mother Earth.’ We want [the brothers] to implement [our] charism as a contemplative fraternity in evangelizing mission.”
► A group of Poor Clares has produced an album that includes unaccompanied plainchant, combined with subtle contemporary production, to create relaxing, meditative music that is designed to bring an authentic spiritual experience to everyday life. The more than 20 Clares, who live in a monastery in the charming medieval countryside town of Arundel in the south of England, are mostly from the U.K., but also hail from Scotland, Ireland, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka. The U.K.’s popular classical music radio station reports that the Poor Clares’ album, “Light for the World,” is having unprecedented success – taking the number one spot in both the classical artist and classical specialist album charts – with songs featuring excerpts from the writings of St. Clare and St Francis, Latin hymns, and other medieval texts.
► Two friars of St. John the Baptist Province, Eric Seguin, OFM, and John Boissy, OFM, professed their solemn vows on Dec. 5 at St. Clement Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. A video of the Mass, which was livestreamed, can be found on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist.
► That latest issue of Koinōnia, the Order’s newsletter for Secular Franciscans, features the article “An Integrated Ecology: The Secular Franciscan Response” – which reflects on the relationship between humankind and the environment. The article says that our commitment to the spirituality that Francis of Assisi taught invites us to live this relationship in mutual harmony and respect. It further says that Pope Francis, looking at the testimony of the saint and his relationship with nature, invites us to go back and contemplate and learn from his testimony. The article quoted the pope’s encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” in which he says, “I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.”
► Franciscans International, the Franciscan voice at the United Nations, held an online conversation in November on “The Responsibility of Business on Human Rights – Franciscan action at the United Nations from the perspective of ‘Laudato Si’.’” Collaborating with grassroots Franciscan communities, FI has worked to promote respect for human rights in all business operations and has called for greater accountability for corporate abuses – including access to justice for all victims. The 2015 Papal encyclical “Laudato Si’” has provided guidance in bringing the voice of the affected communities to the attention of the international community, in particular the UN.
► The Order’s Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation, in collaboration with the JPIC-Media teams, produced a resource booklet for November’s World Day of the Poor with four approaches: Integral Ecology, a contemplation of the reality, a discernment from the brotherhood and sisterhood, and the commitment of being a Samaritan. The resource booklet says that the words of St. Francis – “Brother, when you see a poor man, you see a mirror of the Lord and his poor mother” – give Franciscans a particular approach that guides the celebration of the World Day of the Poor. Also in November, FI, with the support of the Irish charity Misean Cara, launched a new publication on migration – “Tearing Down the Walls” (also available in Spanish). This publication uses international human rights standards and state commitments to provide people on the ground with the resources needed to promote the arguments and advocacy for the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees.
— Jim McIntosh is communications assistant for the HNP Communications Office.
- “ESC Meeting, General Chapter Plans an Other News of the Order” – Nov. 19, 2020, HNP Today
- “FI’s 30th Anniversary Booklet Tells Stories of Struggles, Achievements” — June 10, 2020, HNP Today