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American Michael Perry Re-elected General Minister

HNP friars with Fr. Michael Perry

HNP friars participating in the Chapter: from left to right: Dominic Monti, of the Commission on the Final Document; John O’Connor, executive assistant to the General Minister for development and fundraising; General Minister Michael Perry; Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, delegate; and Brian Belanger, delegate representing the lay friars of the English-speaking Conference. Not pictured: Joseph Rozansky, director of the Order’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity for Creation. (Photo courtesy of Dominic)

ASSISI — Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, USA, was re-elected General Minister on May 21 during the General Chapter.

The 126 voting members overwhelmingly selected Fr. Michael as the 120th General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor and the successor of St. Francis of Assisi. The vote totals were as follows:

  • Fr. Michael Perry, OFM: 109 votes
  • Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM, of San Virgilio, Trent: 10 votes
  • Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, of the Custody of the Holy Land: 2 votes
  • Fr. Julio Bunader, OFM, of Assumption BVM, Argentina: 1 vote

Four blank ballots were also cast.

After chapter secretary Br. Bill Short, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, confirmed the election results to the friars, they assembled for the solemn procession from the chapter hall to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Chapel of the Portiuncula.

“As they stepped from the Domus Pacis, the bells of the basilica filled the Italian countryside informing the friars, residents, visitors and friends of St. Francis that we have elected a General Minister: Habemus Mistrum Generalem!” wrote Fathers Thomas Washburn, OFM, and Alvin Te, OFM, who have providing updates from the chapter to the English-speaking Conference. The ESC posted a message congratulating the General Minister on its website. The Order has also produced a video of the procession and the General Minister’s profession of faith.

Background
A native of Indiana, Fr. Michael, 60, is the third American to serve as General Minister. He was first elected in 2013 to fill the vacancy left by Fr. José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, who was named by Pope Francis as secretary of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life.

Michael joined the Order in 1977, professed his final vows in 1981 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1984. He holds a doctorate in religious anthropology, a master’s degree in theology, a master of divinity, and a bachelor of arts in history and philosophy.

Throughout his years as a friar, Michael has held a variety of roles, including:

  • A member of the vicariate of St. Benedict in Zaire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, from 1982 to 1990
  • A staff member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2002 to 2005
  • A lobbyist for Franciscans International from 2005 to 2008
  • Senior technical advisor to Catholic Relief Services from 2005 to 2008
  • Provincial minister of Sacred Heart Province, based in St. Louis, from 2008 to 2009, when he was elected General Vicar of the Order at the 187th General Chapter
vicar-general-election

General Vicar Fr. Julio Cesar Bunader makes his profession of faith in the Chapter Hall, with General Minister Fr. Michael Perry on his left and Chapter Secretary Br. William Short on his right. (Photo courtesy of the ESC)

General Vicar
On May 22, Fr. Julio César Bunader, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, Argentina, was re-elected as General Vicar of the Province. The vote totals were as follows:

  • Fr. Julio: 75 votes
  • Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM: 45 votes

Fr. Julio was elected in 2013 to fill the vacancy left by Fr. Michael when he was selected to be General Minister. Fr. Julio was appointed by the General Definitorium, on which he had been representing Latin America.

He was born in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1961 and entered the novitiate in 1984, making his first profession the following year. Fr. Julio professed solemn vows in 1988 and was ordained in 1992. He has previously served as provincial minister of his province, president of UCLAF Conference and Cono Sur, a provincial councilor, rector of the Franciscan Theological Institute, dean of the Franciscan faculty and professor of moral theology. He has a bachelors degree in theology and a licentiate in moral theology.

On Saturday, the election of the Order’s General Definitors will take place.

Chapter delegates

The chapter delegates with the newly elected General Minister. (Photo courtesy of the ESC)

Papal Audience
On May 26, the friars piled into buses and traveled from Assisi to Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. During his address, the pope encouraged the friars to always remember two important elements of the Franciscan charism: minority and brotherhood.

“Francis invited the Franciscans to be ‘bringers of mercy, reconciliation and peace,’ in obedience to their charism, which has made them an ‘outbound congregation’ since their origins,” the pontiff said. “It is said that when the first friars were asked to show their cloisters, they climbed a hill and, showing the land around, as far as the eye could see, they answered, ‘This is our cloister.’ Dear brothers, continue to go into this cloister, which is the whole world, driven by Christ’s love, as St. Francis invites you to do.”

The pope’s remarks, as well as photos of his meeting with the friars, are available online.

Pope Francis with the Franciscan friars

Pope Francis with the provincial ministers during an audience in Rome. (Photo courtesy of the ESC)

Presentations and Reflections
Information about previous proceedings of the Chapter can be found in the daily briefings being emailed by the English-speaking Conference. They have featured:

  • The presentation on Saturday by Dominic Monti, OFM, on behalf of a three-man team of experts, and the Mass for English-speaking friars celebrated by Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM
  • A reflection on Monday by Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, former president of the ESC
  • A report on Tuesday on the ESC by Fr. Hugh McKenna, OFM, of Ireland, president of the ESC, and a Prayer of Thanksgiving for the outgoing administration
  • A presentation on Wednesday of the proposed changes to the General Constitutions

Dozens of photos of the Chapter are posted on the ESC website.

— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.