CHICAGO — More than 200 friars from the provinces of St. John the Baptist and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary gathered for a joint province assembly May 24 to 28 at St. Xavier University here. Assumption provincial minister Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM, described the JPA as “a great success.”
The assembly was another step in the now three-year-old discussion of a possible merger between these two Midwest provinces. On the assembly’s first evening, SJB provincial minister Fr. Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM, said, “We are here to discern, to listen to God’s call to us and to discover if something new can be formed.” He added, “No matter what we decide in the end, our bonds will be deepened and strengthened.”
Currently, St. John the Baptist Province is headquartered in Cincinnati and Assumption BVM Province in Franklin, Wis.
Friars discussed what Franciscan life should look like in the 21st century. Br. William Short, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, told those gathered, “We come today as bearers of that ancient tradition (of St. Francis), but we are called to not repeat it as it was lived in the 13th century.” He added that friars should not take individual provinces too seriously. “The Order is calling us to think of ourselves less as individual provinces and more as a larger brotherhood,” he said.
In the June 1 issue of Assumption’s Provincial Newsletter, Fr. Leslie wrote, “The JPA marked a very significant turning point in the discernment process. … The brothers of our two Provinces will now begin steps to come to a decision about our future. Will we create a new Province or will we continue as two separate Provinces?”
Fr. John Barker, OFM, chair of the JPA Planning Committee, told SJB News Notes, “Regardless of how anyone felt about the ‘big question,’ all the friars seemed to come with real goodwill and good humor. We prayed together, worked together and enjoyed each other’s company as brothers. It really was a joyful week!”
The merger will be voted on by friars at the 2011 chapters of both provinces. Assumption Province is offering discernment retreats and meetings of friars by age group to aid in the decision-making process. Dominic Monti, OFM, as general visitor to the Assumption Province, will be involved in this process and preside over the 2011 chapter.
The communications directors of Assumption and St. John the Baptist provinces — Br. Patrick McCormack, OFM, and Toni Cashnelli — produced a daily newsletter, The JPA Today, for each day of the assembly.