St. John the Baptist Province celebrated the 100th anniversary of the death of Anselm Weber who served as a missionary to the Navajo people from 1898 to 1921.

Myanmar Protests, Minister General’s Easter Letter, and Other News of Order

Jim McIntosh OFM Franciscan World

The April issue of Fraternitas, the Order’s international newsletter, highlights the Minister General’s appeal to the United Nations following the military coup in Myanmar, and a declaration of solidarity with the people of that country; a webinar on “Fratelli Tutti;” the support of the US-6 provincial ministers in the condemnation of violence towards LGBT youth; a report on the OFM presence in Cuba; a report from Franciscans International on migration trends in Central and North America, and the upcoming close of the year (May 24, 2020 to May 24, 2021) dedicated to the anniversary of Laudato Si’.

The descriptions below summarize recent developments throughout the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found on the OFM websiteand by following the Order on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram..

► The Minister General, Michael Perry, OFM, released his Easter letter, “The Message of the Empty Tomb,” to the friars. Michael wrote, “Together with all of humanity, we have experienced the threats of chaos and emptiness provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have found ourselves isolated, devoid of physical contact. We have had to put on ‘shields’ to protect us from the unknown but ever-present lurking danger of an unseen organism capable of doing great harm to us – physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, economically, and in all other ways.” The letter continued: “The dark night is not yet over. In the end, the promise of the resurrection provides us with hope. However, this hope is not only the result of something that comes from outside of us, from belief in the power of God’s grace and love. It is, in the end, the result of a decision we make within our minds and hearts to welcome and embrace the One who has embraced death in order that He might lead all of us toward an authentic experience of what it means to be alive.” The Minister General went on to say, “The resurrection of Jesus presents us with a radical choice – to live daily in the power of God’s love that is stronger than the cruel, enslaving effects of injustice, racism, hatred, violence, and a spiritual wasteland. Or to live in the indifference, fear, and hopelessness offered by all that opposes righteousness, holiness, goodness, and truth.”

The Contact newsletter produced by the Order’s JPIC Office. (Graphic from the newsletter)

► The OFM Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office has released the January-March 2021 issue of its newsletter, “Contact.” The publication provides information on a number of JPIC activities, including the appeal to the U.N. after the Myanmar coup; ecological efforts at a high school in Peru; the celebration of the World Day of Global Climate Action in Chile; the participation of two U.S. postulants with the Franciscan Action Network at demonstrations in Washington, D.C., to sound the alarm about climate change; “The Global OFM Laudato Si’” online conference for friars in formation; the change of staff in the Order’s JPIC office in the General Curia in Rome, and challenging myths about migration from a human rights perspective.

► In a letter addressed to bishops throughout the world, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, appealed to Christians across the globe to support the annual Holy Land Collection, which takes place each year on Good Friday. The custos of the Holy Land Custody added his own appeal to the cardinal’s, saying, “In the Holy Land we have been severely tested by the pandemic that has paralyzed the whole world. Despite this situation, we have continued to take care of the Holy Places of our redemption and the small Christian community that still exists and endures here. At the Holy Sepulchre, in Gethsemane, in Bethlehem, in Nazareth, and in the other shrines we have intensified our prayers for the whole world. In the parishes, we continue to take care of Arabic, Hebrew, and Greek-speaking Christians, migrant workers, and refugees. Through our Terra Sancta schools, around 10,000 children, teenagers, and young people are able to benefit from a good education. The charitable commitment has intensified to meet the essential needs of a very tested local population – not only by the pandemic – but also by war, and by the absence of social and health assistance. All this has a cost that is largely covered by the Good Friday Collection every year.”

► St. John the Baptist Province celebrated the 100th anniversary of the death of Anselm Weber, OFM, who served as a missionary to the Navajo people from 1898 to 1921. His nearly quarter-century of service began when he was recruited by Mother Katharine Drexel as one of the first friar missionaries, in Arizona. “Anselm Weber provided the Indians with their strongest defense against cultural breakdown,” wrote Robert L. Wilken, author of “Anselm Weber, OFM: Missionary to the Navaho.” According to Murray Bodo, OFM, a native of the Southwest, “Anselm’s energy was indefatigable.” He was constantly working for the Navajo people to protect their rights and interests. A devoted student of their culture, Murray said that Anselm worked hard to preserve the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation. He pleaded before the United States Congress for the preservation of the integrity of Navajo lands and against encroachment by the railroads and others.

► With pandemic-related travel restrictions disrupting pilgrimages to the Holy Land for Lent and Easter, the Holy Land Custody offered a virtual Way of the Cross as an opportunity for the faithful to connect to the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. During Holy Week, the custody broadcasted important moments, including the Easter Triduum at the Holy Sepulcher, featuring the celebration of the holy hour at Gethsemane and the so-called funeral of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre.

► The ambassador to the Philippines recently presented Sandro Overend Rigillo, OFM – the apostolic administrator in Benghazi, Libya – with a plaque in gratitude for his presence and continued caring for the Filipino community during the COVID-19 outbreak. Sandro also received a letter of gratitude and appreciation from the prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples for the work being done at the apostolic vicariate of Benghazi and the East of Libya.

— Jim McIntosh is a communications assistant for the HNP Communications Office.