Order Asks Forgiveness from Navajo Nation, Other ESC News

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

General Minister Michael Perry at St. Michael’s Mission in the Navajo Nation. (Photo courtesy of Escofm.org)

SAINT MICHAELS, Ariz. — The General Minister and the General Definitorium joined the provincial ministers of the English-speaking Conference for their fall meeting in the Southwest.

Every six years, the General Definitorium meets with each of the Order’s various conference to get a sense of the realities of Franciscan life within each conference. The ESC’s meeting began on Oct. 9 at A Becoming Place, a conference center managed by Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, and concluded on Oct. 15 at St. Michael’s Mission on the Navajo Nation.

Apology to Native Americans
One of the most moving experiences came on Wednesday during Mass at the Laguna Pueblo on the Navajo Nation. During his homily, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, asked for forgiveness from the Native Americans for any harm caused by the Franciscan presence among their people. He said:

In the same spirit in which St. Paul wrote his letter to the Christian pueblo in Philippi, I now bow down before you, the Laguna Pueblo, and ask that you find it within your hearts to forgive us Franciscans for the times when we have failed to show sincere respect for your rich spiritual and cultural heritage, and for the dignity of each and every member of your Pueblo. I beg your forgiveness and ask that you pray for our continued conversion of mind and heart so that we might grow in our capacity to love as you have loved us.

Fr. Michael repeated the apology during a liturgy at St. Michael’s Mission on the Navajo Nation. The apology was graciously accepted, and the generous offering of pardon that was expressed by Native American leaders was a deeply emotional and spiritual experience, according to the English-speaking Conference’s newsletter.

Among the items discussed at the meeting were several new appointments and elections, including:

  • Fr. James Gannon, OFM, of Assumption Province, as the vice-president of the conference.
  • Fr. Patrick McCloskey, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, as the new executive secretary, succeeding Fr. Thomas Washburn, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province
  • Fr. Jerome Wolbert, OFM, of Assumption Province, as the new national assistant to the Secular Franciscan Order
  • Fr. Pierre Charland, OFM, of St. Joseph Province, Quebec, and Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, USA, as the ESC’s representatives to the Plenary Council, which will take place from June 12 to 28 in Nairobi, Kenya

The Provincial Ministers and Custodes of the English Speaking Conference in Albuquerque. (Photo courtesy of Escofm.org)

Reconfiguration in North America
During the meeting, friars from Canada and the United States gathered to discuss the processes of revitalization and restructuring happening in their respective countries.

The provincial ministers of the US-6 met for two days prior to the start of the ESC meeting in Albuquerque. Among the items discussed was a survey that will be sent to all the US-6 friars this fall/winter. The survey will allow friars the opportunity to request more information regarding the R&R process, as well as to share their hopes and concerns. A full list of items discussed is available in the ESC newsletter, as well as in the meeting highlights distributed to friars on Oct. 24.

In Canada, the friars of the Province of Christ the King (Western Canada) and St. Joseph Province (Eastern Canada) have planned two fraternal gatherings: a Chapter of Mats, to be held April 23 to 26, 2018 and a Chapter of Union, to be held Oct. 21 to 25, 2018.

A full description of the English-speaking Conference meeting, as well as updates about reconfiguration in North America, can be found in the ESC’s fall newsletter. Information about the conference’s member provinces can be found on the ESC website and Facebook page.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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