Order Begins Chapter with General Minister’s Report

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

ASSISI, Italy — The first week of the Order’s month-long General Chapter here concluded with a celebration of Pentecost and preparation for the elections. This week, the nearly 160 participating Franciscan leaders will choose their General Minister and members of the General Council, or Definitorium.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, is attending the gathering, which includes liturgy, reports, discussions, song and meals. This is an Ordinary Chapter, which is held every six years. It opened May 24 in the Portiuncula of St. Mary of the Angels, where the Order of Friars Minor of St. Francis was founded in 1209. In September 2006, John participated in the OFM’s Extraordinary Chapter in Assisi.

Last week, General Minister José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM, provided a detailed report to the Chapter focusing on a variety of themes. It included the work of the General Definitorium during his six-year administration, quality of fraternal life in community, evangelization, formation and studies and proposals for the future. The 318-page report was distributed to delegates and friars before the Chapter.

Highlights from the General Minister’s report, whose presentation concluded Friday, were provided in daily briefings from the English-speaking Conference.

ESC Members Play Key Roles
Before the Chapter’s opening, John led a two-day meeting of the leaders of the English-speaking Conference (ESC), the second largest conference of the Order, with 1,856 members. The Italian Conference has more than 2,400 members.

Several ESC members were chosen for key Chapter positions, including Michael Perry, OFM, Provincial Minister of Sacred Heart Province, who was elected to serve as one of three moderators of the Chapter.

The 2009 Chapter began last week with a Mass celebrated by the General Minister that officially inaugurated the Chapter, and a reading on Monday in the plaza of St. Mary from the life of St. Thomas of Celano.

Several local officials welcomed the Chapter participants, who included Claudio Ricci, Assisi mayor; Domenico Sorrentino, Assisi bishop; and Bruno Ottavi, OFM, the Provincial Minister of the Assisi Province. Former General Minister Giacomo Bini, OFM, presided over a prayer service on May 28 at the chapel of San Damiano.

The second week of the Chapter began on June 1 with Lectio Divina, a prayerful reading of scripture. The Chapter, which ends June 22, will begin each of the last three weeks similarly.

The Chapter delegates and staff are staying at two guests houses next to St. Mary’s, which is hosting the plenary assemblies and the 10 workshops in seven languages.

For morning Mass, members of the ESC alternate in the celebration of Holy Eucharist. Every day, a different language group receives the honor of celebrating Mass inside the small chapel of the Portiuncula, said Thomas Washburn, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province, who, as executive secretary of the ESC, is distributing daily news briefings by e-mail.

chapter-bFull Schedule
The days are long, John said, beginning at 7 a.m. and ending some evenings at 10:30 p.m. “Meeting the Provincials from all over the world has been interesting and enlightening.”

On Saturday, the friars began preparing for the election of the General Minister, General Vicar and members of the General Definitorium, John said. “This week promises to be very interesting, as most of the week will be involved in the election process.”

The weather over the weekend “was beautiful, though it has been very hot,” John said.

On the weekend, the schedule was more relaxed than on the weekdays, John said. On Friday evening, he joined a group of visiting Holy Name friars for dinner. They are in Assisi for a study pilgrimage with leader F. Edward Coughlin, OFM. “It was great to see our men,” John said.

After a “much-deserved afternoon off, the Chapter delegates participated on Saturday in a solemn celebration of the Pentecost Vigil, set in three parts,” according to Thomas, who has posted daily online briefings, including photographs and videos. The May 30 e-briefing includes statistics about the Order describing areas of the world that have had increased numbers of friars in recent years.

The election of the new General Minister is scheduled for June 4, General Vicar for June 5, and General Definitorium members on June 6.

The third and fourth weeks of the Chapter will be “dedicated to the establishment of guidelines for the next six-year period in order to relaunch our vocation of bearing witness to the Gospel,” according to the June 1 issue ofFraternitas, the Order’s monthly newsletter. The daily briefings from the ESC can be found on the Web site of the Immaculate Conception Province.

The photo shown “behind” the photo above pictures John with some of the friars of the English-speaking Conference. (TBC)

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.