Order Update: Friar Creates Unique Use for Empty Friaries in Spain

HNP Communications Franciscan World

The following descriptions summarize recent news from the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found by visiting the links to the news items mentioned as well as by following the Order of Friars Minor on Facebook and Twitter for information throughout the month.

► Two years ago, the Franciscan friary of Betanzos in Galicia, Spain, was left empty due to a lack of vocations. Instead of selling the 14th century building, Br. Enrique Lista García, OFM, proposed that his province establish a program that would address a serious problem in society – loneliness. The Familia Aberta (Open Family) project invites people of different ages and realities who live alone to come to the friary each day and share a meal, tend to chores to maintain the upkeep of the building, and spend time together. Programs are organized by a social worker hired by the province. Br. Enrique stresses that “this is not a charitable initiative to use, it is not a social dining room, nor a day center, nor a residence. It is an open space where people who live alone can spend their days in the company of others.”

► The Order’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation is planning the Order’s participation in the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, commonly known as COP24, which will take place from Dec. 3 to 14 in Katowice, Poland. The JPIC office hopes to “facilitate productive dialogue between religious communities, the civil society, and local workers.” Ideas and suggestions are welcomed. Those who would like to participate are asked to contact pax@ofm.org.

► Though Pakistan’s Christians amount to just over 2 percent of the country’s population of 200 million people, Franciscanism is flourishing. “Initial formation is geared toward serving the needy and poor – people who are on the peripheries at many levels,” according to the Order’s website. “This year, four postulants entered the novitiate, five young men will make first profession, and seven will renew profession for another year.” Four friars who have completed their theology studies made solemn profession on Aug. 2.” Pakistan has 32 solemnly professed friars, with an average age of 42.

► The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago will present an exhibit titled “Prayer and Devotion: Franciscan Art, Franciscan Artists” from Sept. 16 to Dec. 15. The exhibit is described as follows: “From the tradition of the Christmas crèche to art inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si,’ which quoted St. Francis of Assisi’s ‘Canticle of the Creatures,’ there has been a longstanding relationship between Franciscans, Franciscan spirituality and the arts. This exhibit seeks to bring together work by contemporary Franciscan artists without regard to its content, and work from artists that use Franciscan themes.” The exhibit is mounted in conjunction with the school’s 50th anniversary, acknowledging Sacred Heart Province as one of the three founding religious communities of the school.

► Throughout July and August, the Order published a series of articles on how the Franciscans accompany young people in preparation for the upcoming synod. The most recent article, published Aug. 27, features Mt. Irenaeus. “Many people today – particularly young people – ache with the anxieties of not belonging, of not being sure of life and its direction,” according to the article. “They need to be refreshed and healed and helped to find their way. This need inspires our life and ministry at Mt. Irenaeus: to create a space in which people can experience the reconciling love of Jesus who makes all things new.” Another article, published Aug. 20, features the Valley of the Angels Orphanage in Guatemala, founded by Immaculate Conception Province (USA) in 1988 to educate and care for abandoned and orphaned children. “Love, peace, encouragement and the joy of knowing you are not alone. People are walking with you, and so does God. These are qualities that describe a healthy Christian family,” said Fr. Michael Della Penna, OFM, director. “This is the kind of family we strive to create at Valley of the Angels: a healthy and happy Christian family enlivened by the spirit of St. Francis.”

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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