Order Update: Friars Show Solidarity with Franciscans in Mexico

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

General Minister Michael Perry celebrating the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis with Vespers in La Verna, Italy. (photo courtesy of OFM.org)

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. Follow the Order of Friars Minor on Facebook and Twitter for information throughout the month.

  The General Minister sent a message of solidarity on behalf of the Order to the friars in Mexico following the earthquakes in September. “All of us together, in one spirit, pray for those who have lost their lives through this terrible tragedy, for those who are injured and all those who have lost their close relatives and their homes,” he wrote. “We wish in particular to be of support to you, our very dear brothers of the Franciscan provinces who live and carry out your ministries in the areas which have been amongst those most badly struck, as well as for all of those who are involved in emergency aid and all of your families. We pray that you may be able to confront this calamity with faith, courage, and solidarity.”

 Fr. Jürgen Neitzert, OFM, was elected General Councilor on Sept. 11. He will be representing the Central Europe Conferences. A native of Germany, he received the habit in 1978 and professed first vows one year later. He is a nurse by profession, and in 2006, he completed studies in philosophy and sociology. Fr. Jurgen also holds master’s degrees in philosophy and Islamic Studies. He has served as a provincial councilor, has ministered in initial formation, and for many years has been engaged in JPIC initiatives. He has been a member of the Order’s international committee on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue since 2015.

  The two Canadian provinces have announced the dates of two upcoming fraternal gatherings: A Chapter of Mats from April 23 to 26, and a Chapter of Union from Oct. 21 to 25, 2018. According to the Order’s website, the work in progress includes, but is not limited to, “discernment and consultation around mission and evangelization, formation, communication, provincial statutes, liturgy, the administration of goods, and a name and logo for the new province.”

  The Order has created a map of the missionary projects that depend directly on the OFM General Curia. The map is available in English, Italian, and Spanish. “These are reminders of the international reality of the Order and of the urgent need for a fraternal cooperation at the universal level,” wrote General Secretary Fr. Luis Gallardo Loja, OFM. “We invite you to contact us for details and consider a process of discernment.”

  A new interobediential fraternity of Friars Minor and Conventual Franciscans was created during a Mass on Sept. 24, in the presence of the General Vicars of the Friars Minor and of the Conventual Friars – Fr. Julio César Bunader, OFM, and Fr. Jerzy Norel, OFM – in Emmaus Al-Qubeibeh in Jerusalem. The liturgy marked the formation of this new fraternity as well as the 150th anniversary of the Franciscan presence at Emmaus. The new fraternity will be dedicated to welcoming friars who wish to spend periods of reflection there, or for those who wish to go there for permanent formation.

  On Sept. 17, the feast of the Stigmata, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, encouraged the faithful “to be inflamed by the fire of God’s love as He did with St. Francis… in order that Christ’s Resurrection may continue to transform the world through us.” In accordance with an ancient tradition, the friars and laypeople processed from the basilica in La Verna, where the Mass was celebrated, to the Chapel of the Stigmata. Provincial Minister Fr. Guido Fineschi, OFM, blessed, with the relic of the blood of the stigmata, the city of Florence.

 The Formators’ Congress of the four Latin American conferences was held from Sept. 3 to 9 in São Paulo, Brazil. Sixty-five formators from all the entities of each conference participated in the gathering, the theme of which was “Accompaniment in Community Life.” The Congress used study groups to process several reflections and proposals, which were then shared with the entire group. At the end of the group, a statement of intent was created to assist the formators with their work. The conference is the second in a series of six conferences that will be held from 2017 to 2019 on the subject of accompaniment in community life, as a follow-up to decisions that were made during the Order’s last General Chapter.

  The late Fr. Paschal Slevin, OFM, of the Province of Ireland, who died in May at age 83, was posthumously awarded the highest honor the Zimbabwean government can bestow on a foreigner – The Royal Order of Munhumutapa. In a citation accompanying the award, vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa praised Fr. Paschal for his anti-racist initiatives in local Catholic schools from 1966 to 1971. Many students’ educations were subsidized by the Franciscans under his leadership, enabling the students to take up key positions of influence in the new nation. He was remembered for his compassion toward his students, especially during the liberation struggle. After Zimbabwe won independence, he leads the Franciscans in educating former guerrilla fighters and helped develop the local rural economy in Wedza, building a dam and grain storage silos, and establishing a farmers’ co-op.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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