Order’s Plenary Council Underway in Kenya

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

NAIROBI, Kenya — The sound of African drums in the garden of the Dimesse House of Spirituality heralded the beginning of the opening liturgy of the Plenary Council of the Order of Friars Minor on June 12.

In his homily, General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, welcomed the friar-representatives from conferences around the world and encouraged them to return to their “early love.” His words were inspired from the Book of Revelation:

“… do not become discouraged. But, I hold this against you: you have turned aside from your early love. Keep firmly in mind the heights from which you have fallen. Repent, and return to your former deeds… Let him who has ears heed the Spirit’s word to the churches.” (Rev. 2:2-5, 7)

The purpose of a Plenary Council, as expressed in article 194 of the General Constitutions, is “to provide assistance to the General Minister and his Definitory in governing and inspiring the Order, to encourage deeper relationships and communication between the General Curia and the Conferences (and between the conferences themselves) and to help prepare the next General Chapter.”

At the conclusion of the Council, the friars will have prepared a document “that is proactive, that gives direction and, hopefully, also inspires, to help the government of the Order in their task of animating the lives of all the friars.”

The first week of the Council meeting consisted largely of the friars listening to presentations from each of the Order’s conferences. Each presentation consisted of an overview of the work that the friars are doing, as well as the challenges that they are facing. The presentations helped participants form an idea of the Order’s strengths and challenges worldwide.

During the second week, the friars spent time in small groups discussing specific issues facing the Order today. The topics that were addressed included migrants and refugees, the environmental crisis, being promoters of peace in a violent world, faith and young people, and the Franciscan identity and mission.

“The issues addressed are of such magnitude that they demand courageous and generous actions arising out of deep reflection and active discernment,” according to a report shared on the Order’s website earlier this week.

In particular, the Order acknowledged that the scale of human migration today is without historical precedent.

“Migration reflects deep poverty in some regions of the world and causes socio-political tensions in some of the countries that receive migrants,” according to a report from the Order. “The discussion on migrants recognized the complexity of the issue and among the many views expressed was that we need to witness to our common humanity and promote humane treatment for all, no matter what our views are on the protection of borders and the movement of people.”

The friars also discussed the necessity of being open-minded and ready to dialogue if the Order is to respond well to contemporary issues and connect in a relevant way to young people.

“Friars observed that interpersonal relations in this demographic are losing depth and becoming more superficial,” according to a report from the Order. “A more ‘virtual’ kind of relating (social media) has become among young people. Thus, while opportunities and possibilities for interconnection multiply, still many young people experience emptiness and loneliness – and so many have a thirst for spiritual connection. Given that many young people profess that they don’t see the importance of being religious, the friars see that the Church needs to be closer to young people.”

The Plenary Council meeting is set to conclude this week. Detailed reports from each day of the meeting are available on the Order’s website.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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