Provinces Collaborate on African-American Ministry

Neil O’Connell, OFM Features

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Friars representing Holy Name Province, Sacred Heart Province, Assumption Province and the Detroit Capuchin Province gathered here from Sept. 2 to 4 to continue dialogue on how to better foster vocations from and further the Catholic presence within the African-American community.

The group, called the Inter-Familial OFM African-American Apostolate Partnership, met at the Drury Inn and Suites not far from St. Anthony of Padua Parish, which hosted the meeting.

The friar participants were joined in discussions by African-American laity. The focus of this meeting was the possible establishment of a house of discernment to assist African-American young men in discerning a possible vocation and to assist and support them in the transition into the regular Franciscan formation programs.

Discernment House
The gathering included three members of Holy Name Province, six members of the OFM Sacred Heart Province (based in St. Louis), six members of the OFM Capuchin St. Joseph Province (Detroit), including its provincial minister, Father John Celicahowski, OFM Cap, and three lay members of the host ministry participated in the meeting.

The purpose of the house of discernment would be to:
· Strengthen African-American young men in their Catholic identity
· Help African-American Catholic men discern a possible Franciscan vocation
· Help friars discern a ministry within the African-American Catholic community

The target for implementing the House of Discernment is July 2010. The meeting reviewed initial acceptance and support from participating OFM provinces, the involvement of local Catholic African-American laity in the program of the house and the location of the house.

The meeting considered a recently-renovated former Holy Name Province friary at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville as a location of the house. The Holy Name Provincial Council had already communicated its openness to pursue the possibility of locating the house in Greenville. The participants in the meeting visited the former friary site and were unanimous in its potential for location of the house.

During the site visitation, the participants considered the ministerial experience and higher education opportunities in the greater Greenville area.

The meeting also focused on the topic of African-American Franciscan vocations. The participants committed themselves to explore the following avenues for expanding the potential for African-American vocations: parents and the home, Franciscan-related elementary and secondary schools, Secular Franciscan Order youth chapters, knights and ladies of St. Peter Claver, “Go Down Moses” retreats, Franciscan-related campus ministries, youth volunteerism and links with existing Web sites. Utilizing these avenues will likely enhance vocation retention from both the African-American community and the general Catholic population.

Education and other Topics
The meeting began an on-going discussion of the service of Franciscan-related education at all levels (elementary, secondary, higher) with the African-American community.

The meeting concluded a finalized text of the Partnership Mission Statement and began the drafting of by-laws. Finally, the participants made plans for communicating with Franciscan family provinces to invite participation in the partnership and for preparing a presentation on the partnership at the fall meeting of the OFM provincials.

afam-fThe next meeting of the partnership — in April 2010 — will be hosted again by St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville.

Information about the recent meeting and about the partnership is available from Father Ferd Cheri, OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, at ferdofm@aol.com.

Shown in the photo above are Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville, at left in back row, and the author, seventh from right in back row. Henry Fulmer, OFM, of Columbia, S.C, took the photograph.

— Fr. Neil, a resident of New York City, is a member of HNP’s African-American Ministry Committee. A report on the AAM Committee will be provided in an October issue of HNP Today.