The reflection below is one in a series written by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, about his observations and experiences as leader of Holy Name Province. The previous installment appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of HNP Today.
LIMA, Peru — Greetings from the road. I am currently in Lima, participating in the ceremony at which Fr. Mauro Vallejo, OFM, provincial minister of the Province of St. Francis Solano in Peru and I will jointly sign the memorandum of understanding that will officially end our missionary foundation in that country.
We will incrementally become part of this Peruvian province — popularly known as the “Descalzos” — with our friars initially serving as “guest workers.” They will continue to staff the missions that we have worked in for years, and Holy Name Province will continue to financially support these missions.
Celebration and Affirmation
October has been a month of intense travel for me. By the end of the month, I will have traveled some 20,000 miles. At the beginning of October, I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the celebration of our friar Archbishop Roberto González, OFM, as he marked his 25th year as a bishop. I represented the Province as a guest of Roberto, who is currently archbishop of San Juan and primate of the dioceses that make up the Church in Puerto Rico.
Other special guests included Cardinal William Levada of Rome, Cardinal Amico Vallejo, OFM, of Spain, and several other bishops from Puerto Rico and the United States. It was a great celebration and affirmation of Roberto. The main event was a Mass attended by more than 2,000 people, including the governor and first lady of Puerto Rico and several government officials from San Juan and surrounding municipalities. Roberto’s family was also in attendance.
I returned home to New York and our friary on 31st Street for the feast of St. Francis, and left the next day for San Diego and the biannual meeting of the provincial ministers of the English-speaking Conference. Fr. John Hardin, OFM, and the friars of St. Barbara Province were gracious hosts. We met at the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego and also visited the newly renovated Mission of San Luis Rey in Oceanside, Calif. The mission is now the site of the Franciscan School of Theology.
Important Moment in History
As you are aware, our discussions at the meeting centered on the report of the Interprovincial Commission that was established at the meeting of the leadership of the seven U.S. provinces and the Minister General and Vicar General last December in Milwaukee, Wis. After reviewing the report and spending several days discussing it, we provincials came to the agreement that the status quo of seven provinces cannot be sustained.
We are asking each of the U.S. provinces to convoke a chapter to study our recommendation that we look for new ways to collaborate, as well as to be prepared to discuss possible models for restructuring. We will spend part of our Provincial Chapter in June dealing with the report and the provincials’ recommendation.
I believe this is an important moment in the history of the Order of Friars Minor in the U.S. I also believe it presents us with a great opportunity to creatively move into the future in a way that can make our Franciscan presence, in both fraternity and ministry, more dynamic and effective. This will not be an easy task. Change is never easy, and here we are, of course, considering what could be a significant change. I ask all the friars to prayerfully consider the agenda before us and, with an open mind, be willing to begin serious discussions.
That’s the latest for now. I will be back in New York at the end of the week before I travel to Siena College for the college and friary celebration on the occasion of the retirement of Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y. I continue to wish you all the best and God’s many blessings. See you around the Province.
— Fr. John, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., is the 15th friar to serve as Provincial Minister of Holy Name Province. His term concludes in June at the 2014 Chapter.