NEW YORK — I returned last week from a first-hand experience of the truly global reality of the Friars Minor. From Oct. 9 to 16, I participated in the 13th OFM International Council for Formation and Studies, hosted by the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem.
The International Council, which is held every two to three years, is summoned in order to share the experience of initial and ongoing formation throughout the world as a way to assist the General Secretariat of Formation and Studies develop strategies and policies to shape the future of formation in the Order. I had also been a delegate at the 12th International Council, held in Murcia, Spain, in December 2008, and at that time had been elected to the Order’s Executive Committee for Formation, which helped plan this latest gathering.
In addition to general secretary of formation Br. Vidal Rodríguez López, OFM, from Spain, and his assistant, Fr. Sergiusz Baldyga, OFM, from Poland, this international council was composed of one representative from each of the Order’s 14 conferences. I was the delegate of the formation secretaries of the English-speaking Conference. In addition, we had friars from Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Mozambique, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Spain, and the Custody of the Holy Land. At the meetings, we used the Order’s three official languages of English, Italian, and Spanish, which made for an enriching potpourri for the week.
Our hosts for the meeting were the friar community of St. Saviour’s Monastery in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Custody of the Holy Land. Since that community is already very international in make-up, it accentuated the global nature of the Franciscan Order, although the Italian language and culture is still a dominant influence in the house.
Our days were quite packed with talks by resource people and discussion in large and small groups, but one bonus of having the Council meet in Jerusalem was the opportunity for us to visit many of the sanctuaries of the Holy Land staffed by friars of the Custody. It was a real privilege to be able to celebrate the Eucharist at the Holy Sepulchre, Bethlehem, and the Garden of Gethsemani; a special highlight for us was a day-trip to Galilee, where we visited Nazareth and Capernaum.
Everywhere, the friars of the custody were most gracious in their hospitality. I very much enjoyed an evening cookout with the community in Jerusalem, where we had a chance to socialize with the 30 student friars in Jerusalem and get their perspective on formation. I also enjoyed a visit with our own Robert Menard, OFM, who is on sabbatical at the ecumenical institute at Tantur, outside Jerusalem.
— Fr. Dominic is the Province’s secretary for formation and studies.