Friars make their way to Snyder Hall on the campus of Siena College for formal presentations during Provincial Chapter week.

The Final Chapter

HNP Communications HNPNow

With mixed emotions and full of hope, more than 150 friars converged earlier this month on the beautiful campus of Siena College in upstate New York, where they authored the final chapter of Holy Name Province – literally and figuratively.

The 2023 Provincial Chapter was the final such gathering for the friars of Holy Name before they join with the brothers of the other US-6 provinces as part of a unification process that will establish a new coast-to-coast province later this year.

It was the first assembly of HNP friars since 2017, with the global pandemic canceling the Chapter that would’ve been held in 2020.

Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial Minister, makes a point during his presentation at the Provincial Chapter.

“Our 2023 Chapter was a truly great fraternal moment in the life of our Province,” said Kevin Mullen, OFM, who will be HNP’s last Provincial Minister. “We had not been together for six years because of the pandemic. Everyone was eager to see one another. We were happy to be together – and that, more than anything, was the agenda of this Chapter. Those involved in the planning and scheduling, and those who gave talks and presentations, all lived up to their charge. But it was the friars’ presence that made the Chapter.”

While fraternity and brotherhood were central to the weeklong Chapter, the historic aspect of the event was not lost on the attendees. Peppering pure joy with bittersweet sadness, and with conflicting feelings of trepidation and hope, the friars celebrated and honored the 122-year history of their Province in the context of the new beginning that awaits with a new province.

“Moments like these – fraternal gatherings – are reminders of who we should be on a regular basis. We can’t always be on the mountaintop, but we can visit to refresh and renew to do our work enthusiastically. The word I left with from this Chapter is ‘gratitude’ for the thousands of friars before us and the friars with us today – hopeful that we will bring this attitude to our new brothers and embrace a new future together,” said Kevin, who delivered one of several formal talks at the Chapter – during which he highlighted the Province’s work and success over the past two decades, particularly the heightened commitment of integrating peace and justice issues in all aspects of ministry.

Friars at prayer in the Siena St. Mary of the Angels Chapel.

Friars packed Siena’s St. Mary of the Angel’s Chapel for one of the highlights of the Chapter – an extraordinary concert by the Pax Chorum – a performance masterfully assembled and conducted by Kevin McGoff, OFM, whose creativity and artistry through music and lyrics took the fraternity through the history of Holy Name Province in a powerful way, from its origins, growth, and development into what it became and what friar life has been about.

Friars reflect on questions during a breakout group discussion.

The days of the Chapter (June 4-9) were richly filled with fraternal prayer, Mass, social gatherings, preprandium, meals, dynamic speakers, engrossing presentations, breakout group discussions, and open forums that gave the opportunity for Q&A. Around the dinner tables and reception halls was a good amount of nostalgic reminiscing and storytelling – and quite a bit of catching up on what’s been happening in each other’s life over the last six years. Hope for the future was a common thread of casual conversations, group sharing, and presentations by the speakers.

Friars share their thoughts and reflections during a breakout discussion.

“The way we enact hope, others will follow. When we remember, we don’t let hope die. Hope is at the core of who we are as believers. It allows us to see through all things that get in the way of what God wants us to be. If there is fear of what the future holds, let hope guide us into this new future. As a Province, we have always been incredibly hopeful,” said James Sabak, OFM, whose storytelling skills, exuberant personality, and sense of humor made his presentation, “Reasons for Our Hope – The Holy Name of Jesus and Our Franciscan Identity,” entertaining and intriguing.

James Sabak, OFM, delivering his talk on “Reasons for Our Hope – The Holy name of Jesus and Our Franciscan Identity.”

“Pope Francis tells the clergy: ‘Smell like your sheep.’ But I say that the sheep we tend have a desire to smell like us, like the Franciscans friars! There is something that people find attractive about the friars. We give them something of God in the way we hope,” added James, director of divine worship for the Diocese of Raleigh in North Carolina.

He went on to say that Holy Name has never been a dull Province. “Because we are not dull, we can hope. Hope flourishes at our core,” said James. “Hope allows us to move into a future realizing the truth of Revelation 21:5: ‘See, I am making all things new.’ God doesn’t make new things; he takes what already is and makes it new. We bring who we are and what we are into this new province. We will need to do a lot of work, but this Chapter shows that we are not losing as much as we are gaining.”

Dominic Monti, OFM, HNP’s resident historian, presenting his talk on “Love at Work: A Story of 12 Decades” at the 2023 Provincial Chapter.

During his presentation, “Love at Work: A Story of 12 Decades,” Dominic Monti, OFM, HNP’s longtime historian, took friars on a journey, reflecting on the Province’s origins in 1901 and its rapid growth that saw its friar ranks peak to 1,022 by the 1960s. Ironically, noted Dominic, HNP was the consequence of a merger of about 65 German immigrant friars and 45 mostly Irish American friars of the Immaculate Conception custody from upstate New York.

Francis Pompei, OFM, shares his thoughts during a reflection period at the Provincial Chapter.

He said the dramatic growth of the Province could be attributed to unique sociological and economic conditions of the day – with the Catholic faith of immigrants closely tied to their ethnic identity, and the Franciscans providing young men with the opportunity of education and a life that otherwise would have been out of reach. The Province’s flagship, St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, quickly developed into a service church that appealed to the employed masses coming into New York City after Penn Station was built. Like the ranks, ministries grew through the decades, said Dominic, from parish, shrines and service churches, to outreach to the poor, education, overseas missions, chaplaincy, and initiatives like Ministry of the Word and justice and peace.

Roberto (Tito) Serrano, OFM, asks a question during a Q&A session at the Provincial Chapter

“Holy Name Province has always had a history of looking out for the underdog. But just as significant, we have always had a history of giving friars the freedom to try something new and the freedom to make mistakes. Something very characteristic to our history is celebrating diversity and differences, and allowing brothers to pursue new ideas and initiatives,” said Dominic. “We give people room and the ability to be spontaneous. Holy Name has a history of not only showing generosity to others, but also to the brothers. We hope to take this history to the new province.”

Other presentations were given by Daniel Horan, OFM (“Franciscans in Today’s World Facing the Future”), Kenneth Himes, OFM (“Where Do We Go from Here?”), and guest speaker Sr. Lynn Levo, CSJ (“A Time of Transition – An Opportunity for Transformation”).

At different points during the Chapter, friars were also addressed by Lawrence Hayes, OFM, Provincial Vicar; Mark Reamer, OFM, guardian of St. Bernardine of Siena Friary on the college campus; David Convertino, OFM, director of the national Development Office who, along with Michael Harlan, OFM, played a major role in planning and organizing the Chapter’s itinerary and accommodations; Walter Liss, OFM, a formator at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., and Siena College President Chuck Seifert.

Among the presiders and homilists at Eucharistic celebrations, including a Mass for deceased friars, were Steven Kuehn, OFM, Linh Hoang, OFM, Juan de la Cruz Turcios, OFM, James Bernard, OFM, Aaron Richardson, OFM, and the Provincial Minister and Provincial Vicar.

George Camacho, OFM, hosted a “game show” whose contestants of formators and professed and formation students included Erick Lopez, OFM, Juan, Steven, and James Kernan, OFM.

“Chapter was a plethora of emotions, a constellation of feelings. There is a certain sadness that something is coming to an end,” said Gregory Gebbia, OFM, who lives at St. Bernardine of Siena Friary and serves as director of enrollment management strategic partnerships at the college. “But something new is gelling and buzzing in a wonderful way.”