FLORISSANT, Mo. — Last month, the six provincial councils of the OFM provinces involved in the Revitalization and Restructuring Process met for the first time since their provinces voted to unify. The gathering, held at the Pallottine Renewal Center just outside St. Louis, provided the friars with an opportunity to get to know one another, as well as to discuss next steps.
The 46 friars were joined by General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and Fr. Caoimhín Ó Laoide, OFM, a member of the Order’s General Council in Rome, who will serve as a liaison between the provincials and Rome regarding the R&R Process over the next year. Dominic Perri of Essential Conversations, LLC, with whom the friars have worked in the past, facilitated the meeting.
Many friars viewed the “breaking down of walls” among the councilors as the week’s most important accomplishment. The gathering included many opportunities for prayer and fraternal dialogue, and was structured to allow attendees to listen carefully to each other before they attempted to draw conclusions or plan. The councilors also noted the need to provide other friars with the opportunity to also get to know each other, reflecting that the sharing the councilors did – from individual and personal to communal and provincial – could be a template to encourage increased communication among friars from around the country.
During his address on Aug. 21, the General Minister expressed his hope that the friars would take to heart the values shared consistently throughout the history of the Franciscan Order, which the friars try to live out today in the context of the environments in which they minister. He acknowledged, as did many of the participants during discussion and prayer, the difficulties of religious life and ministry today in the shadow of the sexual abuse scandals in the Church. He also spoke of finding hope in the revitalization efforts, such as those of the US-6 provinces.
On Aug. 22 and 23, the friars discussed – and the provincial ministers approved – seven new action steps:
- The animators of two offices of the six provinces – vocations and justice, peace and integrity of creation (JPIC) – have been given the go-ahead to begin examining how to form single, unified structures for their respective ministries. (The postulancy and novitiate formation programs are already unified, and four provinces are currently participating in an interprovincial post-novitiate program.)
- Next year, the US-6 provinces will hold a “Chapter of Mats,” gathering as many friars as possible for a “meet and greet.” The event is projected for July or September 2019.
- The provincial secretaries are going to create an interprovincial directory that will include information on each friar and will be available for all the friars in the US-6 provinces.
- Each provincial secretary will compile a list of significant events in his province for use in a common calendar to be shared among the friars, inviting friars to participate in events across provincial lines.
- A list of existing interprovincial houses will be compiled and distributed.
- Each province will begin sharing ministerial opportunities around the country.
- The provinces will sponsor 10 Revitalization Pilgrimages to Assisi between summer 2019 and winter 2020. The pilgrimages, coordinated by the Franciscan Pilgrimage Program in Franklin, Wis., will allow approximately 400 friars, in groups of 40, to have the opportunity to journey together and to be inspired in their own revitalization by a pilgrimage to the cradle of the Franciscan movement.
Fr. Caoimhín spoke Thursday afternoon about how he has witnessed mistrust and trepidation among the friars melt away in these meetings since 2015, but that he also knows that there is lots of work to do to encourage today’s friars to be generous to their friar “grandchildren” to come. The best way to bring forth that generosity, he said, would be to begin to act as if the provinces had already united – then structures will evolve organically.
Over the next few months, various groups – the provincial ministers and national interest groups – will continue to meet on a regular basis to discuss matters related to R&R. The next in-person meeting of the provincial ministers will take place in October during the autumn English-speaking Conference meeting.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: Information about the OFM provinces in the United States can be found on USFranciscans.org.
- “U.S. Franciscans Look to Future Renewal with Hope” – Aug. 30, 2017, HNP Today
- “Formation Intersession Becomes Interprovincial” – Jan. 13, 2017, HNP Today
- “Post-novitiate Community Settles into Chicago” – Jan. 18, 2017, HNP Today