Visioning and Planning Process Moves Ahead

Daniel Sulmasy Franciscan World

From its inception, the visioning and planning committee has been committed to an inductive, “bottom-up” approach to crafting a Vision Statement and Five-Year Plan for the province.  This approach requires patience, but is necessary for the adoption of a grassroots vision and plan that we hope will energize the entire province and direct us forward into an exciting future.

Though a “top-down” approach is faster and more “visible,” we have deliberately undertaken a process that casts a very wide net, seeking broad input at the price of losing some efficiency.  With the help of the Spirit and the intercession of our Holy Father Francis, we are confident that this process will prove fruitful.  Now is probably an apt time to summarize what has happened so far and to outline where we are going.

A Quick Recap

The idea of “visioning” was conceived in the spring of 2005 when a dozen friars gathered for an “Out of the Box” meeting in Harlem.  This led to a hastily drafted proposal which, through several iterations and amendments, was passed by the Provincial Chapter in June 2005.  This coincided with a directive from the Order that the friars re-evaluate their fraternal and ministerial lives in light of the five priorities of the Order, and that the provinces conduct a special Chapter of Mats in 2007.

In accord with the Provincial Chapter mandate of 2005, and in line with the inductive method guiding the overall process, province-wide elections were held ilast fall to elect friar members of the Visioning and Planning Committee. They are in addition to myself, Todd Carpenter, David Convertino, Vincent de Paul Cushing, Charles Finnegan, Francis Gunn, Lawrence Hayes, Michael Johnson, David McBriar, Daniel McLellan and Dominic Monti. Janet Rizzuto, a lay member of them ministerial directorate, was also asked to serve on the committee.

After several meetings and after adding lay members, the committee enlisted the assistance of Sr. Suzanne Donovan as a facilitator, and an overall strategy for the process was mapped out in January 2006.   To elicit grassroots friar input for our Vision in light of the priorities of the Order, retreats were held between March and May of 2006.  Extensive notes were taken.  Simultaneously, friars gathered in special house chapters and reflected on our vision in light of the local Church and local fraternity.  Extensive notes were taken.  Over the summer of 2006, these notes were gathered, scanned or transcribed into electronic format, and prepared for electronic analysis.  These notes will also be made available on the Provincial Web site.

What’s Happening Now?

We are pleased to announce that after an extensive search, the committee, on behalf of the Province, has hired Prof. Ann Dill, a sociologist at Brown University and an Episcopal deacon, to conduct a formal qualitative analysis of the notes from the discussions at house chapters and retreats.  We sought such a person to give an objective read of what were saying among ourselves.  Ann will also help us shape the questions that we will ask next month as local friaries gather lay partners for the “Planning our Future Together” meetings, and will provide formal qualitative analysis of these data as well.  She will report back to the committee in December, with a final report on this grassroots feedback regarding our shared vision.

What’s About to Happen?

In January 2007, after the committee has had an initial look at the data, summaries will be provided to each friar and we will ask the friars to gather in house chapters to reflect on what the data indicate province-wide, and how their own beliefs and views are congruent (or discordant) with the views of the Province as a whole and the views of the laity.

In the spring, we will break out of our typical “Regional Day” mold.  Friars will convene for day-and-a-half long “Fraternal Gatherings” to consider external input from a noted sociologist of religion about the “signs of the times” on a national and global basis, and for a prominent Franciscan’s input regarding the challenge to our charism in light of these signs.  From these, we hope to cull the basic shared elements that will go into crafting a draft Vision Statement and Five-Year Plan.  A crude draft will form the working basis of the Chapter of Mats from June 5 to 8, 2007.  Over the ensuing year, this will be refined and by the Chapter of 2008, we expect to produce a Vision Statement and Five-Year Plan to be ratified by the Province and implemented from 2008 to 2113.


Over the next year and a half, you will become very familiar with our timeline.  It will be the icon on which to click to learn more about the Vision and Planning process and by which you can provide further input.

Keeping abreast of developments and responding to requests for your input will be key elements if this process is to succeed.  This will then not be “their” plan imposed on you.  It will be “our” vision and “our” plan.  The inductive process we have outlined will require active participation by all the friars of the province, and will require that friars keep themselves informed.

As the summary and timeline suggest, the process will steadily gain momentum and gradually “cone down” on a vision and plan.  The committee appreciates your help as we plan our future together.