US Franciscans look to future renewal with hope

The Provincial Ministers and members of the six Provincial Councils of the Franciscan Provinces of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, Saint Barbara and St. John the Baptist – over 40 friars in all – met at Mt. Alvernia Retreat in Wappingers Falls, New York from August 21-25, 2017. They continued their work planning the revitalization and restructuring of their six Provinces. This work has been on-going since they met as a group for the first time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2012.

After careful consideration, the six Provincial Ministers, in the midst of prayer and ritual on Wednesday morning, voted unanimously to place before simultaneous chapters of their six Provinces late next May a resolution requesting that the General Minister and his Definitorium restructure their fraternal governance so as to create one new province from the six provinces engaged in this process.

The friars were encouraged to pursue on-going renewal by taking time for prayer and reflection by Michael A. Perry, the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor who came from Rome in order to be a part of the meeting.  Caoimhin O’Laoide, the English-speaking General Definitor of the Order spent the entire week with the friars and reflected powerfully for them at Thursday celebration of the Eucharist.

Fr. Michael went through the mechanics of the process which will follow the votes at the Provincial Chapters next May. As he outlined it, that process will include the appointment of an official Delegate of the General Minister who will conduct at least two visitations of the friars and those with whom they work in various ways. Those visitations will result in reports to be considered by the General Definitorium. After consideration of those reports, the General Minister and Definitorium will name an initial administration and set the time for the formal establishment of the new province, probably no earlier than the fall of 2022.

One of the next steps to advance the conversation will be a national survey of every friar in the six provinces regarding what they see as necessary to move the process forward. Before the vote of the six provinces next May, the Provincial Ministers will also invite their friars to attend one of two large regional gatherings of friars, as well as numerous other face-to-face gatherings of smaller groups, to participate in numerous local discussions of the proposal with materials prepared for use across the country. They will also make use of videos, YouTube, Facebook and other social media, to include friars who are unable to attend.

After the vote in May, the Ministers are already looking forward to gathering next summer to continue what everyone gathered in Wappingers Falls this year found to be an exciting and life-giving fresh start to Franciscan life in the United States.

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