Most of the Franciscan friars of the Order of Friars Minor in the US will meet May 30, 2018, to cast a crucial vote about their future. The friars will meet in province-wide meetings, called chapters, to vote whether or not to support the formation of one new province that will comprise the almost 1,000 Franciscan friars belonging to the existing provinces.
The Franciscan friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (headquartered on 31st Street in New York City), Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis, Mo.), St. Barbara Province (Oakland, Calif.), and St. John the Baptist Province (Cincinnati, Ohio) have been in dialogue about unifying their communities since 2012. One US province, the Immaculate Conception Province, also based in New York City, had already decided to not participate in the process.
While the number of religious is growing in Asia and Africa, it is dropping in Europe and in the US. Provinces that once comprised more than a thousand men are now down to only a few hundred; provinces that started fewer friars are now similarly much reduced in number.
An integral part of the process is also the revitalization of Franciscan life in the US by opening up new ministry opportunities to the friars.
Since the power to create provinces is reserved to the minister general and his councilors in Rome, the friars will vote on whether to have their provincial ministers petition the minister general and his council, asking them to allow these six provinces to form one new province. Should the minister general decide that such a reconfiguration would be helpful to Franciscan life and ministry, he will appoint a delegate to visit the friars in the US. If his delegate’s report is favorable, it is expected that the process of reconfiguration will move forward.
Because issues of canon and civil law need to be resolved, should the process move forward, the new province will not be officially formed until at least late 2022.
Please remember the friars in your prayers on Wednesday as they make this important step.
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