WASHINGTON, DC – Franciscan friars involved in Hispanic ministry gathered here Sept. 17-20 for the 6th annual Juntos Como Hermanos (“Together as Brothers”) gathering. With special thanks to Friar Edgardo (“Lalo”) Jara OFM and friars from the Inter-provincial Postulancy House in Silver Spring, Md., we had fruitful and inspiring fraternal experience.

Lay Collaboration in the Ministry of the Church — Part One

The theme for this year was the importance of working with the laity and to that end, we had some input from Carmen Nanko Fernandez who has had years of experience working and teaching in the Church, most recently for many years at CTU in Chicago. Carmen challenged us, especially in light of the renewed clergy abuse scandal, to be rigorously honest about naming the reality in which we find ourselves and to not be afraid to move forward together “latinamente”.

She spoke to us about the history and development of the 2005 document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard” which tries to address the question of cooperation and collaboration of laity in the Church, especially dealing with issues of the hierarchy and power struggles which still exist.

Carmen suggests three “movements” that have happened in this regard:

  • Laity as “Object” of Ministry — when the laity was encouraged to basically “pray, pay and obey” and there was really no sense of accompaniment on the part of the clerics who served them. At the same time, there was a sense of the “priesthood of the faithful” that was already taking shape as people found ways to pray that didn’t need clergy to be leaders, e.g., rosary devotions.
  • Laity “in” Ministry — the idea that lay people have a key role to play in their own world of the law office or the hospital or the bakery or the factory. The focus here is on the secular world. With Vatican II came the development of the laity as “full, active participants” in the ministry of the Church. This eventually led to the notion of Lay Ecclesial Ministers working alongside the clergy. Especially among Hispanics however, there has been (and still is) a deep sense of people being under-representation, under-studied and not really welcomed as co-workers. At the same time, there were various local grass-roots movements that started and have continued under the direction of lay people, e.g., Cursillo, Jornadas, Encuentro, etc.
  • With Laity in Mission — a developing sense of shared stewardship along with a sense of lessons that we can and are still learning, e.g., being intentional, understanding particular contexts, “acompañamiento”, OFM itinerancy, popular piety, “conjunto” (not speaking for them), etc.

Carmen concluded her reflections by suggesting that perhaps we could use a new metaphor when we speak of our co-ministry, that of “Fiesta”, which includes the need for various “Padrinos” to take care of different aspects of our work together.

Lay Collaboration in the Ministry of the Church — Part Two

After the more academic approach of Carmen Nanko Fernandez, we heard from Friar Gino Correa OFM about a more pastoral approach to this question of working with the laity, especially in light of our recent vote to become one national province. Quoting our General Minister Michael Perry OFM, Gino encouraged us to allow God to renew us as individuals and as a province, to re-ignite the fire, to seek a “New Jerusalem”, etc.

Gino also challenged us to be aware of the choice between “engagement” and “disengagement” and called us to a new “metanoia”, to go “beyond the mind.”

Seven Priorities of the 2018 Plenary Council

Gino next presented us with the results of the recent Plenary Council which took place in Africa this year. Looking at these seven priorities, we spent some time beginning to apply them to our own context of friars in Hispanic Ministry. It really was the beginning of a much longer conversation, but here are some of the reflections:

  1. Global Crisis of migrants and refugees — our response and responsibility as lesser brothers and men of the Gospel
    • — this should be our #1 priority in that it touches the roots of our Order
    • — we need to unify our voices on this issue, not only here in the United States but also with people in Mexico and Central America
    • — we need to move beyond words to actions
    • — awareness of this issue needs to happen at the level of formation
    • — we can financially support his work more
  2. The lived reality of youth in the Church and the World. The shaping of a Franciscan culture of hospitality.
    • — this should be a priority, but working with young people is a challenge
    • — need to focus on second and third generation of Latinos, who often don’t speak Spanish.
    • — create “encuentro” experiences for young people, even outside of “Church” settings, go to where they are and don’t wait for them to come to us
  3. Becoming Fraternities in Mission. Promoting an ecclesiology of inclusiveness, especially as it relates to the relationship between our lay and clerical brethren.
    • — elect lay brothers as Provincials/Vicars and see what happens
    • — be a model of equality and justice among ourselves as Friars
    • — include our lay brothers in more ministries
    • — as we move toward becoming one province, we should take on a poor, inner-city, bi-lingual mission — where we’ve never been before — perhaps in the city where the new provincial motherhouse will be
  4. Evangelization in the Spirit of Laudato Si. Developing a new ecological vision with a fraternal lifestyle to back it up.
    • — start this in our own houses first, or re-start it
    • — simplicity of life is key
    • — there really is as sense of urgency here
  5. Being Franciscan in a world of constant change and transformation. To be engaged and to make the changes we need to make.
    • — call to a new discernment, to go beyond our comfort zones
    • — look for people who really need us, get rid of “sacred cows”
    • — this priority really speaks to all of the rest, needs the most emphasis
  6. Being visible signs and instruments of peace in the face of contemporary violence in the midst of all that divides and disfigures us.
    • — work with victims of domestic violence, also with gangs
    • — fundamental Franciscan work of reconciliation, instruments of peace
    • — this can be applied to all of the priorities
  7. Embracing the vision of Pope Francis for a renewed understanding of religious life grounded in authentic discipleship and mission.
    • — really a call to transparency and authenticity in our Franciscan life
    • — always involves risks and dangers
    • — call to be baptized people of God, i.e., authentic disciples
    • — need to develop a pastoral plan according to our reality


The last part of our meeting was dedicated to a kind of “check-in” in terms of what is happening in each of our provinces as well as what we might see as some future possibilities. We spent some time sharing our realities and dreaming of some possibilities. What is clear is that there is plenty of very good and creative work being done by many friars in the area of Hispanic Ministry, only some of which is represented here in our gatherings. It is our hope to be part of the future discernment on the level of the US Provincials, especially the “US 6” as we move toward becoming one province. We would like to be pro-active in this conversation.

In that regard, for our meeting next year we would like to invite one or more provincials to be present with us as we look to our future with hope. We will also try to engage Dominic Perry to help us in this process, as he has already been involved with friars for some time. In preparation for that, a representative of each province will send a “picture of Hispanic Ministry of the Province” to Friar Efrén Quintero OFM, the convener of Juntos Como Hermanos.

Next Gathering — October 14-17, 2019

We will gather again next year, from October 14-17, at one of the retreat houses of the St. Barbara Province. Oscar Mendez will investigate the possibilities and get back to us.


Ed Shea

Friar Ed Shea OFM lives and works at St. Peter's in the Loop in Chicago.

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