DENVER — Four hundred Franciscan friars will gather here next week for a fraternal gathering.
The friars of the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans’ official name) are currently celebrating a renewal of Franciscan spirit in the US and a restructuring of their provinces.
A province is the local governing structure of friars. Currently there are seven OFM provinces in the US. On May 30, 2018, the friars of six of these US provinces voted to move ahead with a process of revitalization and restructuring of Franciscan life in the US. (See our Frequently Asked Questions about this process to find out more about what this means.)
The meeting in Denver is called a “Chapter of Mats” after the practice of the early friars who brought sleeping mats to gatherings of friars.
Since the friars were received and formed into one of the seven existing US provinces, this meeting provides the friars with the opportunity to get to know friars from other provinces, discuss ministry matters, and hear the stories — many real and some mythical — of the other provinces.
There are almost 1,000 friars in the six provinces, but many are unable to attend the chapter because of age, illness, or ministry commitments.
Many friars who are not able to attend the Chapter of Mats in Denver say they will be there in spirit. When we asked them to share their hopes and wishes for the historic gathering, here’s what they had to say.
Jeremy Harrington, OFM:
“In God’s love something new is being born. Give thanks and rejoice!”
Gerald Prusakowski, OFM:
“You have been and are in my daily prayers that everyone involved in the Renewal of the Provinces will experience deep faith and the courage to serve all those who are in need.”
Jim Van Vurst, OFM;
“We’ll be praying for you all and know the Spirit will be in your midst.”
John Ostdiek, OFM:
“I realize that many issues will be involved as we merge the six American provinces into one. But I also am confident that God’s help and the friars’ willingness to unite as one will support our hopes for success.”
Murray Bodo, OFM:
“When the poppies are in bloom on the plain below Assisi, they seem like the souls of the first brothers in chapter, waving up to Assisi. May your Chapter of Mats in Denver be like a field of little flowers met on the darkling plain of our fractured and angry world. And may you show forth a good and just way of living that, in the words of St. Bonaventure, “makes beautiful that which has been deformed.”
Joe Ricchini, OFM:
“I believe we should strive to root ourselves in Christ’s love for us and make that love fulfill us, rather than wish that other friars appreciate us. And also preach and help people without aiming to win their admiration. I am still learning to accomplish these goals.”
Thomas Frost, OFM:
“I pray the Friars come from the Chapter with The Spirit like those of the first Chapter of Mats. May their Holy Enthusiasm touch us all and spread through the world.”
Dominic Lococo, OFM:
“Although I cannot attend the Chapter of Mats, I do want to follow the gathering with my prayers and good wishes. Hopefully good coverage of the event will return to us stay-at-home friars to spur us on to real heartfelt fraternity.
Justin Kwietniewski, OFM:
“My very best wishes for a blessed event of fraternity and prayer.”
Tom Speier, OFM
“Sorry to have to miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience due to medical issues. My prayers are with you all for the Spirit’s guidance!”
Joe Chinnici, OFM:
“I am praying for the success of this historic gathering and wish everyone’s God’s blessing and peace for a fraternal and fruitful gathering.”
Mark Ligett, OFM:
“I am so excited about this gathering and wish I was able to attend! My heart and prayers will be with all of the brothers gathering in Denver This gathering will begin to make tangible what is already a reality: We all belong to one great brotherhood!”
Franklin Fong, OFM:
“I could not give better advice or prayers for the chapter than what was said by St. Francis centuries ago: ‘Brothers, let us begin again; for up to now, we have done nothing!’”
Charlie Smiech, OFM:
“Brothers, please be assured of my prayers and best wishes. I wish I could be with you, but I continue my recovery from eye surgery in Jerusalem. I will make sure my weekly Holy Hour will be for your intentions as the Holy Spirit continues to guide us into a new beginning.”
Dennet Jung, OFM:
“Brothers, I will be with you in my thoughts and prayers. Make the Renew happen big!”