DENVER, Colo. — History was made this week as 400 Franciscan friars – from 25 states as well as Canada, Italy Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines — gathered in unity and fraternity here. The first-of-its-kind meeting of friars from six U.S. provinces was a step toward the formation of one coast-to-coast entity.
Revitalization of Franciscan life and ministry in America is the goal of a multi-year process of restructuring that began in May 2018, when friars voted to support the creation of a new province. It will comprise almost 1,000 priests and brothers who are part of the worldwide Order of Friars Minor, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi.
“We have much in common with our brothers around the country,” according to Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minster of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. “This meeting gave us a chance to get to know more about each other and strengthen the bonds that unite us.”
During the four-day meeting, 11 men from the six provinces were received as novices, beginning a yearlong program of education and religious training that puts them on the path to life as Franciscan friars.
The friars of the six provinces — Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (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 discussing the restructuring of their provinces since 2012.
Following the message of Christ and the example of their founder, St. Francis, they serve the poor and marginalized and work to further peace and care for creation in a variety of settings including parishes, schools, neighborhood outreach, retreat centers, and social justice ministries.
The July 29 to August 2 Denver meeting, called a “Chapter of Mats”, is one phase of a process of forming the new province, a process that also includes a review of canon and civil law. The new U.S. province is expected be officially formed once restructuring is approved by the Order’s leaders in Rome, possibly by late 2022 or early 2023.
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