World Refugee Day is celebrated today, June 20th, so it’s an opportunity for us to recall what the friars at the PCO have been saying on the issue of migration over the last week or so.
The Order wishes to be part of the worldwide discussion on migration, and it was one of the topics discussed in yesterday’s World Café format.It cannot be denied that the scale of human migration today is without historical precedent. Itreflects deep poverty in some regions of the world and causes socio-political tensions in someof the countries that receive migrants. The friars live and work both in the countries people areleaving and places in where the arrival of migrants has caused social tensions. People leave theircountries of origin for many reasons, including flight from violence, political persecution,modern forms of slavery, corruption, and the search for a better life for themselves and their families.
A week ago, Cardinal John Onaiyekan commented that hebelieves that our attitude towards receiving immigrants should not be conditioned by theirmotivation for migration. Refugees and ‘economic’ migrants should be treated the same —however, this approach is not shared by all.
“I think that immigration must also be seen an opportunity for a much more practical approachby the church,” said Br. Tosmislav Sanko, OFM during his report. He further asked: “If theChurch retreats and becomes passive, she risks betraying her mission and losing the opportunityto offer hope. If the Church does not do it, who will?”
As a practical example of this, faced with the pastoral needs associated with human migration, the Santa María deGuadalupe Conference (Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean) has begun toprovide shelters that care for the migrants passing through their territories, where people who are on the migrant trail areprovided with legal advice and healed of the wounds of the road (hunger, violations of theirhuman rights, exploitation).
Yesterday’s World Café conversations on Migrants recognized the complexity of the issue and among the many views expressed was that we need to witness to our common humanity and promote humane treatment for all, no matter what our views are on the protection of borders and the movement of people.
The topics discussed during today’s World Cafe were: Evangelization in the Spirit of Laudato Si; A RapidlyChanging World; Instruments of Peace in the face of Contemporary Violence; Religious Life and the Vision ofPope Francis.
Today the 18/6/2018 we began the second week of our CPO. While the main focus of last week was on ‘memory’, this week’s attention is on ‘discernment’ in which we are called to dream the dream God dreams for us through our imagination. We started with a Lectio Divina based on a scripture reading from the book of the Revelations (Rev: 2, 1-7). Key thoughts in which we were encouraged to reflect on include the following: I know your works; your hardships and patience;you have patience: and you have suffered in my name and have not grown weary;you have abandoned the love you had at first;remember then from what you have fallen and finally, repent, and do the works you did at first.
In the afternoon we were introduced to the methodology of ‘World Café”, in which we will be sharing in small groups of five to six brothers on six themes that emerged through the presentations of the various Conferences of the Order. They include: migration, the young, fraternity in mission, evangelization in the spirit of Laudatosi, rapidly changing world and if time allows on, Instruments of peace in the face of contemporary violence and Religious life and the Visionof Pope Francis.
Is it possible for friars to discuss challenging topics like migration, youth, and care for the environment in an appealing, fraternal, deep, and productive way? Apparently, it is! This is what the friar participants discovered during today’s group discussion which was structured around a unique style of conversation called ‘World Cafe’.
The World Cafe is a structured conversational process for thought sharing in which groups of people discuss a topic at several tables. Individuals switch tables periodically and are then introduced to the previous discussion at their new table by a “table host”. Each table conversation lasts for 20 minutes and is conducted in an informal and inclusive fashion. Yesterday afternoon, the friars were given training in the process and so today’s conversations developed very easily.
The table hosts gather the opinions of the friars and write these on a large tablecloth (paper!) and then present this collection of thoughts, comments, and opinions to the next group. The participants in their turn are “ambassadors of ideas’, bringing the product of their previous group conversations to the table. The table host (facilitator) needs to listen carefully in order to see patterns and common threads in the thoughts presented by the different participants.
Br. Giovanni Rinaldi, the OFM Secretary General, was really happy with the results of the first day of the World Café process. “It was so engaging! All the friars could freely express whatever they felt and thought about the various topics. Everyone felt heard and even though communication in the different languages was sometimes a challenge, the listening was excellent.”
A new work session began in the best possible way after morning prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. After breakfast, the friars of the Conference of Africa reported on the diverse and extensive reality in which they live and work. Franciscan provinces that stretch out over eight countries, the complexity in the richness of the diversity of ethnicities, languages and dialects, different socio-political and economic realities … All of these present a face of African Franciscanism so diverse that it captured the attention of all those present in the Assembly. One of the statements that provoked most curiosity and questions was the statement “We must form a solid and suitable character before pretending that those who join us can take on and personalize Franciscan gospel values”. Hard timesmake demands on people, paraphrasing Saint Teresa of Jesus referring to the Franciscan Saint Peter of Alcántara.
After a pause, it was the turn of the “Brazilian” Conference. As with the previous Conference, we were again presented with a vast area, a very diverse and enormous population to care for and a social reality in which social injustice and the maldistribution of wealth are present. A brief but interesting report on “The Amazon Project” followed by questions concluded this session.
After a break, the Assembly had a lengthy period to discuss what was heard from all of the Conferences of the Order – there is never enough time when what we have heard touches everyone so much. We were able to see how, in spite of the diversity within the “universal fraternity” of our Order, there are common denominators in the “challenges” and in the “environmental profile” that can be analysed to help us know where and how to take new paths, or abandon others not so new. These include: secularization, young people that are disoriented and disconnected from social reality, family crisis, decrease in birth rate, crisis of the economy and excessive exploitation of natural assets, destruction of the environment, … The words of Pope Francis from “Laudato Sii” were present throughout the morning. From this exhaustive analysis, the proactive work of the next two weeks can begin with confidence.
After lunch, the rest of the afternoon was set aside for rest, personal reflection and prayer, until 7:00 p.m., when we gathered again for evening prayer, dinner and a time of fraternity and much-needed recreation.
PCO Chronicles, Sunday, 17 June
Sunday, the Lord’s day. A day to celebrate the centrality of His presence among us, supporting us and challenging us each day. Most of the friars working in the CPO were sent out to different parishes of Nairobi to share the celebration of the Eucharist with the people who have welcomed us to their land. When we returned, we all expressed amazement and joy at having participated in a liturgy that was lively, joyful and filled with God’s beauty, expressed by the faithful with unique song and dance.
At 3:00 p.m., a good number of the friars spent a couple of hours visiting a natural giraffe park. An impressive experience to be able to see and even touch such huge and beautiful animals up close. Shortly after 7:00 p.m. we shared dinner and a time of relaxation in front of the television, enjoying the excitement of sport.
The cool and misty weather provided the perfect backdrop for Lectio Divina— a reflective reading of the Scriptures — as the second phase of the Plenary Council of the Order began, focusing on on discernment.
Br. Isauro Covili, OFM, one of the moderators, explained that Lectio Divina had been scheduled in response to the request of the participants, who had asked that the second phase of the PCO open with a more contemplative session. It brought a welcome change, allowing the Council Members to adopt a reflective stance in regard to the themes being dealt with in the second week. These themes will lead to the formulation of guidelines and a direction for the next three years of the Order’s life.
Br. Juan Isidro Aldana, OFM led a reflective reading of a passage from the book of Revelation that is the foundational text of the PCO (Rev. 2:1-7). In his contribution, which was very much appreciated, he urged the friars to go back to that moment when they first “fell in love” with Jesus and decided to follow him in the Franciscan way of Life.
Br. Juan also gave some questions for the friars to take with them during an extended period of silence and individual reflection, after which they celebrated the Eucharist in their language groups. These questions were based on looking at the past with gratitude, the present with passion, and the future with hope. They asked whether the current ministries of the Order still reflect our passion and desire to serve people through sharing their joys and sorrows? How do we look to the future with hope, given the difficulties that Religious Life faces? Some of the many issues that threaten our hope are: decreasing vocations and aging members, financial problems, relativism, a sense of isolation.
The friars felt the benefit of an intense morning of individual contemplation, prayerful sharing, and a real sense that the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully in the gathering.