Most of the Franciscan friars in the US will be coming together on May 30 to cast a single vote. They will be voting on whether to recommend to the minister general whether he should consider restructuring the provinces in the US to form one province from the currently existing six provinces.
It is no secret that vocations to the religious life in the US have been falling since the 1960s. Provinces which once had over a thousand men are now down to only a few hundred; provinces which started smaller are now similarly much reduced in number. There are savings which can be gained by combining vocation offices, accounting offices, communication offices, etc. More of the money generously donated to us by the people of God will be able to be dedicated to our works.
The US provinces began this journey in 1993 when some of the provinces began a joint novitiate in Cedar Lake, Indiana. In 1999, four provinces met with the minister general to begin discussions about restructuring. Eventually, the other two provinces joined them, so that now six of the seven US provinces are discussing forming one large province, which would encompass the entire US.
Interestingly, the provinces are not calling this process a merger. but rather “Revitalization and Restructuring” (“R+R” for short). The stress is not merely on reducing overhead or saving money, but rather on revitalizing Franciscan life in the US.
I will be voting yes on May 30. I will be coming down solidly on the side of revitalization. Yes, there will be savings and, yes, this will benefit our work. But that is not the main reason that I will be voting in the affirmative.
The ministry opportunities, if we form one province, particularly for the younger friars, will increase dramatically. A young friar may work for a time in an urban ministry such as shrine church; he may choose to work for a while in parish ministry or in one of our ministries for the poor; he may elect to work on the border with migrants; he might choose to serve for a time in a historic California mission; he may decide to work in retreat ministry.
While I have good relations with many friars from other provinces in the US (and throughout the world, for that matter), there’s always the thought in the back of my head that we are of different provinces. When I visit their houses, I am very conscious of the fact that I am a visitor and representative of my province.
With one province, there will be a new excitement in Franciscan life in the US. St. Bonaventure, in his biography of St. Francis, tells us that towards the end of his life St. Francis would tell the other friars: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.”
One of Francis’s other biographers, Friar Thomas of Celano, tells us that Francis “did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of holy newness, he constantly hoped to begin again.”
From this, I think that Francis of knew the excitement that comes with beginning a new project and also of the need to reform structures which no longer meet our needs.
So, on May 30 in our provincial chapter, I will vote yes on the recommendation that we move ahead.
The second annual Religious Brothers Day is being held today, May 1, 2018, on the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.
Rooting his life deeply in God, the Brother consecrates all creation, recognizing the presence of God and the Spirit’s action in creation, in cultures and in daily events, Because the Brother recognizes this active presence, he can proclaim it to his contemporaries. This ability is the fruit of an ongoing process of openness to God through consecration, that is, through the daily experience of his baptismal priesthood. Through the gift of Brotherhood given, he becomes a bridge between God and his brothers, anointed and sent by the Spirit to bring the Good News of the love and mercy of God to all, especially to the least of his brothers, the weakest members of humanity. — “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church”
God of mercy and compassion, thank you for the extraordinary life, witness, and ministry of Religious Brothers in our Church.
In your wisdom, you have called these ordinary men to generously serve, pray, and share your healing love with others.
On this, the annual Religious Brothers Day, deepen our appreciation for the vocation of Religious Brothers, their congregational charisms, and their commitment to vowed community life.
Strengthened by our baptismal call to holiness, inspire us to invite men to consider religious life as a Religious Brother, especially as a Franciscan Friar.
Grant all Religious Brothers the grace and perseverance they need to proclaim your Holy Word for the life of our Church and our world.
WASHINGTON–A number of Franciscans joined hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Our Lives here on Saturday, March 24. Other Franciscans marched in one of the hundreds of similar marches around the world.
Friar Jacek Orzechowski OFM was the principal celebrant at a Mass for Catholic youth attending the march. The Mass was held at St. Patrick’s church at 10th and G Streets NW before the march. Afterward, those attending the Mass were given a bag of snacks and water prepared by Catholic Charities.
Among those attending at the march were Friars Angel Vazquez OFM and Jim Bernard OFM, from Chicago; Friar Joe Nangle OFM of Washington, DC; and numerous postulants from the Franciscan house of formation in Silver Spring. Md.
Other friars, such as Friar Paul Keenan OFM, of Wood-Ridge, N.J., took part in marches in other parts of the country. For information on friars marching in other parts of the East Coast, please see this article.
Provincials Endorse Franciscan Sisters’ Statement
On March 6, six US provincials ministers endorsed the statement of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany on assault rifles, background checks and gun trafficking. It can be read here:
CHICAGO—Three Franciscan friars were ordained as transitional deacons here on Saturday, March 10.
In the beautiful and historical St. Peter’s in the Loop church, Bishop Fernand Cheri III OFM ordained Friars Casey Cole OFM, from North Carolina; Dat Hoang OFM, from Vietnam by way of Minnesota; and Edward Tverdek, from the Chicago area, to the deaconate.
As transitional deacons, these men expect to be ordained as priests after serving for a time as deacons.
Bishop Cheri, the principle celebrant, is an auxiliary bishop of New Orleans. Concelebrating the Mass were Friars Thomas Nairn OFM, the provincial minister of the Sacred Heart province of St. Louis, and Joseph Rozansky OFM, representing Kevin Mullen OFM, the provincial minister of the Most Holy Name of Jesus province of New York.
Friar John Aherne OFM served as deacon of the word and proclaimed the gospel. Friars Patrick Tuttle OFM, Ed McKenzie OFM, and Thinh Tran OFM served as vesting ministers. Friar Arthur Anderson OFM, the guardian of the friar community at St. Peter’s, acted as master of ceremonies. Friar Ed Shea OFM directed the music.
Family members, about fifty Franciscan friars, and other guests witnessed the ordination as part of the Mass.
The Mass was followed by a simple celebration and lunch in the church basement.
At this time of year, we hear of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt for asylum following King Herod’s decision to murder the Holy Innocents. We also remember a year filled with political rhetoric directed against refugees and migrants.
At the Christmas Mass which I attended this year, the celebrant presented a poem in his homily — a poem which presents a very different message when read top to bottom, as opposed to bottom to top. Here is that poem, in both versions, first top to bottom and then bottom to top:
They have no need of our help So do not tell me These haggard faces could belong to you or me Should life have dealt a different hand We need to see them for who they really are Chancers and scroungers Layabouts and loungers With bombs up their sleeves Cut-throats and thieves They are not Welcome here We should make them Go back to where they came from They cannot Share our food Share our homes Share our countries Instead let us Build a wall to keep them out It is not okay to say These are people just like us A place should only belong to those who are born there Do not be so stupid to think that The world can be looked at another way
The world can be looked at another way Do not be so stupid to think that A place should only belong to those who are born there These are people just like us It is not okay to say Build a wall to keep them out Instead let us Share our countries Share our homes Share our food They cannot Go back to where they came from We should make them Welcome here They are not Cut-throats and thieves With bombs up their sleeves Layabouts and loungers Chancers and scroungers We need to see them for who they really are Should life have dealt a different hand These haggard faces could belong to you or me So do not tell me They have no need of our help