ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Voicing their support for the revitalization of Franciscan life in the US, six provinces of the Order of Friars Minor have voted to form one new organization.
On May 30, the friars of each of the six provinces voted at meetings in their communities to support the formation of one new organization. It will comprise the almost 1,000 Catholic Franciscan friars belonging to the existing six provinces – both brothers and priests – and will be headquartered in a yet-to-be-determined location.
“The other provincial ministers and I are delighted with the outcome of the vote,” said Friar David Gaa, OFM, provincial minister of St. Barbara Province. “This is an important step in the process of revitalizing Franciscan life in the United States.”
The Franciscan friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (headquartered on 31st Street in 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 in dialogue about unifying their communities since 2012.
“The new entity will better serve the friars’ fraternal life and mission in the United States by making adjustments to the current administrative structure,” said Friar Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, the provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.
Like many other religious communities throughout the United States, the Franciscans are facing a reduction in its members. During the 1960s and 1970s, the number of Friars Minor in the United States peaked at 3,252, but today the numbers are down below 1,000 friars.
The reconfiguration will not happen immediately. The next step in the process is to obtain approval to unify from the Order’s minister general, Friar Michael Perry, OFM, who is based in Rome. Should he decide that such a reconfiguration would be helpful to Franciscan life and ministry, he will appoint a delegate to visit the friars in the United States. If his delegate’s report is favorable, it is expected that the process of reconfiguration will move forward.
Meanwhile, the process is continuing as issues of canon and civil law are resolved. Franciscan leaders expect that the new province will be officially formed in late 2022 or early 2023.
The worldwide Franciscan Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, comprises brothers and priests who work in a variety of settings including parishes, schools, retreat centers, and social justice ministries. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and care for creation.
Most of the Franciscan friars of the Order of Friars Minor in the US will meet May 30, 2018, to cast a crucial vote about their future. The friars will meet in province-wide meetings, called chapters, to vote whether or not to support the formation of one new province that will comprise the almost 1,000 Franciscan friars belonging to the existing provinces.
The Franciscan friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wisc.), Holy Name Province (headquartered on 31st Street in 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 in dialogue about unifying their communities since 2012. One US province, the Immaculate Conception Province, also based in New York City, had already decided to not participate in the process.
While the number of religious is growing in Asia and Africa, it is dropping in Europe and in the US. Provinces that once comprised more than a thousand men are now down to only a few hundred; provinces that started fewer friars are now similarly much reduced in number.
An integral part of the process is also the revitalization of Franciscan life in the US by opening up new ministry opportunities to the friars.
Since the power to create provinces is reserved to the minister general and his councilors in Rome, the friars will vote on whether to have their provincial ministers petition the minister general and his council, asking them to allow these six provinces to form one new province. Should the minister general decide that such a reconfiguration would be helpful to Franciscan life and ministry, he will appoint a delegate to visit the friars in the US. If his delegate’s report is favorable, it is expected that the process of reconfiguration will move forward.
Because issues of canon and civil law need to be resolved, should the process move forward, the new province will not be officially formed until at least late 2022.
Please remember the friars in your prayers on Wednesday as they make this important step.
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: