ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — In a move designed to strengthen both academics and mission, St. Bonaventure University has merged the Department of Theology and School of Franciscan Studies.
The university’s Faculty Senate officially dissolved the School of Franciscan Studies to pave the way for the consolidation. The new department, to be called Theology and Franciscan Studies, will be housed under the School of Arts and Sciences.
The School of Franciscan Studies had been housed under the internationally renowned Franciscan Institute, which has been based at SBU since the 1940s. The school was established in 1991 to distinguish the teaching program from the research and publication work of the Institute.
The administrative reorganization will allow the Institute to focus its attention on scholarly research and publishing, said Friar David Couturier OFM Cap., executive director of the Institute.
The merger, he said, will strengthen theology and Franciscan studies offerings to undergraduates.
“This will put a greater number of professors with a wide range of expertise at the service of our students looking for a wider variety of courses in theology,” David said.
Five Institute faculty members with wide-ranging expertise will bolster a distinguished theology faculty featuring three full professors, each having more than 17 years of classroom experience at SBU.
“These (Institute) professors have special skills in historical theology, Islamic theology, Jewish theology and pastoral theology,” said David. “At the same time, this expertise will allow us to strengthen our Catholic Franciscan offerings.”
Friars Dominic Monti OFM, Michael Calabria OFM, Kyle Haden OFM, David, and Bob Donius will be transitioning from the Institute to the new department. They’ll also continue their scholarly work in the Institute.
The move will enable the department to offer more courses and strengthen majors and minors in theology and Franciscan studies, David said.
A search to hire a new chair to oversee the department will begin soon, said Dr. David Hilmey, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Both Hilmey and David said the merger will only enhance the Franciscan mission of the university by making the core values of the mission more accessible academically.
CHICAGO — Over 100 friars from the three branches of the Franciscan first order converged in a spirit of fraternity and joy at the Catholic Theological Union here on Nov. 4, 2017, to attend “Looking to the Future Together: Beyond Ite Vos.”
This Franciscan Study Day was convened at the behest of the ESC after Pope Francis urged friars to work together for an “authentic and profound reconciliation” of the three branches of the first order in the hopes that such unity would renew the power of the spirit of Francis and Clare in the modern world. The day was organized by Friars Joseph Rozansky OFM, Michael Kolodziej OFM Conv. and John Celichowski OFM Cap.
After a powerful prayer service developed by friars in formation, Friar Dominic Monti OFM began the session with “The History and Context of Ite Vos,” placing the papal bull, which formally divided the First Order into the first two separate obediences, into its historical and cultural context. In doing so, he brought to light the common values of fraternity, minority, conversion, and mission that the branches share.
This set the stage for “Common Franciscan Values,” during which Friar Regis Armstrong OFM Cap., highlighted the ways in which St. Francis of Assisi was open to the revelation of the Lord when dealing with this brothers. Regis also commented on Francis’s use of John 17:11 (“may they be one, as we are one”) in the Early Documents.
Friar Jude Winkler OFM Conv. rounded out the morning with “Common Franciscan Projects,” by raising up some of the interobediential work that is already being done in the order, including Franciscans International, the Franciscan Action Network, the consolidation of the Antonionum and Seraphicum in Rome, interobediential intentional communities, and coordinated formation programs in places like California and Zambia.
In describing the bridge building being done by the ministers general and their councils in Rome, Jude pointed out that “sometimes more work gets done over the picnic table than at the conference table.”
This proved to be the case in Chicago as well. During the breaks, lunch, and the small group discussions in the afternoon, the friars from the three branches ate, got to know one another, and brought to life the common fraternity they already share. In addition to sparking some ideas about how the three branches might work together—many involved social media and even more involved food—these informal times and sessions were clear indicators of the shared spirit of Gospel joy that burns in the hearts of the brothers, no matter what branch.
Friar Vito Martinez OFM Cap was particularly inspired by the practical bent of the study day. “I felt that the Symposium wasn’t just an opportunity to think about an abstract future of collaboration but I had the chance to network with other friars who shared similar ministries. I’m hopeful that opportunities of collaboration can occur at the local level.”
It also sparked some serious questions about the work we as Franciscans are called to do moving forward. We acknowledged the scarcity of brothers devoting themselves to the Franciscan intellectual tradition and were challenged to think more deeply about how well we were living out our charism and what kind of prophetic voice a unified Franciscan family might be able to raise, especially in the midst of the toxic political climate in the United States.
In thinking about the symposium further, Friar Joe Nangle OFM questioned, “After hearing in great detail the history of Ite Vos, it would be interesting to speculate on what Pope Francis would write if he issued a similar call today. Might he not say: ‘Three families or one, go out as Franciscans and smell like the sheep”?
While working on the Early Documents, Regis Armstrong came to the realization that what the text taught him about the Franciscan charism was being lived out in the experience of working on the texts in an interobediential team. This was also the case during the Ite Vos study day. In learning and discussing that which divided us, we wound up celebrating that which unites us and put ourselves on the path of even greater unity.
In 1217, Pope Leo X issued the bull “Ite vos,” also known as the “Bulla unionis,” which divided the Franciscan order into two separate families: the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance and the Friars Minor Conventual.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, over 100 OFM, OFM Conventual and OFM Capuchin friars are expected to gather at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago for a symposium commemorating the 500th anniversary of Ite Vos. The morning session will be available via live video stream. Speakers will include:
Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap. — “Common Franciscan Values”
Dominic Monti, OFM — “The History and Context of Ite Vos”
Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. — “Common Franciscan Projects Around the World”
SILVER SPRING, Maryland — On Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 16 postulants entered the postulancy program for the Order of Friars Minor in the US, at Holy Name College here.
Andrew Aldrich, 26, is from Mishawaka, Indiana.
Matt Lorch, 40, is from Indianapolis, Indiana.
Loren Moreno, 33, is from New York City.
Matt Ryan, 46, is from Covington, Kentucky.
Andrew Dinegar, 51, is from New York City.
Rafael Ozoude, 22, is from Lagos, Nigeria.
John Neuffer, 33, is from Durham, North Carolina.
Josh Tagoylo, 24, is from Hayward, California.
Ian Grant, 33, is from North Brunswick, New Jersey.
Daniel Mayer, 24, is from Houma, Louisiana.
Richard Phillip, 40, is from Camden, New Jersey.
Nhan Ton, 40, is from Saigon, Vietnam.
Chase Lopez, 27, is from Storm Lake, Iowa.
Salvador Mejia, 47, is from Acambaro, Mexico.
Carlos Portillo, 32, is from San Vicente, El Salvador.
Steven Young, 29, is from Canton, Massachusetts.
As you can see, we have men from a diverse group of ages and heritages. God is good! After orientation, we took part in an in-house compass retreat, where we shared with each other and reflected on the directions our lives are taking.
Our first weekend, we joined the friars at the church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City to witness the Aug. 26 solemn vows of Friars Casey Cole OFM, and Ramoncito Razon OFM. The solemn profession of our brothers before the Franciscan community, including our MinisterGeneral, was a poignant way to mark so many fresh beginnings.
On Aug. 31, Friar Mark Soehner OFM, the provincial minister of St. John the Baptist Province, was the celebrant for a welcome Mass at Holy Name College, officially marking the beginning of the United States’s first interprovincial OFM postulancy program. Members of the formation team presented each postulant with a Tau cross that was handmade by one of the novices, Friar Luis Rosado.
The secretaries of formation – Friars Martin Ibarra OFM (St. Barbara Province), Carl Langenderfer OFM (St. John the Baptist), Ralph Parthie OFM (Sacred Heart), and Kim Studwell OFM, (Assumption BVM) – as well as friars from Holy Name College and St. Camillus Parish – all joined in the Eucharist and ceremony. They were followed by a festive social and dinner. The postulants look forward to a fruitful year of discernment and service.
— Matt Ryan and Joshua Tagoylo are members of the 2017-18 postulant class.
The provincial ministers of the US Franciscan provinces have spoken out against President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The 780,000 “dreamers” (those who have received deferred action) are good, generous, talented and hard-working individuals. Many of them we know personally in and through our various Franciscan ministries. We have celebrated the DACA program with them as a modern response to the Biblical imperative to “welcome the stranger.” Now, after President Trump’s decision to end the executive action, we commit ourselves to stand in support of and solidarity with “dreamers.”
They “urge all members of the communities we serve to condemn this unnecessary and harmful order by President Trump. Furthermore, [they] call upon all to contact their members of Congress and urge them to pass legislation that will fully welcome dreamers to our nation, remove the permanent shadow of their temporary status and make it illegal to deport or harm them.”
In doing so, the provincial ministers join the US Catholic Bishops in advocating for the bi-partisan “Dream Act of 2017,” H.R.3440 and S. 1615.
The full statement can be read and downloaded here:
The provincial ministers and members of the six provincial councils of the Franciscan Provinces of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, Saint Barbara and St. John the Baptist – over 40 friars in all – met at Mt. Alvernia Retreat in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., Aug. 21-25, 2017. They continued their work planning the revitalization and restructuring of their six provinces. This work has been on-going since they met as a group for the first time in Milwaukee, Wisc. in 2012.
Last year at a similar meeting in Techny, Ill., the provincial councils decided to prepare, with the help of friar experts, a document entitled “Making Fraternity our Mission” to examine how to pursue the revitalization of their fraternal life and mission. Besides leading extensive discussion of that paper throughout their provinces, the provincial ministers asked several existing groups of friars and lay cooperators engaged in the same administrative and internal ministries of the provinces, such as communicators, vocation and formation directors, and JPIC animation to come together to explore how to take a national approach to their work.
Among the groups reporting to the friars were their provincial treasurers and chief financial officers, who concluded that each of the provinces is individually financially stable, while also having the funds to support any collective action they wish to take. They also explored demographic and actuarial information which showed all of the Provinces facing the same critical challenges with regard to the aging of their membership over the next five to twenty years.
After careful consideration, the six provincial ministers, in the midst of prayer and ritual on Wednesday morning, voted unanimously to place before simultaneous chapters of their six provinces late next May a resolution requesting that the minister general and his definitorium restructure their fraternal governance so as to create one new province from the six provinces engaged in this process.
As they voted, the provincial ministers each made simple statements of why they voted as they did:
Friar Kevin Mullen OFM, of Holy Name Province, said, “One new province provides us with the opportunity to have a vital fraternal experience. With regard to mission, one new province allows us to take the core values of Franciscan life and implement them in a unified way, and with regard to the Church and the Kingdom, to make us more responsible to the promptings of the Spirit in the world and in the Church.”
Friar David Gaa OFM, of Saint Barbara Province, stated, “True revitalization requires a critical mass of younger brothers which one new province will make possible.”
Friar Tom Nairn OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, explained how listening to members of other provinces and the quality of the input on the first day of the Wappingers Falls meeting led several members of his provincial council to change their minds to favor one new province rather than two.
Friar James Gannon OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, added that voting for one new province acknowledges what is already happening as, “Our initial formation programs are united and that lines us up to move this way.”
Friar Mark Soehner OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, remarked, “One new province will increase opportunities for strong guardians and dynamic communities, broaden our perspective as a national group, and finally we do this because God is inviting us to become more of a ‘joyful band of missionary disciples,’ as Pope Francis has invited all Christians to be.”
Finally, Friar Jack Clark Robinson OFM, of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, said, “As John David Vaughn (first-elected U.S. minister general) once said to me, ‘Friars do not exist to serve structures. Franciscan structures – such as they are – exist to support Franciscan life and ministry. It is time for the least structure to serve the most friars.” The day after the vote, friars were still talking about the power of the voting and attendant prayer ritual which concluded with friars, most often of different provinces, blessing and fraternally embracing one another, after praying, “Lord, You have given us the gift of Your call to Franciscan life, to Franciscan community and to Franciscan ministry. This day, You have called us to a great work as brothers. So we ask Your help to strengthen one another, that our work may be a good work, that it may truly be Your work.”
The friars were encouraged to pursue on-going renewal by taking time for prayer and reflection by Friar Michael A. Perry OFM, the minister general of the Order of Friars Minor who came from Rome in order to be a part of the meeting. Friar Caoimhin O’Laoide OFM, the English-speaking general definitor of the order spent the entire week with the friars and reflected powerfully for them at Thursday celebration of the Eucharist.
The minister general led a morning of recollection Thursday after the vote. He shared his joy and excitement at seeing the leadership teams of the six provinces coming together. “Your work is important for the future of the world-wide order as a demonstration of our ability to build bridges and cross boundaries in a world which seems too often divided,” he said.
Later Friar Michael went through the mechanics of the process which will follow the votes at the provincial chapters next May. As he outlined it, that process will include the appointment of an official delegate of the minister general, who will conduct at least two visitations of the friars and those with whom they work in various ways. Those visitations will result in reports to be considered by the general definitorium. After consideration of those reports, the minister general and general definitorium will name an initial administration and set the time for the formal establishment of the new province, probably no earlier than the fall of 2022.
One of the next steps to advance the conversation will be a national survey of every friar in the six provinces regarding what they see as necessary to move the process forward. Before the vote of the six provinces next May, the provincial ministers will also invite their friars to attend one of two large regional gatherings of friars, as well as numerous other face-to-face gatherings of smaller groups, to participate in numerous local discussions of the proposal with materials prepared for use across the country. They will also make use of videos, YouTube, Facebook and other social media, to include friars who are unable to attend.
The 900 friars of the six provinces will also have various possibilities to discuss the revitalization of their life and ministries in smaller groups. These small groups will talk about our internal life, but also about ways to go to the peripheries and margins where friars are not currently engaged. The leadership of the six provinces left Wappingers Falls with a clear, agreed-upon plan of action for the next nine months.
After the vote in May, the ministers are already looking forward to gathering next summer to continue what everyone gathered in Wappingers Falls this year found to be an exciting and life-giving fresh start to Franciscan life in the United States.
As one friar reflected, “Ignatius Brady (a very distinguished late Franciscan scholar) once said that ‘Every novice must refound the Franciscan Order in his own heart.’ What we are doing now is our own refounding of the Order all over again in our time and place, but with lots of years of experience and lots of brothers to help us!”