On Nov. 2, the Provincial Ministers of six OFM provinces in the United States released the following statement.
Statement of Commitment to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform
As the leadership for the Franciscan friars in the United States, we humbly and publicly accept the invitation of Pope Francis to commit to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The Laudato Si’ Action Platform is an incredible gift to us as we continue the process of joining our six provinces into one coast-to-coast province through our Revitalization and Restructuring Process. Early in our journey to become one, we recognized Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti as guiding documents. The seven goals of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform provide a framework for us to embrace our charism in new ways that build upon our current efforts and elicit creativity for opportunities to live the teaching presented in Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, while also journeying with the larger Church and world.
We recognize that committing to this seven-year journey is committing ourselves, both collectively and individually, to be open to conversion. Such a conversion we hope will enable us to actualize integral ecology and fraternity with greater authenticity.
To take this journey we will adopt these guiding principles:
Ensure that any listening, discerning and going forth processes built into the Laudato Si’ Action Platform can feed into our efforts with the R & R Process and vice versa.
Provide adequate institutional support to embrace the Laudato Si’ Action Platform in each of our friaries and ministries.
All plans and actions should be grounded in the deep active contemplation of our Franciscan tradition and easily related to the values of Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.
At each step, we will include friars, friaries, and ministries from each of our joining provinces, and we will continue this inclusion when we are one.
Appreciate the uniqueness of each of our friaries and ministries. Thus, we will be moving together, even if we are working on different areas of integral ecology and social fraternity.
Full internal and external transparency of our actions and processes
Challenge ourselves to embrace the Holy Father’s invitation to “dream big, to rethink our priorities, and to commit to act in our daily life on what we dreamed of.” (Let Us Dream, p. 6)
It is our vision that by the end of our seven-year journey, we will live even more fully in a way that expresses our Franciscan charism in service to the Church and larger society by addressing the emerging challenges of the 21st century. We also hope that our personal and communal footprint on our sister, Mother Earth, will be lighter and sustainable, that our relationships with persons marginalized in our world will be even stronger, and that we have new bonds of fraternity with diverse groups in and outside of the Church.
We commit our six provinces to this journey and invite the leadership of the new province to continue this journey.
Signed on November 2, 2021,
Fr. David Gaa, OFM Province of Saint Barbara 1500 34th Avenue Oakland, CA 94601-3092
Fr. Thomas Nairn, OFM Province of the Sacred Heart 3140 Meramec Street Saint Louis, MO 63118-4399
Fr. James Gannon, OFM Province of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 9230 W. Highland Park Avenue Franklin, WI 53132-8143
Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM Province of Saint John the Baptist 1615 Vine Street Cincinnati, OH 45202-6400
Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM Province of the Holy Name 129 W. 31st Street, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10001-3403
Fr. Ronald Walters, OFM Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe 1204 Stinson Street, SW Albuquerque, NM 87121-3440
God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee.
This was a plaque my mother displayed in her office as ‘sanity insurance’ because she served on many different boards. Nevertheless, as Pentecost proved, Christ’s first gift to the Church was a Spirit that empowered a small group of people to work together to figure out how to promote a message that has brought hope and joy to the world for over two thousand years.
The Board of Directors of Franciscans International is a hard-working group, representing most of the Franciscans around the world, all of whom are members of the six Catholic Franciscan orders and the Anglican Society of St. Francis. The six years I have spent on the board have given me an opportunity to befriend Franciscans from around the world, and to help direct and celebrate the work of furthering our Franciscan aims of honoring the dignity of all people and protecting the integrity of creation.
One of the best ways to promote Christ’s work and mission is to have as many Spirit-led people as possible involved in directing an organization, providing oversight to the hands-on leadership, and scrutinizing budgets to be sure our values are made clear in our financial priorities. Group decision making is not always cumbersome, and when an ecumenical group of Franciscans gather from around the world, representing thousands of brothers and sisters, there is a lot more going on than knocking together the dry bones of administration.
Flesh and spirit make the documents and reports come alive. Franciscan brothers and sisters and our mission to make a difference in the world are at the heart of our attention. Franciscans International has been cited for best practices in getting global attention brought to issues of concern to local Franciscans. Catholic brothers and sisters in Benin brought the plight of ‘witch children’ to the attention of the United Nations. Franciscans have fought for inclusion of key qualifiers in international agreements, such as the inclusion of the simple word ‘clean’ in the acknowledged human right to water. Our own brothers in the Solomon Islands have submitted valuable research and testimony about logging in the Islands, collaborating with the Fl Coordinator for Asia-Pacific in anticipation of the upcoming universal periodic review (UPR) of the Solomon Islands. With the help of the Fl Americas Program Coordinator TSSF members in the Province of the Americas with personal experience of the degradation of the environment through mining in Guyana and the terrible impact on the Acawaio tribe and the larger Amerindian population there, contribute to alerts sent to the UN with information. These are the kinds of activities the Board of Directors supports and facilitates through oversight of the Strategic Plan and organizational goals, monitoring administration of budgets, personnel and program administration, supporting staff in their work in many different ways. In addition to these corporate activities of the board, I have been delighted to serve as an English language proofreader for many of the reports and publications.
Serving on the Board has been a tremendous privilege and an encouragement in my vocation. Sitting around a board room munching sandwiches and chips, there is no extravagance. But then the deli detritus is removed, and a candle lit, and we celebrate the presence of Christ in simple prayer services conducted in at least three languages – English, Italian, and Malay, often German too. Every Saturday evening of a board meeting we meet for Eucharist, sharing the insights into our work and mission prompted by the Scriptures.
For the last three years I have served as Secretary of the Board. I had rather hoped to be elected Vice president, who has relatively little to do unless the president is incapacitated. Fortunately, our board president is hale and hearty. As secretary I have to pay close attention, trying to capture discussion involving UN language and Catholic Franciscan personalities and ecclesiast ical concerns I have never heard of before. As a former Minister General, I sometimes asked my General Secretary during a meeting: ‘Did you get that?’ He would patiently smile and nod. Ha! The chickens have come home to roost. The Board members are very patient with me when I ask for spellings and other clarifications!
Within the Society of St. Francis, it is agreed that representation to the board will alternate between Third and First Order members. I followed Averil Swanton TSSF, and after me is Blair Matheson TSSF, Minister Provincial of the Province of the Pacific. His appointment is from April 2021 until April 2024, with another term after that if all the heavenly spheres align and he consents. His first board meeting will be May 2021 in Assisi, health advisories permitting. Within the Society of St. Francis, the representative to the Franciscans International Board is responsible for communicating with the Ministers General about the work of the Board, as well as the occasional presentation or article for a newsletter.
Fl celebrated 30 years last year, and we marked the occasion with three big events, in Geneva, Rome and New York. We had hoped to meet the Pope, but July is his time for holiday. November 2019 found us in New York in the sparkling board room of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He made it clear the witness of Fl was highly valued by him and is an important voice in the UN. Through Franciscans International the greeting and challenge of Francis ring in the 21st century: ‘To all the Heads of State and bearers of power in this world! Brother Francis of Assisi, your little one and humble servant, wishes you peace and all good.’
The Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, England is hosting a two-week Franciscan Summer School. It will take place online May 17-28.
The flexible online format means that one can take part from anywhere in the world, and fit the courses around their schedule, with the option to take one or more courses as they choose. One can participate at different levels – attending only the public lectures or take particular courses.
The School gives Franciscans — both vowed and secular — the opportunity to learn from world specialists in Franciscan studies: Bill Short OFM, Sr Ilia Delio OSF, Dan Horan OFM, and Prof. Jacques Dalarun.
This Summer School would be of great help to those who wish to deepen their understanding of the Franciscan charism and common vocation. For the full details of the courses and public lectures and how to register – please check out:
The provincial ministers of six provinces belonging to the Order of Friars Minor in the United States have added their support to a statement from a group of Catholic bishops and the Tyler Clementi Foundation that condemns bullying and other acts of violence toward LGBT youth.
As Catholics and Franciscans, we recognize and celebrate the God-given dignity of every human being. In signing on to this statement, the provincial ministers have reaffirmed their support of their LGBT sisters and brothers, who experience high rates of harassment, violence and suicide.
The statement is included below:
As we see in the Gospels, Jesus Christ taught love, mercy and welcome for all people, especially for those who felt persecuted or marginalized in any way; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that LGBT people are to be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
All people of goodwill should help, support, and defend LGBT youth; who attempt suicide at much higher rates than their straight counterparts; who are often homeless because of families who reject them; who are rejected, bullied and harassed; and who are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.
The Catholic Church values the God-given dignity of all human life and we take this opportunity to say to our LGBT friends, especially young people, that we stand with you and oppose any form of violence, bullying or harassment directed at you.
Most of all, know that God created you, God loves you and God is on your side.
The leaders of six US Franciscan provinces wrote a letter to their friars concerning the attack on the US Capitol last Wednesday.
In their letter, they said:
We, Franciscan Friars are called to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi. We have been in existence for over 800 years in multiple countries throughout the world. There are currently almost 900 of us living in the United States of America. As friars, we are committed to being instruments of peace and reconciliation for all of our sisters and brothers in the world. As United States citizens, we cherish the democratic values that our nation has tried to live since its foundation.
Our beliefs and our ideals do not blind us to what is experienced on a daily basis in our country. We are aware of the deep divides that have emerged between groups that hold divergent political ideologies, have differing financial status, and have different racial, ethnic, and religious heritages.
They closed by saying:
As friars, we pledge to work with all who promote human dignity, the common good, and peaceful and respectful dialogue. We reject violence as a means to achieve a desired end and want to promote non-violent means to restore justice. We will pray for all our government officials, especially, President-elect Biden, that they will work together to heal the wounds within our country.
“Our wounds” are not only political. Sadly, as a nation, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. This, too, is an urgent issue that faces our governmental leaders. We call upon all people of good will everywhere to unite in prayer and in action that will help to eradicate the pandemic so that people in the United States and throughout the world may once again experience the original goodness and joy that the Lord has called us to know and love.
The full text of the letter can be read using the link above.