In my experience, invoking the meekness and humility of our founder St. Francis, through the lens of a privileged dominant group, have advertently or inadvertently undermined the struggles of people of color in reconciling conflicts with our White brothers (and sisters) in religious life.
Three decades have passed since Peggy McIntosh wrote “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through the Work in Women’s Studies” in 1988. Salient among her insights is the conflict ignited by the dissonance she describes among White people where a White Supremacist can be nice and kind and yet embody a belief system where only White people make knowledge.
This is a dilemma for us people of color. Often I am asked, “Do you really think that White friars are evil for being ‘clumsy’ in their language or micro-aggressions?” This is a wrong question to which people of color in the Church are under no obligation to respond. This locates me in a place of deficiency because it privileges white sensitivity over my experience of marginalization, which is already micro-aggression. How can there be reconciliation in such questioning when it structurally falsifies what truly creates the language of “us-versus-them”?
This is why McIntosh asserts that a White person can be both nice and oppressive (Rothman, 2014).
Rather, a person of color must ask, “Who am I to reject my dignity and bend to such questioning as if my experience of exclusion never mattered from the very beginning?” This is where I often face resistance, defensiveness and a demand for an apology, which I cannot honestly offer. More importantly, this is where I intentionally heighten my consciousness so that I do not internalize this manner of oppression towards others and myself. When I do, I usually shame those who shame me. It is self-sabotage and wrong.
The meekness and humility of our Brother Francis cannot negate the experience and dignity of those who are marginalized. We must restore what they truly mean to Francis — nakedness before God, in which all that we are is illumined by the indiscriminate, relentless, and merciful love of God. It is but just that our contemplation according to Thomas Keating yields to an “awareness of our own biases, prejudices, and self-centered programs for happiness, especially when they trample on other people’s rights and needs”.
For further reading
Keating, T. (1999). The human condition: contemplation and transformation. New York, NY: Paulist Press
BOSTON—Archivists from the six US Franciscan provinces met on the Boston College campus from July 11-13, 2018, to participate in the “Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives” conference. The purpose of the conference was for archivists, historians, and congregational leaders to exchange ideas and best practices for preserving the future of Catholic religious.
This first-of-its-kind conference included presentations, panels, and break-out sessions around a variety of topics. As result of he conference, a white paper will be produced as to best practices for Catholic archives.
The archivists present were Friar Thomas Cole OFM, Holy Name Province; Ronald Cooper, Saint John the Baptist Province; Rachel Hatcher Day, Saint Barbara Province; Brie Montoya, Our Lady of Guadalupe Province; Friar Willian Stout OFM, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province; and Denise Thuston, Sacred Heart Province. Also attending was Friar Jack Clark Robinson OFM, an historian and provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.
In addition to participating in the conference, the archivists were able to continue discussion of our own current concerns, in preparation for our next group meeting in the Spring of 2019.
SANTA BARBARA-—On Monday, July 16, 2018—a typically balmy Santa Barbara morning—14 new novices were received into the Franciscan Order. One of the group, Friar Bernard Keele OFM, received the Rite of Probation initiating his transfer from the Benedictines to the Franciscans. In addition, two men from Canada are awaiting their US visas before they can join their US confreres in the program. After they arrive, this year’s novitiate class will consist of 16 novices.
“We’re not at St. Peter’s in Rome, “ began Novice Master Jeff Macnab OFM as he welcomed the diverse group of new friars—almost all of whom had just completed their postulancy year in Silver Spring, Maryland, before moving to the interprovincial novitiate location at Old Mission Santa Barbara. “We’re very relaxed here,” he continued as he looked around the group of the newly received novices, the last class of novices who will make their first vows on August 6, ministers provincial, formation team members, and others gathered in the Friars Chapel: “This is a family celebration—a family gathering.”
The sense of family was reinforced in the remarks given by Provincial Minister Jim Gannon OFM, of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary province. Following the proclamation of the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John (1:1-10), Friar Jim mentioned that it reminded him of not one, but three separate generations of baptisms witnessed in his native Philadelphia. He began by mentioning the parish priest where he grew up, immediately following the baptismal rite, would typically carry the infant in his arms from the rear of the church. The priest would then “present” the infant by placing it on the main altar, while he recited the Prologue, formerly known as the “last Gospel”. Jim shared that this same custom has been treasured in his own family for three generations now.
Jim challenged the incoming novitiate class members to work to understand more deeply the real meaning of the Prologue—“words full of grace and truth; grace upon grace, love upon love” and to apply its message to their own lives. “The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of the most glorious foundational statements about Jesus Christ. Yet, we often skip over it. John’s story reveals two most fundamental affirmations about Jesus: Jesus is the presence of God’s own life and that Jesus makes this life of God available to every human being.”
“For Francis of Assisi,” he continued, “ the Word became the core foundation of his renewed, revitalized life. The Word turned Francis of Assisi upside down and inside out. I firmly believe that no individual renewal or revitalization, no global renewal or revitalization of the Order of Friars Minor– no national renewal or revitalization of the Franciscans in the United States will be successful unless we are committed to renewing our love for living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Brothers, you are the next generation,” he concluded. “As you enter your novitiate year, enter deeply into the implication of the Prologue of John’s Gospel. Enter deeply into the implications of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh upon your life as a Friar Minor.”
During the actual reception of the new novices, each man was called by name and, along with two solemnly professed friars as witnesses, signed the Book of Reception. Novice Bernard Keele OFM was welcome separately into “a time of probation” with the friars. Also in attendance were provincial ministers Friars Jim Gannon OFM, Jack Clark Robinson OFM, Ralph Parthie OFM, David Gaa OFM, and Mark Soehner OFM. Friar Basil Valiente OFM represented the Most Holy Name of Jesus Province.
Afterward, Provincial Minister David Gaa OFM, presented each new novice with a journal of his own “to write and express your journey.” “…Be attentive to the workings of the Spirit and (even) the days you resist the challenge,” he urged them.
The service concluded with blessings of and by this year’s interprovincial novitiate team, consisting of Friars Jeff Macnab OFM, Michael Blastic OFM, and Michael Jennrich OFM, as well as Sister Susan Rosenbach SSSF.
Row 3 (l to r): Novice Friars Loren Moreno OFM, Ian Grant OFM, Salvador Mejia OFM, Andrew Dinegar OFM Row 2 (l to r): John Neuffer OFM, Steven Young OFM, Andrew Aldrich OFM, Matt Ryan OFM, Bernard Keele OFM Row 1 (l to r): Josh Tagoylo OFM, Carlos Portillo OFM, Richard Phillip OFM, Nhan Ton OFM, Rafael Ozoude OFM Photo: (c) Dick Tandy OFM
The Franciscan friars of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus cordially invite you to the solemn profession of their brother Friar Abraham Seramieux Joseph OFM into the hands of Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen OFM on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 135 West 31st Street, NY, NY 10001
A reception will follow. Those wishing to attend are kindly asked to RSVP by August 1to Sharon Berrios at 646-473-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.