United by hope and prayers, U.S. provinces look to the future
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BY TONI CASHNELLI
“It was very candid,” says Province Secretary Dan Anderson.
“At times, emotional,” adds Vicar Frank Jasper.
“There were some very good fraternal exchanges,” according to Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler.
Fresh from last week’s historic meeting of Provincial Councils in Techny, Ill., SJB friars looked as though they had finished a marathon. “The whole week was totally intense,” says Dan. “The agenda was packed,” spelled out in a seven-page summary of the schedule and process they would follow from Monday through Friday.
The subject they discussed was restructuring and revitalization of the seven U.S. Provinces. At stake: the future direction of Franciscan life in America. Naturally, there was drama in the discourse as leaders grappled with complex issues that have dominated their provincial gatherings, friary chapters, cluster and FIT meetings for the past year. Would they recommend the creation of one, two, three or four U.S. provinces? When would the voting take place? But SJB Province was well prepared for the meeting, Jeff says. “We were very engaged in the dialogue.”
After a Welcome to Techy Towers Monday evening, individual Councils met Tuesday to assess their readiness to either stay on track – voting on the option they had chosen at Chapters in 2017 – or work out an alternative path. In the afternoon they shared the substance of their meeting in a General Session. That night, facilitator Dominic Perri discussed progress and stumbling blocks with Provincial Ministers.
Wednesday morning, Minister General Michael Perry weighed in. “He was very, very prepared,” Jeff says. “He had read and studied everything and shared his experiences of what other provinces are going through throughout the world.”
Michael said he had learned “There is a respect for these differences [of opinion] and a desire to keep all provinces engaged.” But he highlighted the benefits of further sharing and conversation. “The stakes [for this process] are too great. I would urge you to not make 2017 an end date [for a vote]. I would call you to add at least one year. In the meantime you must show a total commitment among the administrations to accomplish two things – revitalization and restructuring.”
His remarks set the stage for a Q &A, table discussions and an outline by Dominic of possible paths forward. Wednesday, Dominic explained the implications of either staying the course – with a vote in 2017 – or changing course. In interprovincial sharing around tables, friars expressed their hopes, their fears, and their opinions of the process as a whole.
“Dominic was very instrumental in helping us make quite a dramatic shift from the original agenda that we came to the gathering with,” says Vince Delorenzo of SJB’s Council. “He met quite a few times with the Provincials to set the ‘new agenda’ and facilitated the whole group in our discussions.”
In meetings of Councils and Provincials that followed, the sentiment emerged “that if possible, the entire country move forward together,” Jeff says. Based on feedback of all the friars, “We did get it down to two models,” recommending the formation of either one or two provinces.
The decision to move voting from 2017 to 2018 was not an easy one, Dan says. “Part of what I experienced was I had my personal energy, like a runner, building momentum toward a decision next May.” And now it’s time to regroup.
“We realize that people are disappointed the timetable was delayed,” Frank says. “But adding a year to the process will give friars a chance to get more on board.”
And it will allow time for the development of a vision statement suggested by Michael Perry. As background, Jeff says, “Each Council at their next meeting will study Evangelii Gaudium [the papal exhortation], and Ite, Nuntiate [Guidelines for the New Forms of Life and Mission from the Order’s website]. There will also be a discussion guide.” In addition, “The Minister General strongly encouraged Provincials to be more ‘hands-on’ in the process,” with Jack Clark Robinson of OLG serving as a “convenor” as things move forward. “We will meet more often and plan a conference call every six weeks,” Jeff says. “The Minister General also recommended that we consider taking some steps by having some national staff offices and planning a missionary project together.”
While the week was “intense,” as Dan says, “It was a great fraternal gathering,” according to Frank, who heard spontaneous, positive feedback for SJB Province and its commitment to the process.
The thanks should go to SJB friars, he says. “I’m very grateful for their input.”
Page Polk says he’s grateful for his time with the FIT team.Since October 2014 they have lived and breathed restructuring and revitalization. Now, with Provincial Ministers leading the process forward, the work of the Franciscan Interprovincial Team is completed.
At last week’s meeting in Techny, Ill., the assembled friars applauded the three friars who uprooted their lives to form a community in New York City and propose a course for the future of Franciscans in America.
For SJB Friar Page Polk, “It has been a privilege to be a member of the Franciscan Interprovincial Team. The opportunity to work with Bill Beaudin (Holy Name Province) and Richard McManus (St. Barbara Province) has offered an example of interprovincial collaboration for the good of the U.S. Friars.”
Whatever lies ahead, Page says, “I hope each Friar will be filled with joyful expectation as we face our future with hope.”
Scott Obrecht welcomed Mother Teresa in 1981. • Sunday as the world descends on Rome for the elevation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to sainthood, SJB friars will remember the time they saw her in person. In the summer of 1981, Mother Teresa came to Cincinnati to help the province celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis. In a video produced by Franciscan Media, friars Greg Friedman and Scott Obrecht relate the unlikely series of events that led to her appearance.(Scott remembers being asked, “What are you, nuts?” when he suggested inviting her.) The video features old VHS clips and photos from the visit. Watch it at: youtu.be.
Henry, Charlie and Eric at St. Patrick’sTuesday Juan de la Cruz Turcios and John Aherne of Holy Name Province moved into Blessed Giles Friary in Chicago, joining the SJB community and fellow HN friar Dan Horan, a teacher at CTU. “Here is a photo of Juan and John as they arrived and we were unpacking their things,” writes Henry Beck, Director of Initial Studies and Priestly Formation. “They are bringing great enthusiasm for this new year together.”
Charlie SmiechEric SeguinGeorge CamachoEdgardo JaraNorbert BertramPHOTO BY HENRY BECK, OFMJuan de la Cruz Turcios and John Aherne arriving at Blessed Giles Friary Fr. Kevin Mullen
“This is a very full week leading up to the friar-students beginning classes at CTU and various universities in the coming week,” Henry says, as students from Holy Name Province moved into St. Joseph Interprovincial Formation Friary in Chicago along with HNP’s Joseph Rozansky, Co-director with Charlie of Interprovincial Temporary Professed Formation.
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Mark Gehret, OFMSJB Friar Mark Gehret never met Sr. Paula Merrill or Sr. Margaret Held.
But this week, he came to know them through the grief and pain that has united the community they served.
As nurse-practitioners, the two Sisters were the sole health care providers for 25% of the people of Holmes County, Mississippi. Last Thursday, they were found stabbed to death in their home in Durant. A suspect was arrested but the motive for the murders is unclear.
Mark, who on Aug. 3 joined the friars of Assumption BVM Province at the Franciscan Mission in Greenwood, was among the mourners at Sunday’s wake and Monday’s memorial Mass. “The mood was mostly shock,” he said. “Why would somebody do this to two such good people who helped so many?” And their patients are wondering, “Where are we going to get health care now?”
TV stations covered the memorial Mass and Greg’s homily.Friar Greg Plata
“Why this horrific crime happened is anyone’s guess,” Greg said Monday at the memorial Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson. “However, I truly believe with all my heart that Sister Margaret and Sister Paula would tell us that we still need to keep on loving.”
Yesterday Greg, director of the mission where ABVM friars have served since the 1950s, described the impact of the loss of the sisters. “The small community of St. Thomas will certainly miss them,” he said. “Having four parishes to serve, I’m a bit stretched at times, and it was always comforting that there were people such as Margaret and Paula who could add their wisdom and knowledge to the adult education sessions at St. Thomas each Thursday night. I will be trying to fill in as much as possible, but there will be a huge void in our hearts as we note their absence.”
All the friars in Greenwood feel “a profound sadness,” he said, especially Craig Wilking, a registered nurse who works at the Tutwiler Clinic founded by Sr. (Dr.) Ann Brooks. The fact that so many residents relied upon the Sisters for their health needs is “the second tragedy of their deaths.”
In the newspapers, Mark said, “They talked about something like this never happening in Durant. People didn’t lock their doors, but that will change now.”
If there is any glimmer of hope, Greg said, it is that “the coming together of people throughout the state and their affirmation of both Sisters and their good work has been such a positive aspect of this and highlights in particular the Catholic Church’s outreach in one of America’s poorest states.”
At this point, “We still are trying to figure out a way to set up a memorial fund, and help continue the work that they did at the clinic.” Maybe when things settle down, “I’ll have a chance to sit down and have a good, long cry for my personal mourning.”
(Video of Greg preaching at Monday’s memorial Mass is posted at: www.wave3.com)
BY FR. LUIS APONTE-MERCED, OFM
Director of Vocations
Candidates will make St. Bonaventure their home.On Aug. 25, six young men arrived at St. Bonaventure University in New York to begin as candidates of the Lateran Religious Vocation Discernment Program. Four of these men are being sponsored by St. John the Baptist Province. The program is under the direction of Fr. Ross Chamberland, OFM, of Holy Name Province.
It was the candidates’ first time away from home since they finished high school, the end of their experience living with their families and the beginning of living as members of a community discerning a Franciscan vocation. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know their families, some of whom came with them.
I met Alexis Longoria at the Buffalo Airport where he flew in from Clovis, N.M., carrying only two big suitcases. As soon as he landed he called his mother to let her know he had arrived safely. She asked to speak to me and expressed her sadness that her son would be so far away but that she was happy he was doing what he and God wanted. We drove down to St. Bonaventure University, where we met the other candidates.
Students are already bonding.CharlesAndrew Viola
Emman Bibiano and his parents came from New Jersey with a U-Haul full of things and many special foods made by his mom. By the time I arrived with Alexis, Emman’s mom had fixed a pot of steamed rice and had stocked the refrigerator with Filipino dishes. As they left, Emman’s mom ran back to let me know she had also given them a 50-pound bag of rice. My own mother would had done something along those lines.
Serra HouseThe young men settled in their rooms at St. Francis Hall, where they will be living for a few weeks until the Serra House, their new home for the next four years, is renovated. The house has a chapel, conference room, dining room, kitchen and a small library. Each candidate will have his own room and share a common bathroom. The house is walking distance from the Franciscan Friary where they will join the friars some days for prayer, Eucharist and dinner. Campus facilities and classrooms are within walking distance.
At Serra House, they were greeted with this sign.The young men all started to bond and share their stories right away. The next day we met to answer their questions and concerns. We began our meeting with prayer and ended with a personal prayer by each of the candidates.
I will be keeping in touch with them to help with their new beginning and as a way of maintaining their connection to our province. As they walked into the Serra House, they were greeted with a sign above the foyer that says, “Enter as Strangers, Leave as Friends”. I hope and pray they will leave as brothers who will join the Franciscan Order when they finish their studies.
PHOTOS BY FRANK JASPER, OFMPage Polk and Jeff Scheeler at the meeting.By now I am sure the friars have heard that the seven U.S. OFM Provincial Councils decided last week to deepen and enrich our shared discernment process by moving the time of the “vote” from 2017 to 2018. We also decided to limit the choice to one or two provinces, eliminating the three- or four-province options.
Next August (2017), the Councils will decide which proposal (one or two entities) to recommend to the provinces. Each Province will prayerfully consider the proposal and then in the summer of 2018, sometime around the feast of Pentecost, will decide if it wishes to be part of the proposal for revitalizing and restructuring the provinces in the U.S. We originally chose 2017 because five provinces have ordinary Chapters, meaning two provinces would have to call extraordinary chapters. Now all provinces are in the same boat and will need to call extraordinary chapters in the summer of 2018.
SJB's Provincial Council
– Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
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United by hope and prayers, U.S. provinces look to the future
Students are already bonding.Charles and Andrew Viola, who are brothers, drove with their parents from Cincinnati. They brought with them a van full of their belongings and mom’s care packages. Their mother was very concerned about leaving them on their own after she had home-schooled them.
SJB's Provincial CouncilIt is important to remember that when we vote in the summer of 2018, we are voting to ask the Minister General and his Definitorium to approve the proposed model, because they alone have the authority to suppress or establish provinces. After receiving the “vote” of all the provinces, the General Definitorium will appoint a Delegate (or maybe a team of Delegates) who will visit us and assure the General Definitorium that all the necessary work has been done. After that work they will formally decide, but we have been assured that we should roll up our sleeves and get to work as soon as we submit the request. The decision to move to 2018 may mean that we have to adjust the time we have been thinking about for the official establishment of a new entity or entities beyond 2020.
United by hope and prayers, U.S. provinces look to the future