In a recent bulletin article, I told you about the discernment process going among the OFM Franciscan Friars in the United States. Currently there are seven OFM Franciscan Provinces across the United States. For several years six of the provinces have been discussing the wisdom and possibility of becoming one province. Last week, each of those provinces, on the same day, met in what we call a Chapter to cast a historic vote. All six provinces voted YES to the proposal that we ask our leadership in Rome to form us into one province.
The next step is that our General Minister and Council will appoint a friar to visit us and assure them that this is a good decision, that all the t’s have been crossed and i’s dotted, and that we are ready to make this move. The whole process is likely to take 3-5 years until we are officially one, but we will begin right away on the necessary work of unifying our policies, practices, and procedures.
So what does this mean for your local friars and this parish? Probably not too much at first. Most of the changes will be on the administrative level in the beginning. Over time, friars will be able to consider a wider array of ministry opportunities. When the time comes for a change, I could consider a ministry not now available to me, and friars from other provinces could consider ministry here. We hope that this process will energize and revitalize us as we engage in the process of getting to know new brothers. Less friars will be involved in administration (since there will be one provincial, council, and provincial staff offices, not six different ones) and available for other ministries. Our younger friars will have more peers, and we will be able to speak and act with one voice, not six. We will likely have to choose a different city for our headquarters. There will be changes for the friars, and letting go of the familiar is not easy, but we trust the Lord will bless this process.
This is an exciting time for us. We believe the Lord is guiding us. Even with this decision, as you probably know, we friars are getting older and fewer. If we do not get more friars, we will be faced with difficult decisions about where we minister. We would welcome young men from the parish to join us in this adventure. Anyone want to join us? It is a great way to spend your life! And if you are not a young man, please encourage some one to consider this possibility.
I also want to let you know that the friars will be hosting an Open House at the Friary after all the masses on the weekend of June 23/24. Stop by for a few minutes; have a cup of coffee; see the Friary. Thanks for your encouragement and support.