Last week, Fr. Mel Jurisich, O.F.M. visited with us to learn about our parish from the friars, lay leaders, pastoral staff, and Bishop Burbidge. He very much enjoyed his visit with us and expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the hospitality he experienced. He was quite impressed and encouraged by the vibrancy of our Catholic community and by the good and faithful ministry that he observed. A highlight was his
visit to the Franciscan School on Monday morning and praying with our students. Mel was deeply touched especially by the way in which the Franciscan charism is being lived out here at St. Francis through our commitment to justice and peace and the integration of Catholic social teaching in our Catholic education and faith formation curriculum. He was particularly edified by the lay leadership of the parish who shared with him the impact of the Franciscan charism in their lives. In summary, he complimented and affirmed us on the ways in which friars and laity feed each other in building up the Body of Christ. At the end of his visit he shared his formal report with the friars and it confirmed us in our love for our vocation as Franciscan friars and our delight in being partners in ministry with each of you.
This year, Fr. Mel will visit every friar and ministry setting in Holy Name Province to “check in” and help us prepare for our Provincial Chapter in June, when the friars of the province gather together to make decisions about our future. Every three years we have such Chapters (the name comes from the custom of using triennial get-togethers to read chapters of our Rule).Our Province numbers about 325 friars in many diverse ministries spread across the eastern seaboard from Boston in the north to St. Petersburg, Florida in the south. When we come together at these fraternal gatherings, and especially at the Chapter, it’s a time to visit with classmates and friars we’ve lived with at various times over the years.
Unlike dioceses, we elect our leaders. The Provincial Minister, who is the “major superior” or leader of the friars, serves for a six-year term, renewable for an additional three. Our current Minister, Fr. John O’Connor, O.F.M., has served nine years and so will complete his maximum term in June. We’ll also elect a Vicar Provincial and six friars to serve as a Provincial Council, an advisory board to the Provincial. More important than the elections are discussions that will set a direction the friars would like the new Provincial Minister to follow for the next three years. If a majority of friars want something specific to be accomplished, the Chapter has the authority to bind the Provincial to follow that directive.
This week, in preparation for the Chapter, I’ll be away at a gathering of friars from throughout our Province. As part of this fraternal gathering, I’ll be hearing from folks like yourselves among whom we live and work. They’ll be asked to give their take on the theme “Being who we say we are.” We friars see ourselves as a “fraternity in mission.” So that every friar has a chance to take part in one of these fraternal sessions, eight have been scheduled throughout our province. Fr. Bill and Fr. David have already participated. The Chapter Planning Committee considers all that comes out of these fraternal gatherings and will work these findings into topics for the Chapter to address.
One major consideration that we’ll be discussing at this year’s Chapter will be combining the seven provinces within the United States into two or three. The facts (e.g., demographics, resources to form our new friars, and care for our seniors) demand this, but province histories, traditions, and sentiment will need to be addressed.
I hope this gives you a bit of insight into the “behind the scenes” of how we Franciscans structure our life together.
In the peace of Christ,