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Next weekend, you may recognize one of our former St. Francis pastors who will be here visiting – Fr. Dan Kenna, who was pastor at St. Francis from 1996 until 2004. Dan is currently stationed at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York  City and he will be here as part of a task force which has been  appointed by our provincial administration in New York; the work of that task force is to begin a process of evaluation of all of our province’s ministries in advance of our next provincial chapter in June of 2020. We friars are part of a province called Holy Name Province, based out of New York. Our province currently has about 275 friars, all along the East Coast; that includes active friars, friars in formation, and friars who are retired. The number of friars in our province has been decreasing over the past several years, and the average age of a friar in our province is around 70. Our province has also entered into discussions with five other U.S. provinces about merging into one province, to be completed within the next five years or so. And so in light of all of this, Holy Name Province is going through a process of evaluation, which is now underway, to decide which parishes or ministry sites the province will be able to commit to in the coming years. The evaluation process is for all of our province’s 29 “fraternities in mission” (FIMs). Each FIM has provided information to the province such as number of registered families, annual offertory, how many and what kinds of ministries, what kinds of outreach, whether there is a
school, amount of parish debt, contributions to the Franciscan Challenge (good news – our parish tops the list!), ability of the parish to draw friars to its ministry, and other factors. All of this information will be compiled and used in the discernment process by the provincial administration. The final decision of where the province will stay or not stay will be made by our provincial minister by January of 2020. What does this mean for us here? The process is an acknowledgement by the province that we do not have as many friars as we once did, and that because of this we need to take a close look at our provincial commitments. On my part, and I know on Frs. Jim and Steve’s part, we all sing high praise of this parish to our provincial administration and to
other friars throughout our province – its life, its enthusiasm, its stewardship, its commitment to being a strong presence in our part of North Raleigh. We all believe it is important for our province to be here. And so we enter this process with confidence that St. Francis makes a good case as a key part of Holy Name Province. We look forward to welcoming Fr. Dan next weekend, along with another friar, Fr. Frank Sevola, who is also part of the evaluation process.

A quick note as well that you will be receiving in the mail sometime in the coming week, or may have already received, a letter from me with a request for year-end contributions toward new siding for Anthony Hall – the part of our church that’s down the long hallway off the gathering space, and which  includes Founder’s Room and other meeting spaces. As always, we ask that you please consider making a contribution toward this project, and we thank you for your past generosity.

Finally, on the Sunday evening before last at Beth Meyer Synagogue on Newton Rd., there was a prayer service held to remember the synagogues shooting victims in Pittsburgh. I was there for the 7:00pm service. I looked around and saw a crowd of more than a thousand people, a crowd made up of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We prayed, we listened, we sang, and, after a time, the lights were dimmed and candles were lit. For a time, on this Sunday evening, there was no talk about what divides us, no threatening words, no talk of doctrinal points, or right or wrong beliefs. There was only a sense of loss, of lament, and finally, hope in a God who calls to us in our depths to be people of peace and reconciliation. One of the prayers we read together that evening was this:

“We cannot merely pray to you, O God,
to root out prejudice and hatred; for You
have already given us eyes with which
to see the good in all people, if we would
only care to look for it.”

Blessings on your week!

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