First Letter from General Visitor, Fr. Jim Bok, OFM
Read this very personal letter of our Vistator, James Bok as he introduces himself to the Assumption Province.
Posted February 22, 2016
Franciscan Common Ground Conference
"I urge you as leaders to lead; to stimulate the brothers to engage fully in the life of the fraternity, to deepen their life with God and to expand their horizons of what it means to be brothers in the one universal fraternity
.-General Minister Michael A. Perry, OFM
Remarks to the U.S. Provincial Administrations
Read the full text of the Minister General's Address here.
Let the national discussion begin
Provincial Administrations approve four models for reconfiguration
Text by. Fr. Thomas Wasburn, OFM, Province of the Immaculate Conception
TECHNY, ILLINOIS - Two full days of discussion about the future of our Franciscan life in the United States by 50 friars representing the leadership of the seven U.S. Provinces resulted in the approval of four models that will now be the central piece in the discussions by friars around the country.
The meeting held at Techny Towers was the third in a series of meetings which began in 2012 at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That meeting formed an Interprovincial Commission which studied the issue of reconfiguration and revitalization in depth. The work of that Commission lead to last year's August meeting in Racine, Wisconsin.
The Racine meeting called for the establishment of the Franciscan Interprovincial Team (FIT) to help guide the process. The FIT is made up of Friars Bill Beaudin, OFM (HN), Richard McManus, OFM (SB), and Page Polk, OFM (SJB). The FIT presented a report to the administrations with six possible models for what the landscape of our Franciscan life could look like in the United States in years to come. You can read that report here: FIT Report to US Provincial Administrations (Techny 2015)
During the week, the friars had input from different sources. On Monday, Rev. Rob Voyle spoke to the friars about "The Dynamics of Creating Sustainable Blessings." On Tuesday morning, General Minister Michael A. Perry, OFM, addressed the assembly. (You can view video highlights of that presentation by click here or read the full text of his remarks here: Remarks of the General Minister.) General Definitor Caoimhin O'Laoide, OFM, was also present for the duration of the meeting.
The meeting was facilitated by Dominic Perri of Essential Conversations. Dominic has served as facilitator throughout the process thus far.
The focus of conversation was on approving models for the consideration of friars across the country. The models approved are not in any order of preference, but it was simply decided that they meet the criteria for consideration nationally. As they are discussed, they can still be tweaked if valuable suggestions emerge from the brotherhood. The models present possibilities ranging from one national province to four provinces.
The gathering was characterized by lots of conversation - both as Provincial Administrations and in groups mixed of all 7 provinces - prayer and fraternal joy.
The administrations will gather again next August to settle upon a single model to move forward with. In the intervening year, the FIT will be preparing materials for use in friary chapters, regional meetings and interprovincial gatherings to help discover which of the four models are preferred by friars nationally.
Leaders approve models for consideration by friars
Letter of the Provincial Ministers, Techny 2015
For the last three days, 50 of your brothers including the Provincial Definitoria of the seven US provinces, our Minister General Michael Perry and our English-speaking General Definitor, Caomhin O Laoide met in Techny, Illinois to continue discussion of the revitalization of Franciscan life and the restructuring of the fraternal governance of the OFM Franciscan friars in the United States.
Following up on a process set in place a year ago when the seven Definitoria met in Racine, Wisconsin, the gathered friars discussed the report of the Franciscan Interprovincial Team (FIT) "Brothers for the Twenty-First Century: A Process for the Revitalization and Restructuring of Franciscan Life in the United States, 2014-2017."
After wide consultation and research, the FIT, consisting of Richard McManus (SB), William Beaudin (HN), and Page Polk (SJB) proposed in their report six potential models for restructuring. With the assistance of Dominic Perri, a lay facilitator, the seven Definitoria thoroughly reviewed and discussed those six models and concluded that four were most in keeping with the criteria established for restructuring and are forwarding them to all of the friars for your consideration and input before we meet again next year.
The models approach the revitalization of Franciscan life and restructuring of fraternal governance in four ways:
- One Province - the friars of the seven current US Provinces would come together to form one US Province.
- Two Provinces - the friars of the current Saint Barbara, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Provinces would come together to form a "western" province, while the friars of Saint John the Baptist, Immaculate Conception and Holy Name Provinces would come together to form an "eastern" province.
- Three Provinces - the friars of the current Saint Barbara and Our Lady of Guadalupe Provinces would form a western province; the friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sacred Heart and Saint John the Baptist Provinces would form a central province, while the friars of Immaculate Conception and Holy Name Provinces would form an eastern province.
- Four Provinces - four new provinces would be formed along geographical lines: a west/southwest province from Alaska to Texas; a north central province from the Mississippi River to the Ohio/Pennsylvania border; a northeastern province of New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, and a southeastern province formed from Missouri and Louisiana across the southeast.
Many details about these proposals can be found in the FIT Report and will continue to be worked out and shared with all the friars.
In each Province, meetings will begin this fall to allow Provincial administrations to share these proposals in more detail, but more importantly to allow the friars of each Province to share with each other and their Ministers and Definitors their thoughts about these models. Later a series of inter-provincial meetings will continue to widen the conversation.
Your participation and continued input into this process is vital for the future of Franciscan life in the United States! We have much very hard work ahead of us, but we, your ministers and servants, are confident that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives as friars in the United States.
We have faith that the Lord will complete the good work already begun!
THE PROVINCIAL MINISTERS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Very Rev. John Puodziunas, OFM
Assumption BVM Province
Very Rev. Kevin Mullen, OFM
Holy Name Province
New York, NY
Very Rev. Primo Piscitello, OFM
Immaculate Conception Province
New York, NY
Very Rev. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM
Our Lady of Guadalupe Province
Very Rev. William Spencer, OFM
Sacred Heart Province
St. Louis, MO
Very Rev. John Hardin, OFM
Saint Barbara Province
Very Rev. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
Saint John the Baptist Province
FAQ - Techny Edition
Frequently Asked Questions
TECHNY, ILLINOIS - The friars gathered for the 2-day gathering have tried to anticipate some of the questions that would arise following this week's meeting. Here are some of them. If you have another question, please send it in: email@example.com
1. Are these four the only models we can consider?
We have been in a process of trying to narrow down our considerations for the sake of a productive conversation. The Interprovincial Commission presented possible models in their 2013 report to get the conversation going. The FIT created these models based on that prior work and the ongoing conversations with Provincial Ministers, Councilors and friars across the country into a more workable form. The hope is that our conversation is narrowing towards consensus and so these are the models for our consideration.
2. Can other models be added?
For the reasons stated above, no completely new models can be added. At some point, the number of models being considered needs to be curtailed or the conversation will never reach a conclusion.
3. Can these models be modified?
Having stated that no models made be added, we are aware that the models we are considering are not perfect and will need the input and modification offered through the national conversation on them that we are now beginning. So, modification will be a likely outcome of the conversations over the next year.
4. Is everyone still "at the table?"
Yes, at this point all seven U.S. Provinces have agreed to remain at the table and continue the conversation.
5. What if a province(s) withdraw from the process?
Each Province always retains an option of withdrawing from the process. All members have agreed from the beginning that they will move forward with which ever Provinces remain at the table. It isn't clear at this point what the reaction from the General Administration would be to a withdrawing province.
6. If my province withdraws, what are my options as an individual friar if I want to be part of reconfiguration?
Our General Minister has told us that when new structures are created, any friar will be permitted to join the new Province(s), this would include friars of non-participating Provinces. We refer to this as a period of open enrollment.
7. Are other countries/provinces in a similar process?
Yes, in fact most of the provinces of the world are engaged in some level of reconfiguration. The provinces of Germany and France have already completed a process of reduction to one province. In Spain the provinces have reduced to three. England recently became a dependent custody of the Irish Province. Italy is in the midst of a major reconfiguration. And, Canada is also in the midst of similar discussions.
8. What are the implications for a particular province if they remain in a model/if they don't continue to participate?
This is exactly what we will be talking about nationally in the year(s) ahead. A consideration of various models will by its very nature include conversations about what it means to a particular province and its members. The implications will be different for each of the models and each of the provinces.
9. Am I committed to the model I prefer now? If I support a particular model now, must I still support that model in 2017?
No. The time to make an absolute commitment will be when an eventual proposal is under consideration by each province in chapter. Until then, the nature of the conversation might make an individual prefer one over the other for different reasons and that's okay.
10. Were other models considered and excluded, and if so, why?
Yes, as you can see from the FIT Report, we considered a total of six models. Some of the reasons two of them were rejected were things like they resulted in the fracturing of the membership of current provinces, or they were simply found to be impractical or unworkable. The friars gathered in Techny reviewed each one and determined which were useful moving forward and which were not. The ones that were not simply did not respond best to the criteria set out.
11. What will happen to senior friars?
We recognize and acknowledge that there is concern among our senior friars (and others) about what this future means for them. Will they be asked to move to another retirement or care facility? How will they be cared for? The friars gathered reaffirmed that concern for our senior friars remains among the highest priorities in the process of reconfiguration. It was also reaffirmed that this should involve as little stress as possible for our senior friars who have already given so much to our fraternity. Among the highlights in the models for consideration includes the establishment of a fund for the care of senior friars.
12. When can I start looking at new possibilities?
Effectively, nothing will change in terms of provincial structures until after 2017 and will be dependent upon the model approved and the provinces participating.
13. How do we prepare our lay staff and other partners in ministry for eventual changes?
We acknowledge a process that hopes to result in the reduction of the current number of provinces will have an impact on the lay people and other religious who are both our employees and partners in ministry. While not being able to predict anything specific at this point in the process, we commit ourselves to sensitivity and respect in dealing with our lay staff, other religious and partners in ministry.
14. What do we communicate to bishops and when?
We are making every effort to keep the many bishops we work and minister with updated as the process unfolds.
15. Why don't we just put our energy into more collaboration instead of restructuring?
The 2013 Commission report reminded us that "the status quo is not sustainable." While collaboration is an important part of our way of life and always valued, it is not the solution to our current situation.
16. How will decisions be made re: resources (manpower, money, etc.) in any restructuring model?
We don't have an answer for that at this stage in the process. It's just too soon to answer this question until we understand more clearly which model we are working towards.