Friday, January 7, 2011

On to the Future: Looking out to the World

I'm sitting in the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal and looking forward to a weekend with my fellow classmates from the class of '71 as we celebrate and reminisce over our experience in 40 years of ordained ministry.  In my last entry I explained to readers what a provincial chapter is.  Today I would like to share my experience of the chapter now that it is over.

   The past week was a roller coaster ride between excitement and tedium.  At a chapter we tap into our vision as Franciscans and our contact with the God who shapes that vision.  At the same time there is business to be conducted, finances to be discussed, and election of new leaders.  We did all of that in a very wonderful, if fatiguing, four day period at the Hyatt Conference Center in Cambridge, MD.

   Fortunately  at the end of all I am left with a sense of vision renewed and hope for the future in these very challenging times.  The theme that we chose for the chapter was Crossroads 2011: Where our deepest longing meets the worlds great need. (See the above picture with our new provincial council)  This theme is exciting for me because we chose to look outward at the world and not inward at the workings of the Church.  Yes, we discussed at times our frustration with the direction that our Church and its leaders are taking, but our energy was directed at how we as Franciscan Friars can bring the message of the Gospel to the weak, the powerless, the alienated and the marginalized and to all people of good will through our life and ministry.

   For us Franciscans our fraternity, rooted in our life with God, is our primary gift.  Though are numbers are getting smaller and we are withdrawing from parishes and other ministries, we are at the same time identifying needs in the areas where we serve and seeking ways to be more and more a brotherhood in mission. For us itinerancy is a core value.  This means that we are not attached to places, that we can move on and be present in new ways even though are numbers are smaller.

   Though our numbers are smaller and vocations are less than in the past we are blessed with some quality young friars who unlike the younger members of many groups in today's Church,  are not caught up in the need for clerical trappings and positions of power to provide them with security.  Many of them that I met said that they chose us because we were more real and not clerical.  In addition to their many talents that gives me good reason to have hope in our future.  I certainly hope that my readers  who are not religious have gained a little bit of insight into our lives as friars through this sharing.  Also, for some more pictures and comments on our chapter click on my Facebook page to the right.

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