By Friar Pepe Martinez, OFM
Which, do you think is the best way to start (restructuring)?
MICHAEL PERRY: If we go back to our Franciscan identity we will recall that we make our solemn profession to the Order of Friars Minor, not to a [specific] province. The identity in our province is very important, because we can’t live universally. We live locally. The advantage of restructuring is that it helps us to live what Bob Schriter [professor at CTU] calls “globcally.” That means to have a global sense of ourselves in the world as an Order and trying to incarnate it locally, but never losing the sense of the global identify that we share as brothers.
Because of the global identity that we share as brothers, automatically we should be able to find ways to live
across provinces. What really matters is not the restructuring process; it is not about numbers only. Numbers are pushing us, perhaps in some ways even to expand the number of provinces because of growing areas,
or to reduce the number of provinces because of diminishing numbers [of friars]. It is about allowing ourselves as each individual friar together, to be able to allow the restructuring process to help us restructure ourselves.
We begin with each friar making a commitment to deepen his commitment to the gospel life. From that point, then we need to find ways how we can respond more effectively, so that the gospel life in the context of the USA, can carry forth the identity and mission of Franciscans here in the USA and globally.
Would you send some words to the friars during this time of “restructuring”?
MP: Four years ago, the brothers of the Sacred Heart Province had the courage to accept somebody who was living outside the province for many years, working in international development, working in Africa,
working in the Bishops conference, and working at Franciscans International, to serve as provincial. Today, the words that I call the friars to put in their minds and hearts is “Be not afraid.” And I want to repeat those words again “Be not afraid!” Trust the spirit. God is with us and the future is going to be different because everything is different. It is OK. The Gospel will get us there. Jesus will get us there. If we hold tight to one another, we will get there if we keep reaching out, not just closing in on ourselves, but to reaching out to the brothers internationally across the globe and across the USA, and to the people of God.
So we go out as Francis called us to do, not to stay locked up and be afraid to move. We go out to let God
take us some place that will get us where we need to be. I am not worried about how it is going to be done. We will get there. Whether it will be 20 provinces in the USA, whether there will be only a few provinces in the US, that is not the point. The point is we need to step up, we need to even encourage one another, from the grassroots to the top leadership. We need to encourage each other to be bold… and to be faithful, and to do it together… We will get there…."Be not afraid."