About 50 members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province gathered at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, NM from the 27th to the 30th of May for the Annual Provincial Assembly. The Assembly, or APA, is not a business meeting of the friars, but rather a fraternal time to pray together, to enjoy each other's company and perhaps to learn something.
On Monday evening, Richard Rohr, OFM, offered a reflection on the meaning of the call of Pope Francis for the Church to be less "self referential," and tied that call to the call of the friars to a continual conversion. Tuesday, Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, set the tone for the rest of the time together by stating that in significant ways we, as friars and as a province, are in a different place from when we met last year.
Among the changes:
- Chapter last year resulted in Direction Statements about how the friars want to live and minister as well as in the election of a new Council.
- In December 2012, the Minister General met with the seven Provincial Councils in the United States and as a result of that meeting the Provinces have decided to undertake a serious, united effort to prepare together for our future in the United States through the work of an Interprovincial Commission.
- After serious study and conversation in a survey of the Province as well as discussions during the Minister Provincial's individual visitations with the friars, and an engineering review of the condition of the current friary building at St. Michaels, Arizona, the Council decided to relinquish ministry at Pena Blanca, New Mexico to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and to change the living situation, though not the ministerial commitment, to the missions at Tohatchi, New Mexico and St. Michaels, Arizona. Jack continued by stating that those are a lot of changes for us to absorb, so that this APA is not about making decisions, but about dealing with change.
Realistically, dealing with change, whether the change is considered a loss or a gain, good or bad, requires at least three steps:
- acknowledging the change - taking stock
- accepting the existence of a new reality - letting go of the past
- taking steps to deal with the new reality - moving forward.
He suggested that with those things in mind, many would say that we are not in the most comfortable of
situations, but he knew that we have been in uncomfortable situations before. Further, we have the real
treasures that we need to deal with at this moment in our history, or any moment a hundred times worse
than this situation.
He listed those treasures as not material resources, but greater treasures: Faith, Brothers and Stories. We have Faith - that's Why we are friars. We have Brothers - that is How we are friars. We have Stories - that is the Proof that we are friars! Jack then led us through a series of reminisces of the friars regarding some deceased friars and places where we no longer minister. Then the friars discussed how God might be surprising us now, as well as to what "outskirts" are we being driven by the work of the Holy Spirit. On Tuesday afternoon, the friars engaged in small group conversations to address the question what they would like the friars of the other Provinces in the United States to see, to know and learn from Guadalupe Province.
On Wednesday, the day began with Erasmo Romero, OFM, the most newly ordained priest in the Province presiding at the Eucharist, while Efrén Quintero, OFM, who received a Masters degree in Scriptural studies from the Catholic Theological Union earlier this month, led us in a moving reflection. He called upon us not to seek to interpret the Scripture, but to let the Scripture interpret our lives. Then going through the third prediction Jesus made of his crucifixion, he called us to face death without fear as the gateway to a new life in our own present situation.
During the sessions through the day, Jack spoke of our visions and dreams as friars. First we must understand that the point of visions and dreams is not that they are fulfilled or come true, but that they are given to share to help us move forward. The visions and dreams are given to some, while others are called to accompany the visionaries and dreamers, to offer the support so that those meant to come to fruition can. While all of us are called to remember dreams and visions, to honor those who have gone before us and helped us to move forward. The friars shared what they heard in the dreams and visions of the young friars who had been surveyed by the Interprovincial Commission in response to the task given them by the Provincial administrations last December.
Then they shared their own dreams and visions of what Franciscan life might look like in the United States 10 years from now. All through the day, as he had on Monday and Tuesday, Provincial Minister Gino Correa made himself and called upon others to make announcements of happenings in the life and ministry of the friars of the Province, reinforcing the idea of a truly fraternal gathering. Richard Rohr brought the input to a close on Wednesday, with a further reflection on the words of Pope Francis.
Thursday morning the APA concluded with Father Tom Luczak, OFM, a friar of the Assumption Province,
who has been named Visitor General in preparation for next year's Provincial Chapter. He spoke of the honesty and fraternity which had been so evident to him as he listened in on the conversations this week, as well as his appreciation of the welcome he has received from the friars.
No account of the APA in 2013 would be complete without telling of the several volleyball games played at every opportunity by the young and young-at-heart friars. Though some of those young-at-heart friars went searching for Advil the next morning, they all agreed that after several years of not having sufficient numbers of young friars to form volleyball teams, their aching muscles were a small sacrifice that they were more than willing to offer in thanksgiving for the presence of our new brothers!
This originally appeard in the May 2013 issue of The Padres' Trail, the newsletter of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.