Thursday, November 21, 2013
A good part of the day was the presentation of a report on the sociological study of the situation in the Order today; a study conducted in response to part of one of the mandates of the 2009 General Chapter. Professor Renato Mio, a Salesian priest, presented the report in Italian. Even with simultaneous translation, the presentation offered a challenge to us English speakers. I can only hope that we can sometime in the future see the complete report, and that it makes correlations with respect to geographic place and age. Some points of interest from the report and subsequent discussions include:
- It is important to invest personnel and finances in formation
- While initial formation is essential, there is a real crisis in on going formation throughout the Order
- There is a great need to invest in the formation of formators
- Friars desire improvement in the areas of interpersonal relationships and experience of prayer
The work of the day was interrupted at noon to announce the appointment of our brother Paskalis Bruno Syukur, OFM, General Definitor from Asia / Oceania, as bishop of Bogor (Indonesia).
Friday, November 22, 2013
This day was dedicated in large to language group work on the primary purpose of the Plenary Council, namely, on the recommendation as to the number and election and General Definitors. When the groups reported in the evening on their work, it was evident that there is much work that lies ahead of us. We are beginning with different understandings of our constitutions, with different expectations of our governing structures, and differing needs from the General Administration. I guess this is why we have two weeks to work through these issues. Let’s see where the Holy Spirit takes us.
At lunch we had a visit from the Auxiliary Bishop of Warsaw, Bishop Thadeusz Pikus. He gave a brief presentation on the church in Poland, particularly in Warsaw – that today it is more secular and seen by many as the enemy because of abuses. When he spoke of the role of religious he highlighted successes in parishes – as many bishops do.
Saturday and Sunday, November 23-24, 2013
The weekend gave us an opportunity to take a break from meetings and to explore a bit of Warsaw.
On Saturday we visited Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate Mother of God. This is the Conventual Franciscan site founded by St Maximilian Kolbe. There we heard the story of a young friar seeking to obtain land in order to build a friary and print shop to spread the written story of faith. Maximilian negotiated a donation of land from a wealthy Duke after convincing him that the land was consecrated to and therefore belonged to the Virgin Mary. Today, the friars still maintain a large presence here, about 130 friars, the majority being non-clerical. While they ministry of the printed word still continues, so does a bakery, and the running of the local fire house. The friars are the local professional fire fighting brigade. The most moving part of the visit was to spend time in the room from which Maximilian was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941, along with four other friars, and eventually taken to Auschwitz where he died a martyr’s death.
Saturday, after lunch with the Conventual Friars, we went into Warsaw to visit the Museum of the Uprising, commemorating the 63-day struggle in 1944 of the people of Warsaw over the Nazi presence while the Soviet army stood on the banks of the Vistula River. The very dramatic display commemorates the stories of real people in a real struggle that in many ways failed, but solidified a peoples’ resolve for freedom.
Sunday morning we journeyed to the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka, to the Museum honoring the memory of Blessed Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the Warsaw priest killed by security forces in 1984 for his preaching and support of Solidarity. Another moving visit.
These three visits bring to light the struggle that individuals undertake, the sacrifices that some of made, the inhumanity capable of human beings, and the great appreciation of faith and freedom that many of us enjoy. I personally walked away from these sites with the great realization that on some basic level, living faith has really been quite easy for me. The cross that others were willing to, and indeed had to endure is a sacrifice that I can only honor from a distance of experience, through a story.
Sunday liturgy, celebrating Christ the King, was celebrated at the local community at a Franciscan parish in Warsaw. The primary celebrant was Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland. The local friars hosted the group for a buffet lunch. After lunch we took in a tour of the Old City of Warsaw, reconstructed based on what was actually there before the Nazi destruction as they retreated in 1944 and the Soviets entered. The evening concluded with a visit to the Museum of Fredrick Chopin, a wonderfully interactive experience with his life and music.
Monday … back to work.