By Cathal Duddy, OFM
In June, twelve – out of a possible thirteen – Franciscan friars under 50 years of age from both our province and the neighbouring Province of the Immaculate Conception gathered in Gormanston College to ‘dream’ about the future of our life and mission as Friars Minor in these islands. This gathering took place at the request of the two Provincials, Hugh McKenna OFM and Michael Copps OFM. The men – eight from Ireland and four from Britain – were the solemnly and simply professed friars, novices, and postulants.
Gormanston staff welcomed and treated us most hospitably although the college seemed to dwarf us given our small number. The meeting was planned in such a way that the men who are at different stages of life and formation in the Order could speak freely. To this end, we were ably facilitated by Fr Tony Nolan MSC, and divided into smaller separate groups so that each man felt safe to share his thoughts, hopes and dreams. Questions posed to the groups were: ‘What is it like to be Franciscan in the world today?’; ‘What is happening in the Order elsewhere?’; and ‘How would I like to see the Order in the future?’. We explored these questions through small and large group sharing, artwork and recreational time together including a stimulating visit to Newgrange.
Francis Cotter, OFM gave us an inspiring and thought-provoking input on Franciscan spirituality, and this helped to nourish our ‘sacred dreaming’ about the Order and our vocation in it. One of the highlights of the week was a visit to the La Verna community, and we are grateful to the Guardian, Brendan Scully, and the
community there for their warm and generous reception. On the last day following our final group sharing, the two Provincials joined the group to listen, reflect and give some feedback on what they were hearing. We appreciate their presence with us too.
One of the main learnings that I took from the gathering is that these men were delighted to be able to meet and spend time together. All in all, it was a worthwhile meeting, and a further one may take place next year if participants still want this to happen then.
Finally, our thanks must go to the Secretary for Formation & Studies, Patrick Lonsdale OFM and the planning committee who put a lot of time and energy into organising this meeting of the men under 50.