The Chapter, like those I have attended in other provinces, was a wonderful fraternal experience. The Province of Saint Joseph is the largest of the NAPCC in terms of friars, and is also quite large geographically so for many chapters provide the only opportunity to see brothers from other areas of the Province. Its chapters are held with universal suffrage, which can be quite a challenge for such a large province—there were 129 delegates, plus many observers—but everything was well organized.
Besides the election of the new provincial council, the Chapter focused on the topic of Capuchin Community and Identity. Using a tool called, "Appreciative Inquiry," the brothers split up into groups of four to six to first tell stories about the times they were happiest or most proud about being a member of the Province. Based on those stories, they tried to identify the values and qualities that contributed to those experiences. Each group reported the results of its discussion to the whole chapter body. Later, the small groups dreamed about what the Province could be like in ten years, and discussed values that could make those dreams come true. These discussions were also reported back at a plenary session. All the comments I heard about the process were very positive. It was interesting for me to hear how the Province perceives itself and what its dreams for the future are.
In my closing talk to the Chapter, I recalled that St. Francis was also a dreamer, and that dreams can be that "foolishness" that God uses to confound the wise of this world, as St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians. I then reflected back to them some of the dreams they had mentioned during the week:
- to recover the passion for justice, peace and respect for creation that was once a hallmark of the Province;
- to have stronger, more vital fraternities;
- to increase collaboration with other jurisdictions in the NAPCC and in the world;
- to recover the pioneering spirit of the province's founders, to be more willing to take risks, and to focus on growth and vitality, rather than diminishment;
- to have a renewed sense of prayer and comtemplation.
And now that I've put their dreams in writing for the whole world to see, I hope they feel that their feet are to the fire!The new definitory (left to right) are: Mark Carrico, Robert Smith, John Celichowski (Provincial), Francis Voris and Mark Joseph Costello.