19 March 2009


The former Vice Provinces of Mexico and Texas, both entrusted to the Province of Navarre (Spain), were combined into a single vice province on 3 March 2009. Since the Vice Province of Texas was a part of the NAPCC, I was invited to the ceremony in Mexico City establishing the new Vice Province of Mexico-Texas (can I call it the "Tex-Mex Vice Province", please, please, please, pretty please?! Can I, can I, can I?!). You can read about the ceremony and the visit of the General Minister to the Vice Province on Br Carlos Novoa's blog. If you can't read Spanish, you can look at the pretty pictures!

Taking advantage of some otherwise free time before and after the ceremony, I visited the mission of the Western America Province in the northern part of Mexico. I was accompanied most of the time by Br Matt Elshoff, Provincial Minister of the Western America Province. We met at the Dallas airport on Ash Wednesday and boarded a flight to Chihuahua, where we were met by Br Michael Ronayne. Our first stop was the monastery of the Capuchin Poor Clares in Chihuahua. I am not sure of the exact number of Capuchin Poor Clares in Mexico, but it is in the thousands. The sisters there were kind enough to give us something to eat and drink (even though we were not hungry or thirsty), and to show us around the monastery.

Leaving the monastery, we started our five-hour drive to Tres Ojitos, a small village nestled in a broad valley of the Sierra Madre mountains. Just before reaching Tres Ojitos, we stopped to visit the Capuchin Poor Clares in Ciudad Madera. This is one of the newer monasteries in Mexico; in fact, it is still under construction. The sisters gave us a warm welcome and enjoined a bit of food and drink on us. Afterward, we continued down the highway for a few hundred meters before turning down a dirt road for the 10 km drive to Tres Ojitos.

The friary in Tres Ojitos was built as a vocational training center by the Augustinian friars who once ministered there. Since receiving it from the bishop, the Capuchins have added a chapel and a couple of other buildings. It now serves as the novitiate for the northern Mexico mission, and until a few years ago, the Vice Province of Mexico also sent its novices here. At present, there are four novices. It's isolation makes it a wonderful spot for a contemplative lifestyle, yet there are plenty of ministerial opportunities in nearby Madera and the surrounding villages.

Mass at San Juan de los PimasNext on our itinerary was Yecora, about an eight-hour drive from Tres Ojitos. This was the first friary of California's mission in Mexico. Besides David Beaumont, two friars of the Goa, India, Vice Province—Vincent and John Thomas—conduct a wide-ranging ministry from here. Not only do they conduct pastoral ministry in Yecora itself and several missions within a two-hour radius, but they provide many social services to The Beaumont-mobile limousinethe local population. They have an especially important ministry to the Pima and Yaqui Indians, for which the friars have received national recognition. For the two days we spent in Yecora, Matt and I were taken in the luxurious "Beaumont-mobile" to visit several of the outlying missions.

S. Veronica Giuliani Formation HouseFrom Yecora, Matt and I traveled another five hours to Hermosillo, where we caught a morning flight to Mexico City and the unification celebration. After the ceremony, Matt and I were able to visit the Saint Veronica Giuliani Formation House, a large structure dedicated to the education and formation of the Capuchin Poor Clares of Mexico. Currently, almost 100 sisters are living there—30 in the two-year theology program and the rest in ongoing formation courses.

Local Chapter in MonterreyThe day after the ceremony, we flew to Monterrey to conclude our visit of the mission. Padre Pio Friary in Monterrey is the newest of the mission's houses (although one is now under construction in Durango). The friary houses the postnovitiate program and the philosophate/theologate program. As in each of the other houses, Matt and I conducted a house chapter at the end of our visit. Before saying my farewells to the friars in Monterrey and to Mexico, I took a personal day to visit the city of Monterrey (a worthwhile destination!) and to smell the flowers.
Corazon espinado, Monterrey
Wildflower, Monterrey
Wildflowers, Monterrey

17 March 2009

Chapter of the General Vice Province of Kenya

In early February, I presided at the Chapter of the General Vice Province of Kenya, which was held at the Rosa Mystica Spiritual Centre in Nairobi. Normally, this would not be one of my responsibilities; either the General Minister or the General Definitor for Africa would preside at these chapters. With the nomination of Brother Vicente Kiaziku as Bishop of Mbanza-Congo, however, other arrangements had to be made this time. Happily, the lot fell to me. The chance to see Kenya was something of a dream come true for me.

This was only my second time in Africa, the first being for the meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, last November with the two African Capuchin Conferences. I expected tropical temperatures and humidity, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that due to Nairobi's altitude (almost 1,700 meters or 5,500 feet), its climate is much like my province's home city of Denver, Colorado. The days were warm and sunny, and the nights were pleasantly cool. Another stereotype bites the dust!

The Chapter itself was a great experience. The 37 friar-delegates enthusiastically participated in the business of the Chapter. There were lively debates about formation programs, ministries, the organization of fraternities and ways to improve the Vice Province's economic self-sufficiency. The atmosphere was in sharp contrast with most of the chapters I have attended, where the level of enthusiasm is, shall we say, more contained. This was also the first chapter I have attended in which all five members of the new Council were elected on the first ballot. I gave myself credit, but I'm sure the Spirit had something to do with it, as well.

I must also note the great spirit of fraternity during the Chapter. I was made to feel quite at home during my entire stay in the country. I was struck again by the power that lies in our Franciscan vocation: that people from geographical areas and cultural backgrounds as different as mine and the Kenyans could live together as brothers.

I would have liked to stay much longer in Kenya in order to see the Serengeti and the Rift Valley, but that was not possible. I did, however, talk one of the brothers into taking me to see Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. There I met briefly with a local Pan-African Conciliation Team (PACT) of the Damietta Peace Initiative. I also visited "Bomas of Kenya", a cultural center just outside Nairobi. I made a point of visiting a recreation of a Luo village to see how the ancestors of my current President once lived.