19 July 2009

The Big Apple and Beyond

It has been almost two months since I finished the visitation of the St. Mary's Province (New York/New England) Province, but I am only now getting around to writing about it. I could use the usual excuse of being busy, which would, after all, be partially true. In this case, however, it is probably more true to say that I needed the time to reflect—to step away from the trees in order to see the forest.

The visitation started in White Plains, moved to Patchoque, then Brooklyn, then Manhattan. After visiting the three friaries in Manhattan, I moved slowly northward into upstate New York then through New England until reaching Portland, Maine. From there, I traveled southward again, stopping at the friaries I missed on the northward journey, until arriving back in White Plains. The travel itself was an education for me. I'd been in the St. Mary's Province many times before, but only in New York City or its environs. As such, I associated the Province with New York City and big city ministry. The reality, I learned, is much more multi-faceted. The Province is present not only in the megalopolis of New York, but in the small town of Rutland, Vermont, and even in the beautiful, pastoral setting of Interlaken, New Interlaken FriaryYork. Parishes form the cornerstone of the Province's ministry, but this doesn't mean there is no ministerial variety. First of all, each parish has its own character and presents its own challenges. Secondly, the Province's friars are involved in many ministries outside the parish—as hospital chaplains, prison chaplains, campus ministers, adoption agencies, and ministry to immigrants, to name a few.

I do not think I was alone in associating the Province with New York City; about half the world's Capuchins have passed through St. John's Friary in Manhattan at one time or another, and those who haven't visited yet want to New York City may be the most frequented Capuchin pilgrimage site after Rome and Assisi! I was struck during the visitation of the service that the Province provides to the international Order. The Province not only provides hospitality to friars who are visiting or studying in New York, but its provincial offices provides many services for the General Curia, for Capuchin Friars International, and for various provinces in other parts of the world that need a point of reference in the United States. The Province provides important support for Franciscans International. It was a driving force behind the NAPCC's support for our African jurisdictions, and it has continued to support projects in Africa and Latin America. The Province does all this despite having to support two missions of its own: the Vice Province of Marianna Islands-Hawaii and the Custody of Japan.

Another thing that struck me as I traveled around the Province was the positive attitude of the friars. The vast majority of the friars are working hard—even those who have longed surpassed "retirement" age&mash;and they are joyfully trying to live according the form of life they professed. Many of them attributed the positive atmosphere in the Province to the quality and quantity of vocations it has received in recent years. Bro. Tim Jones has done such an excellent job at promoting vocations that some friars openly wondered if he was producing them in a lab in his basement (I call dibs on the movie rights for The Boys from Brooklyn). Seriously, however, Bro. Tim rightly pointed out that vocation promotion cannot be the work of one person, and if the Province has been successful in its promotion it is because of the involvement of all the friars.

The problem with blogging about visitations is knowing where to stop. There were many other revelations for me during my time in the St. Mary's Province, but, like its patron, I will "meditate on them in [my] heart."

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