Provincial ministers who dream of having smaller, less complicated provinces may want to talk to someone from the Province of Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd (Central Canada) before jumping ship. Having just presided at its Eighth Ordinary Chapter, I can attest that fewer brothers and fewer friaries does not necessarily translate into fewer challenges. In some ways, just the opposite is true. For one thing, fewer brothers means that a greater percentage of them are involved in the inevitable internal ministries of a jurisdiction—provincial minister, directors of formation, vocations and communications, etc. It is true that in a smaller province some of these ministries may not need to occupy a brother full-time, but assigning several ministries to one brother adds its own complications. Fewer brothers and friaries also means there is less flexibility in terms of ministerial and fraternal assignments. None of this, of course, is news to the members of the Mother of the Good Shepherd Province. The discussions during the Chapter clearly indicated that the brothers were well aware of the challenges they faced. They were equally aware, however, of the resources and hopes that they have to meet these challenges.
There are currently twenty-six professed brothers working in the Central Canadian Province. Of these, eight are members of provinces in Eritrea, India, Italy, and Poland. Some came specifically in order to work with Catholics of their own ethnic groups, but other came mainly to help the Province maintain strong, vital fraternities. Some have come with the intention of remaining the rest of their lives, while others are there on multi-year commitments. Because of the Province’s long experience in this regard, it is something of a laboratory for Solidarity of Personnel. In the discussions that took place during the Chapter, it was clear that successfully integrating brothers from different areas of the world is not as easy as it seems, and that it requires ongoing efforts. I was happy to see, therefore, that one of the resolutions passed at the Chapter was aimed at improving the way friars from other countries are welcomed and integrated into the Province.
On the other hand, the mere fact that the Chapter’s participants could candidly discuss the difficulties among themselves was a sign of the trust that has developed among them. That one non-Canadian served on the previous Provincial Council and two were elected to the current Council are further evidence that integration is possible.