24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!
That the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself that for our salvation
He hides Himself under the little form of bread!
Look, brothers, at the humility of God
and pour out your hearts before Him!
Humble yourselves, as well,
that you may be exalted by Him.
Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves
so that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.
(St Francis of Assisi)

15 August 2012

Countdown to the Chapter

In a little over four days, the 84th Ordinary General Chapter of the Order will begin. The chapter secretaries have been hard at work for the past two and a half weeks preparing materials, setting up the secretariat, installing and testing equipment, and dealing with all the other details involved in running a chapter. At the same time, another crew has been working feverishly in the main chapel of the International College installing the mosaic behind the altar. It will be wonderful to be out of the crypt for our liturgies this time around.

I have been asked to make periodic postings about the chapter on Twitter so if you are a Twitterbug or a Tweetybird or whatever you call yourselves, you can follow the chapter at @BrMarkSchenk. You may find more substantial news items on the chapter website: capitulum2012.info

09 May 2012

Curia renovations underway

After years of planning and months of delicate negotiations to receive the necessary permits, the renovation of the General Curia finally began on 9 April 2012. The contract for the project's first phase, which was awarded to Mannelli Costruzioni, involves the demolition of unnecessary walls, the removal of old plumbing, heating and electrical fixtures, the construction of new walls and the installation of a second elevator. The demolition work has begun in earnest, and work on the new elevator is proceeding rapidly.

The project calls for excavations in two areas: the first is a small area where the base of the new elevator will be laid, and the second is in the courtyard. The latter will serve initially to facilitate the removal of rubble and old equipment from the basement of the building. Eventually it will hold a large cistern for harvesting rainwater that can be used in the toilets, laundry and garden. Harvesting rainwater will save money in the long run, and it has several environmental advantages so it is an important part of the project. In Rome, however, one never knows what might be lurking underground. The excavations had to be done slowly and under the watchful eye of an archaeologist; the discovery of any historically interesting artifact can put projects on hold indefinitely. There was a sigh of relief, therefore, when digging for the base of the elevator turned up nothing but dirt. The excavation in the courtyard did not go quite as smoothly. First, they found an old cistern used to store heating oil. No problem, that can be removed. Next, they discovered part of an old wall. Upon inspection, it turned out to be "only" from the 17th century and so of no historical value (in the photograph, the wall is on the left and the cistern is visible above the wall). Down another meter, however, they found another, older wall (the location of which is indicated by the rods sticking out of the ground). This one will have to be left in place, forcing us to slightly shift the location of the rainwater cistern — only a minor issue. Two days ago, the excavation hit another snag — the discovery of a "cavern" that runs the entire width of the courtyard. A preliminary examination seemed to indicate that it was either a natural formation or the remains of a rock quarry. If that is the case, it should not present a problem, but as I write this we are awaiting an official determination.

The next step in the process is to award the contract for the electrical and plumbing work, one for the doors and windows and one for the flooring, all of which should be completed in June.

Br Luis Eduardo Rubiano (right) discusses the project with the general contractor, Mr Carlo Mannelli. Luis is standing where the guardian's office used to be. The walls between the rooms have been removed.

A view of what was once the archives and toilets.

My old office is still intact, but not for long (sniff).

05 February 2012

Bishop Don Lippert, OFMCap

The sound of drums and chanting filled the air on the night between February 3 and 4 in joyful anticipation of the consecration of Br Don Lippert as the third Bishop of Mendi. Br Don, a member of the St Augustine (Pennsylvania) Province who has worked in the Vice Province of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands since 2007, was named by Pope Benedict XVI last November as successor to Bishop Steven Reichert in the Diocese of Mendi (Bishop Reichert is now Archbishop of Madang). The Principle Consecrator for the ceremony was Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a friend and confrere of Br Don. Two other Capuchin bishops in Papua New Guinea, Steve Reichert and Bill Fey, were co-consecrators for the liturgy. Five other bishops from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, as well as many priests from the Mendi Diocese and surrounding dioceses, participated in the liturgy.

Hundreds of faithful from around the diocese joined in the celebration, many of the them traveling several hours by truck or on foot to reach Mendi. Each deanery of the diocese was given a specific role in the liturgy, and was represented by a group of “wig men”, or men and women dressed in colorful native attire. Gifts of chickens, pineapple, peanuts, ginger, bananas and other local produce were presented to the new bishop at the offertory.

Ironically, Br Don, as the deacon at the liturgy when Cardinal O’Malley was consecrated bishop of the Virgin Islands, held the book of the Gospels over Sean’s head. During this liturgy, the roles were reversed. The Diocese of Mendi covers 19,000 square kilometers (7,338 square miles) in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. The evangelization of this area was entrusted to the Capuchin Order by Propaganda Fide in 1958, and the Order in turn entrusted it to the Pennsylvania Province. The area was elevated to the status of a diocese in 1966. There are approximately 72,000 Catholics and sixteen parishes in the diocese. Most of the parishes also have several outstations, some of which can only be reached after hours or even days of walking. One of the constant challenges of the bishops of Mendi has been finding an adequate number of priests to serve the growing number of Catholics in this rigorous environment.

The Vice Province of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands now counts about 25 local vocations. Besides the friars from the Pennsylvania Province ministering here there are also friars from the Mid-America Province, the Province of Great Britain and the Province of St Joseph-Kerala. In the past, the Vice Province was also assisted by friars from the Province of the Philippines and the Province of Western America.