25 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Et Verbum caro factum est!

Happy Christmas to all from your brothers in the general curia. 

27 November 2014



Can you say "Yum"?

Besides a nod to Thanksgiving Day for the Americans in the Curia, we also celebrated the birthday of Luis Eduardo Rubiano and the feast day of Massimo Rosina. But wait! There's more. We also anticipated by one day the celebration of Jaime Rey's feast day, I should be able to walk again by Saturday.

24 November 2014

General Curia named "House of Life"

In a ceremony conducted on Sunday, November 23, the Capuchin generalate was awarded the distinction of being a "House of Life" for its role in saving thousands of Jews from deportation to concentration camps during World War II. The plaque that was unveiled during the ceremony recalled the deeds of Father Marie Benoit, a French Capuchin who risked his life to save the Jews in Marseilles. When his activities there were discovered by the Gestapo, he was assigned to teach in the International College in Rome, where he intensified his activities.

Br. Mauro and Ms. Silvia Constantini unveiling the plaque
The honor was bestowed by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, which is named for a Swedish diplomat who worked to save the Jews in Hungary during the same period. Ms. Silvia Constantini and Mr. Jesus Colina, both vice presidents of the Foundation were on hand for the ceremony. About a dozen associates of the Foundation, including other members of the Righteous among the Nations, also participated.

While several other sites in Rome and Italy will receive this recognition, the Capuchin generalate was the first to be identified for recognition. Unfortunately, the ceremony had to be postponed, first because of the renovations that were underway at the generalate and then due to scheduling conflicts.

The website of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has an explanation of the Houses of Life initiative and a page about the choice of the Capuchin generalate. A fair summary of Br. Marie Benoit's efforts can be found here on their site. I can also recommend the recently-published book, Père Marie-Benoît and Jewish Rescue: How a French Priest Together with Jewish Friends Saved Thousands during the Holocaust, by Susan Zuccotti. The book is generally well-researched, except when it deals with the attitudes of Marie Benoit's superiors and of the Holy See toward his work, where it veers into generalizations that are usually unsupported and sometimes contradicted by the

14 November 2014

Chapters in New Jersey and Australia

Congratulations to Nick Mormando and Gary Devery, who were both recently re-elected as provincial ministers of the New Jersey and Australian Provinces, respectively. The chapter of the New Jersey Province took place on 27-31 October 2014, and that of the Australian Province took place on 4-7 November 2014.

New council of the Province of Australia
These two provinces have a lot in common. For instance, both were founded by Italian friars and they are similar in size. Currently, however, they are in quite different situations. The Province of Australia (or the Assumption Province) has gone through an extended period of pastoral planning and restructuring. Every aspect of the life and ministry of the brothers was reviewed to see if it responded to present needs and the cultural climate of today’s Australia. As a result of the planning process, brothers from India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Poland were invited to collaborate with the Australian brothers, both to strengthen fraternal life in the province and to better portray the international character of the Order. The formation process was revamped, and several brothers were prepared for formation work. The promotion of vocations was given a greater priority. New ministries were accepted and existing ministries were expanded in order to give greater emphasis to work with the poor and with youth.

While it is too early to tell whether these measures will translate into more vocations, some benefits are already evident. After some initial bumps, the experience of International fraternal collaboration has proven beneficial not only for the Australian Province, but for the friars from the sending provinces, as well. The sense of identity among the brothers has increased, along with their visibility in the Australian church and society. There is a palpable sense of a common vision and mission in the province, which bodes well for its future.

Brothers of the New Jersey Province line up for a photo
In contrast, the Province of New Jersey (also known as the Stigmata Province) is at the beginning of the process of developing a new pastoral plan. Changing needs and demographics have led it question whether its structures are adequately responding to the times. At its recently-concluded chapter, therefore, the province decided to embark on a pastoral planning process to see what changes can and should be made. Actually, the first steps were taken a little over a year ago when four brothers from the Province of Andhra Pradesh-Orissa in India came to collaborate with the Province of New Jersey. These brothers provide the New Jersey Province with some needed flexibility during the planning process. More than that, however, they reflect the true international character of the Capuchin Order, which is becoming increasingly relevant in the multicultural societies of the NAPCC.

Fall foliage at St. Lawrence Friary, Beacon, NY

20 September 2014

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Since the General Curia has an international fraternity and serves an international Order, it makes sense that its signage should be understandable to people of all languages. Here are some of the new signs, along with their meaning. 

Elevator or lift

Men's restroom

Wheelchair accessible restroom

Acrobatics room

A Celebration of Gratitude

The fraternity of the General Curia hosted a celebration to thank all the workers who had a part in the renovation of the generalate. Over one hundred workers, spouses and children attended. There was a short ceremony during which Br. Mauro recognized the hard work and dedication that went into the renovation project, followed by a video that recounted the various phases of the work. The celebration concluded with a beautiful dinner prepared by our cook Claudio and our staff.

13 September 2014

House blessing of the renovated General Curia

Nearly three years after moving out of the building in Via Piemonte, home of the Capuchin General Curia since about 1950, the friars were able to return a few weeks ago. To say that we are happy with the results would be an understatement. The renovations, while maintaining the original sobriety in the choice of materials and the simplicity of its style, has given the Order a generalate that is much more comfortable and functional.

The renovated facility was solemnly blessed by the General Minister, Mauro Jöhri, on Saturday, September 13. About sixty invited guests attended the ceremonies, including members of the generalate staff, friars from the fraternities in Rome, representatives of the Capuchin Conferences, and the architects and contractors along with their families. The NAPCC was ably represented by Br. Francis Gasparik, Provincial Minister of the Province of Saint Mary.

The celebration began in the courtyard with prayers. Mauro and a small group of friars then processed through the building, blessing it with holy wat
er. When he was finished blessing the house, everyone moved into the chapel for the Eucharist.

Following the celebration of the Mass, a brief ceremony was held in the "Sala di catechesi" (meeting room) during which Mauro thanked the various people who were most involved in the work of renovating the building. This was followed by a video presentation put together by Br. Marek Przeczewski showing the various stages of the work, from the time of the "exodus" until our return to the building a few weeks ago. 

The guests were then served hors d'oeuvres in the portico of the courtyard. It was a splendid Roman September day, pleasantly warm without being too hot, and nary a cloud in sight. 

The celebrations concluded with a pranzone prepared by our excellent kitchen staff. If anyone left hungry, it was his or her own fault. After dinner, a tour of the building were offered for anyone who wanted it. 

18 July 2014

A new Capuchin stigmatic?

Two brothers have brought to my attention that a website operating in the United States claims to be raising money for "Fr. David", who, according to the site, is a Capuchin with the stigmata. According to the account on the website, when he was an infant "Fr. David" was cured by Padre Pio. He later entered the Capuchin Order and now runs two orphanages in Italy.

I have researched the matter thoroughly and can say with moral certainty that there is no such friar in the Capuchin Order. Here are the facts:

  • A check of the Order's database shows that none of the Italian provinces have anyone named David or Davide of an age consistent with the story presented on the website. 
  • The postulation for the cause of Pio of Pietralcina claims to know nothing of this miraculous cure, nor of anyone bearing the stigmata. 
  • To my knowledge, no Capuchin province runs an orphanage in Italy. 
  • Both the current and former general ministers of the Order have denied knowledge of any living stigmatic in the Order.
Perhaps most telling is the fact that while there are many photographs of "Fr. David's" stigmata, there is never a clear photograph of his face. As a wise, holy friar told me, "i santi mostrano il loro volto luminoso e nascondono i doni mistici, come le stimmate. Questo fa il contrario" ("a saint will show the radiance of his face and hide mystical gifts, such as the stigmata. This person does the opposite").  

Given the fact that Padre Pio's name is being used to solicit donations, it would be prudent to warn the Padre Pio prayer groups of your area against falling for the story of this modern-day stigmatic.

12 July 2014

Chapter of the Sacred Heart Province

The Ordinary Chapter of the Sacred Heart Province concluded this morning with a Eucharist celebrated by the newly-elected Provincial Vicar Benny Punnassery Vincent, then closing remarks. The Chapter was celebrated at the Province's Ermitage Saint-Antoine, in Lac-Bouchette, Quebec. The natural beauty of the location provided a bonus to the fraternal atmosphere of the gathering itself. Given my inability to speak French, Pio Murat graciously accepted to serve as President of the Chapter.

The elections took very little time this year since all but one member of the Council was elected on the first ballot. Louis Cinq-Mars (who was nominated to complete the triennium after the untimely death of Benoit Fortin) was elected Provincial Minister. Benny Punnassery Vincent, Jean-Guy Lanthier, Alix Poulin and Antony Louiz Arukullaseri were elected to the Council.

Beside the elections, the Chapter discussed the effectiveness of its ministries and the ways it can continue to maintain vital presences despite the slow decrease in its membership. As happened three years ago, the provincial minister and vicar of the Province of Central Canada attended this chapter as observers (just as the provincial minister and vicar of the Eastern Canada Province attends the chapters in Toronto). 

01 July 2014

Goodbye and hello again

On October 11, 2011, I moved to San Lorenzo di Brindisi International College in preparation for the renovation of the General Curia. Almost all of us, went from having a bedroom and an office to having one room that for both working and sleeping. There was some grumbling about that (yes, brothers grumble! Who knew?), but in the end I didn't miss the extra space that much. The International College is not the ideal space for a generalate, but it worked.

Now we are approaching the day when we can return to our renovated building. The first group of "pioneers" is scheduled to move on July 7. Their task will be to get the house cleaned and ready for the rest of the community. The rest of the fraternity will begin moving their belongings on July 14. The fraternity's last day in "Green Acres" is scheduled for July 20. Although there are some things I will miss about live at the International College, I am looking forward to moving back into Rome. Unfortunately, I will not actually get there until early September. Since I am leaving on July 5 for two months, I have been packing up my books, files and personal belongings for transport to Via Piemonte. Even after weeding out a lot of unnecessary documents and unwanted books, I still have at least fifteen boxes of stuff for my office. Fortunately, there will be a lot fewer boxes of personal items. It makes me glad I took a vow of poverty!

The General Curia, by the way, looks fantastic. We paid a visit to it last week during the New Ministers Meeting. Although there is still a lot of work to do in the chapel and in the front corridor of the ground floor, the workers are making great progress.

26 June 2014

New Ministers Meeting 2014

Brs. Tomasz Zak, Štefan Kožuh and Jonathan Williams listen to a talk by Br. Mauro Jöhri
Seventeen provincial ministers and custodes from around the world gathered in Frascati from June 22 to 28 for the annual New Ministers Meeting of the Order. All of the participants were elected to the office of minister within the last twelve months. Five of the ministers were from Brazil, two from India, and one each from Ireland, Colombia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Malta, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Poland, and Slovenia.

The week-long meeting is an opportunity to provide the brothers with practical information that will help them in their ministry of service. Input is provided by the general council on topics such as "The figure and role of the provincial minister and custos," "Authority and obedience," "Fidelity to the consecrated life," and "The animation of a jurisdiction." The general procurator and assistant general procurator explain some of the more common canonical matters that the ministers may need to deal with, and the directors of various other offices describe the work of the office and how it may be of assistance to the brothers. 

Information does not flow only one way during the week. Through discussions both in small groups and in the general sessions, the participants offer feedback on their own experiences in the offices to which they have been called, which in turn helps the general council in its service to the Order.

02 May 2014

Recollection Day with the NAPCC Novices

On April 29-30, 2014, I was pleased to give a recollection day to the twenty-one novices of the North American Pacific Capuchin Conference at the novitiate in Santa Ynez, California. The focus of my presentations was "The Capuchin Order as an international fraternity." In essence, I urged the novices to remember that their brotherhood should extend beyond the borders of their provinces and even of the Conference.

One might be tempted to say that the novices are an easy audience, but while they may be "captive", they are anything but passive. From their questions and remarks, it was evident that they listen closely to what is being said, and think about it critically.

It is always a great privilege and a pleasure to spend time with the novices. Their enthusiasm for the Capuchin life, their strong sense of fraternity, their youthful energy and their joy is infectious. This year was no exception.

Let us continue to pray for these brothers as they discern the Lord's call.

22 March 2014

A message from the Order's JPIC Office

Dear Friends,

Pace e bene.

Greetings from the JPIC OFMCap Office in Rome!  This year is the 35th anniversary of the naming of Saint Francis as Patron of Ecology.  Romans VI (the group of JPIC animators for the Franciscan Family) has considered how best to celebrate this event, especially in the context of the worldwide environmental crisis.  We have prepared a series of resources to help our brothers and sisters throughout the world commemorate this celebration.

We are very happy to announce the creation of a website containing these resources.  It is being launched on March 22nd, World Water Day.  The launch date reminds us that our commitment to work for the Integrity of Creation must be concrete and practical.  Resources are available in various languages, and include a reflection on the celebration, the Pope’s declaration naming Francis the patron of ecology, a Eucharistic celebration, an ecumenical prayer, norms for an interreligious celebration, a Mayan Cross Prayer, Prayers of the Faithful and an article on Franciscan Spirituality.

The address for the website is www.francis35.org .  The date for the commemoration of Francis as Patron of Ecology is November 29.  We invite all of you to prepare events/prayers/gatherings to commemorate this anniversary at times which are convenient for you and your partners.  You should of course include the Franciscan Family in your plans, but also be sure to invite the laity with whom you work and minister, diocesan organizations, ecumenical groups, interreligious groups and all people of goodwill.  Help to promote among all people a spirit of care for creation in the spirit of Francis.  You might want to consider the possibility of linking this celebration with that of the Spirit of Assisi, which occurs every year on the 28th of October.

We hope that these materials will be of use to you.  Please share them as widely as possible.  We ask that you send us a short article about any celebration you might hold in your city or region, along with some photos.  May God bless you in your work to care for the Creation that we share as gift with all of God’s creatures!

Br. Benedict Ayodi OFM Cap
Director, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation OFMCap

24 February 2014

The Custody of Nigeria

Construction of St Francis of Assisi Church in Enugu, Nigeria

There is one less item on my "bucket list" now that I have had an opportunity to visit our Capuchin Custody of Nigeria. I was invited here to give a series of seminars to the brothers of the Custody. I spoke to the Custody's twenty-five post-novices last Saturday, and will speak to the perpetually professed brothers this week.

Although there was at least one previous attempt to establish a Capuchin mission in Nigeria, we have had a continuous presence there only since the early 1990's. It was established as a Custody of the Province of Tuscany in 1994. It was the only jurisdiction of the Order established during my nine-month assignment as General Secretary of the Order so the Decree of Establishment bears my signature. Since then I have always harbored a desire to see what my hand hath wrought.

The beginnings of the Custody can, in some sense, be traced back to my home province of Mid-America. In the late 1970's, Clement Emodi was a young Nigerian doing university studies in Omaha, Nebraska. He felt a call to religious life so he applied and was accepted into the 1980-81 novitiate class of the Mid-America Province. Rather than make profession in the Mid-America Province, however, he decided to return to Nigeria and ask the bishop to invite Capuchins to his diocese. His persistence paid off, as the Bishop asked the then-General Minister Br. Flavio Roberto Carraro to open a mission in his Diocese of Onitsha. Clement, who now goes by his given name of Akosa, was the first Nigerian to be professed a Capuchin.

The Custody now has almost sixty temporarily- and perpetually-professed brothers. They have expanded their presence to seven fraternities in several different dioceses. The photograph above was taken at one of their newer fraternities. St Francis of Assisi Friary is their second fraternity in Enugu.