06 June 2008

Discovering and dreaming

This past week, I presided at the 43rd Ordinary Chapter of the Province of Saint Joseph, aka the Calvary Province or the Detroit Province. The Chapter was held on the beautiful campus of St. Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois.

The Chapter, like those I have attended in other provinces, was a wonderful fraternal experience. The Province of Saint Joseph is the largest of the NAPCC in terms of friars, and is also quite large geographically so for many chapters provide the only opportunity to see brothers from other areas of the Province. Its chapters are held with universal suffrage, which can be quite a challenge for such a large province—there were 129 delegates, plus many observers—but everything was well organized.

Besides the election of the new provincial council, the Chapter focused on the topic of Capuchin Community and Identity. Using a tool called, "Appreciative Inquiry," the brothers split up into groups of four to six to first tell stories about the times they were happiest or most proud about being a member of the Province. Based on those stories, they tried to identify the values and qualities that contributed to those experiences. Each group reported the results of its discussion to the whole chapter body. Later, the small groups dreamed about what the Province could be like in ten years, and discussed values that could make those dreams come true. These discussions were also reported back at a plenary session. All the comments I heard about the process were very positive. It was interesting for me to hear how the Province perceives itself and what its dreams for the future are.

In my closing talk to the Chapter, I recalled that St. Francis was also a dreamer, and that dreams can be that "foolishness" that God uses to confound the wise of this world, as St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians. I then reflected back to them some of the dreams they had mentioned during the week:
  • to recover the passion for justice, peace and respect for creation that was once a hallmark of the Province;
  • to have stronger, more vital fraternities;
  • to increase collaboration with other jurisdictions in the NAPCC and in the world;
  • to recover the pioneering spirit of the province's founders, to be more willing to take risks, and to focus on growth and vitality, rather than diminishment;
  • to have a renewed sense of prayer and comtemplation.

And now that I've put their dreams in writing for the whole world to see, I hope they feel that their feet are to the fire!

Definitory of the Calvary ProvinceThe new definitory (left to right) are: Mark Carrico, Robert Smith, John Celichowski (Provincial), Francis Voris and Mark Joseph Costello.

01 June 2008

... the Lord gave me brothers.

Having just completed a short, three-day visit to the NAPCC novitiate in Burlington, Wisconsin, I have a sense of the joy Francis of Assisi must have felt when others began to join his venture. Spending time with this large, happy group of men who are saying "yes" to our way of life was a very affirming experience. I was deeply encouraged by seeing how both novices and staff, although from different provinces and countries, were able to live and work together harmoniously. Praying together, eating together and being together at recreation was a vivid reminder that the Capuchin Order is international, and that the bonds of brotherhood cross all provincial, national and continental boundaries.

This is (presumably) the first and only time the Conference's novitiate will be held in Burlington. The usual site of the novitiate in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, was unworkable this time both because it would not have had enough rooms for the number of novices in this year's group and because this year's novitiate began several months before last year's novitiate finished. Although it was a makeshift solution, the former St. Francis Retreat Center in Burlington provided a very good setting for the novitiate. The spacious building provided plenty of room the various activities of the novitiate. The extensive grounds, nicely landscaped and dotted with various shrines and grottoes, offered a perfect environment for the novitiate's prayer life.

With the end of novitiate only about two months away, the novices have been occupied with writing their official requests for acceptance into temporary vows. Meanwhile, the next batch of novices has begun the investiture program in Victoria, Kansas, and from all reports, the experience is proceeding well.