23 December 2008

Merry Christmas

The Capuchin Vice Province of the Marianna Islands/Hawaii is hosting a "Christmas Village" at Saint Fidelis Friary in Agana for the second year in a row. Each evening, hundreds of people from around the island visit the display. I produced the video below to recognize the friars' fine work and to serve as my Christmas card to all of you who did not receive one from me this year. Merry Christmas and a happy, blessed New Year.

19 December 2008

Mendi welcomes the General Minister

I accompanied the General Minister to Papua New Guinea, where we participated in the friars' annual assembly from December 9 to 12. The main topic of the assembly was a study of our Constitutions, especially as they related to three policies that have been recently drafted in the Vice Province. Br. Robert Stewart of the Australian Province led the discussions.

On Thursday afternoon, December 11, Mauro, Robert and I were invited to visit the parish in Ekari (also known as Upper Mendi), where Br. Colman has ministered for years. We received a grand welcome from the members of the parish, complete with gifts of bilum hats and bags.

18 December 2008

Chapter of Australian Province

The Chapter of the Province of Australia was held on December 1-4, 2008, in the former seminary complex in Plumpton, N.S.W. The General Minister, Br. Mauro Jöhri presided so I attended as an observer and interpreter. Besides Mauro, there were 28 other delegates at the Chapter, plus a few observers.

Australian ChapterWhat especially struck me about the Chapter was the willingness of the brothers to look forward in faith. As I mentioned in my post-visitation blog entry, the Province has been working for many years to redefine the image of Capuchins in Australia, from that of an Italian Order that works principally with Italians to a multi-cultural Order working in a wide variety of ministries, but with a special emphasis on youth ministry.

Australian student friarsThe positive, forward-looking spirit was undoubtably helped by the fact that the Province has been experiencing a good influx of new vocations. In fact, the Province's six postulants paid a visit to the Chapter one day. Br. Robert Stewart gave a very interesting presentation on the Province's efforts in the area of vocation promotion and the mentality of "Generation Y".

01 December 2008

Capuchins in the year 2050

Last month, out of the blue, I received a couple of articles from an investment company that specializes in working with nonprofit organizations. The articles dealt with world demographics for the next 40 years and the impact they would have on nonprofit organizations. The articles were real eye-openers for me, especially coming as they did just before the General Definitory met with the Capuchin Conferences of Africa, India and Asia. I would like to share with you some of the information contained in those articles.

First of all, as one article pointed out, there is no magic involved in predicting future demographic trends. Someone born today will, barring an untimely death, be fifty years old in fifty years. Demographers can know with great precision the current birth and death rates of most countries. These trends change, but at a relatively slow pace. It is, therefore, relatively easy to predict the population and age distribution of a country for a fifty year period.

The articles focused on the economic impact of demographics, with which I will deal in a later post. These populations studies alone, however, have interesting implications to ponder. Consider for instance the fact of Europe’s negative population growth. By 2050, one article stated, Europe will have lost the equivalent of the current populations of France and Italy combined. In addition, the average age of Europe’s population will continue to increase. This has tremendous implications for the future of the Order in Europe. Even if one ignores the effect of secularization, there will be far fewer young men in Europe available to enter religious life. Barring a massive change in attitudes regarding immigration and family size in the next few years, the Order’s jurisdictions in Europe will certainly continue to become smaller.

The situation in North America is somewhat different because of its higher birth rate and greater openness to immigration (at present, anyway). The population of the U.S. is expected to continue growing, but at a smaller pace than in the past. The “baby boom echo” of the 80’s and early 90’s resulted in an increase in America’s birth rate, which may partially explain the recent increase in vocations there. Youth at the “peak” of this boom are just entering their university years, which indicates that the next ten to fifteen years have the possibility of providing the greatest number of candidates to religious life since the 1960’s. Once the peak has passed, the number of vocations to religious life will slowly, but surely decline. The provinces and congregations that will profit most from this increased pool of possible candidates are those that appeal to the ever-changing sensibilities of young people and who have invested the resources to get their name in front of them.

Probably to no one’s surprise, the areas of the world that will have the greatest growth among youth, and thus the greatest potential for providing vocations to the Order, are India and parts of Africa. What some might find surprising is that China will soon enter a period of negative growth because of its “one child” policy in the past. The number of males significantly outnumbers females among China’s youth, which will add to the country’s low birth rate in the future. Asia, as a whole, will experience only slight growth in the next forty years. Vietnam has a relatively low birth rate. The population of Japan already entered a period of negative growth several years ago, and there are no signs of change for the near future. These trends have implications for our current presences in Asia and for the missions that are planned for China and Vietnam. On the other hand, there are good prospects for the continued growth of the Order in India. Strong population growth is also projected for Nigeria and the Congo, which bodes well for the future of the small, but vibrant Capuchin jurisdictions in those countries.

Overall, these figures indicate that the Order’s center of gravity will continue to move south for at least the next forty years. In many cases, the Order’s growth will be in the developing world and its greatest declines will be in the developed world. This will have important consequences for the Order’s economic solidarity, which will be the focus of my next post.