05 May 2010

An Accidental Reunion

The General Minister and I recently completed our travels to various jurisdictions in North America: the Chapter of the Province of Mid-America, the centenary celebrations of the Province of Western America, the NAPCC meeting in Québec City, and a visit of the Pennsylvania Province. Understandably, everyone wants to maximize the time they have with the General Minister so we were constantly on the move during the three weeks he spent in North America.

While all the events we attended added, in their own way, to the General Minister's understanding of Capuchin life in North America, the celebrations in California of the 100th anniversary of the coming of Irish Capuchins to the West Coast stood out. The latest issue of the BICI has an article about the celebrations so I will not elaborate on them here. One event during these celebrations, however, rendered the experience even more memorable, thanks to a chance remark and the diligence of one friar.

Having just attended a symposium on the life of our former General Minister, Bernard of Andermatt, I knew that he was the first General Minister to visit the missions in North America, which he did in 1891 (the website of the Province of Mid-America has a photograph of Bernard of Andermatt taken during the Chapter of the Pennsylvania Province in 1891). I was struck by the fact that the itinerary of this General Minister from Switzerland included many of the same stops (Pittsburgh, Victoria, San Francisco, and Québec) as our current General Minister, also from Switzerland. Knowing that he had traveled to San Francisco to meet his brother, Edward, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1884, I wondered in an e-mail to Br Matt Elshoff, the Provincial Minister of Western America, whether there were still any descedents of Edward Christen in California. Matt asked the Provincial Secretary, Br Miguel Ortiz, to look into it. With characteristic diligence, Miguel managed to track down a grandson of Edward still living in Ferndale, California. Richard Christen and his wife, Ann, were invited to join the centenary celebration in Burlingame, California, on 15 April 2010, together with any other interested family members. In all, about twenty-five members of the Christen family were in attendance, bringing with them a photograph they had of Bernard of Andermatt and a copy of his biography of Saint Francis that he had given them.