21 May 2016

The changing face of the Order in North America

The new provincial council of the Province of Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd (left to right): Br. John Juhl, Br. Henry Alva, Br. Germaine Kpakafi, Br. John Frampton and Br. Paul Duplessie
The Province of Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd (Central Canada) celebrated its tenth ordinary provincial chapter during May 16-19. The underlying topics of discussion would have been familiar to most of the provinces in the North American-Pacific Capuchin Conference: how to deal with the financial, fraternal and ministerial challenges brought about by the aging and shrinking of the province's membership, and how to assure quality formation for the young men who want to join the Order, to name two of the topics. This chapter, however, was unique in at least one respect. It was the first chapter in the history of the Order in North America to elect a provincial minister who is neither a native of North America or of the founders' country. The new provincial minister, Br. Henry Alva, is a member of the Province of Karnataka (India) who opted several years ago to minister in this province. To put an exclamation point on this unique situation, the newly-elected provincial vicar, Br. Germain Kpakafi, is a member of the General Custody of the Congo who has been ministering in Canada for the past few years.

The uniqueness of this situation may not last long. Most of the circumscriptions in the NAPCC have some form of collaborative arrangement with one or more circumscriptions in other countries. The phenomenon is again changing the face of the Order in the conference. The first change took place decades ago as provinces gradually became "americanized", even while keeping some vestigial customs of their founding provinces. Now, the provinces here are becoming increasingly multicultural, or as some would prefer to say, intercultural. The change is taking place not only because friars from other circumscriptions are coming here temporarily to minister, but also because the North American provinces are getting vocations from a wider range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Given this situation, it will not be at all surprising if provincial councils in the NAPCC begin increasingly to portray the global reach of the Order.