April 2016 | Galveston, Texas

"' God does not ration His gift of the Spirit.' (Jn. 3.34) This is a message of abundance! God holds nothing back."

Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, Economo General of the Order
Homily, April 7, 2016

Conference meeting held in Galveston, oh, Galveston
St. John the Baptist Province hosts

GALVESTON, TEXAS  -  The Provincial Ministers and Custodes of the English Speaking Conference held their annual Spring meeting at St. Patrick Church, part of Holy Family Parish, a ministry of St. John the Baptist Province from April 4-8.  

NEW FACES. Conference members welcomed several new Provincial Ministers to the meeeting. Among the newly elected were Provincial Minister David Gaa, OFM (St. Barbara Province, USA), Provincial Minister Algirdas Malakauskas, OFM (St. Casimir Province, Lithuania), and Provincial Minister Robert Mokry, OFM (Christ the King Province, Western Canada). 

The Spring meeting also marked the final meeting of Provincial Ministers Primo Piscitello, OFM (Immaculate Conception Province, USA), and Paul Smith, OFM (Holy Spirit Province, Australia), both of whom are completing terms of office. 

Provincial Ministers, Custodes and guests at St. Patrick Friary in Galveston

During the meeting, the Provincial Ministers and Custodes of the United States, Canada, and Europe each met separately in sub-conference to discuss matters relevant to their regions. 

The Canadian members discussed their recently the process of reconfiguration currently underway there. The members of the European Sub-Conference also met to discuss common formation efforts (see story below). 

The U.S. Sub-Conference met to discuss:
  • The on-going conversation about reconfiguration of the seven U.S. Provinces. In particular, they reviewed the results of the Fall meetings to discuss the four models proposed by the Franciscan Interprovincial Team.  
  • The approval of a National Common Admissions Policy. This policy was the result of a collaborative effort among the formation personnel of all seven U.S. Provinces. The ministers had considered a draft version of this in the Fall.
  • The approval of a new member to the Interprovincial Novitiate Team. Following a discernment that took place at the novitiate in January, Friar Michael Blastic, OFM (HNP) will be added to the novitiate team. Friars Ralph Parthie, OFM (SH) and Dennis Schafer, OFM (SH) will complete their service to the novitiate with the conclusion of this novice year. The ministers expressed their great appreciation to both Ralph and Dennis for their excellent service to the fraternity. 
  • They also discussed the selection of a new Novice Master. However, the ministers have sought the input of the novitiate team before making this decision. 
Attending the week-long meeting were: Provincial Minister Richard Grech, OFM (St. Paul, Malta), 
Custos Patrick Lonsdale, OFM (Immaculate Conception Custody, Great Britain), Provincial Minister Marc Le Goanvec, OFM (Province of St. Joseph, Canada), Provincial Minister David Gaa, OFM (St. Barbara Province, USA), Provincial Minister Algirdas Malakauskas, OFM (Province of St. Casimir, Lithuania), Provincial Minister and Conference President Hugh McKenna , OFM (Province of Ireland), Provincial Minister and Conference Vice-President Kevin Mullen, OFM (Holy Name Province, USA), Provincial Minister Primo Piscitello, OFM (Immaculate Conception Province, New York, USA), Provincial Minister James Gannon, OFM (Assumption BVM Province, USA), Provincial Minister Jack Clark Robinson, OFM (Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, USA), Provincial Minister Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM (St. John the Baptist Province, USA), Provincial Minister William Spencer, OFM (Sacred Heart Province, USA), Provincial Minister Robert Mokry, OFM (Province of Christ the King, Canada), General Definitor Caoimhin O'Laoide, OFM, and Executive Secretary Thomas Washburn, OFM.


During the full-Conference sessions, members had the chance to:
  • Meet with Ms. Tyler Curtis, Operations Manager; and Fr. Teofil Czarniak, OFM, Executive Director of the General Secretariat for the Franciscan Missions, Waterford, Wisconsin
  • Meet with Mr. Russ Testa (HNP), President of the ESC Commission on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC); along with Friar Mark Schroeder, OFM, JPIC Coordinator for St. Barbara and Our Lady of Guadalupe Provinces.
  • Meet with Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, General Economo of the Order regarding the financial situation of the Order.
  • Meet with Fr. Aidan McGrath, OFM, General Secretary of the Order for a study day on common canonical issues faced by the ministers.
Hard at work at St. Patrick's in Galveston.

As with each meeting, the Ministers and Custodes also found some time for recreation. Galveston is a beautiful island just off the coast of Texas and has many beaches to enjoy. The island is marked by two major hurricanes that struck there over the last 100 or so years. Some had the chance to visit a museum dedicated to the effects of those storms. 

All the members expressed particular gratitude to Provincial Minister Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM (SJB), the host of the meeting and the local friars at St. Patrick's for making everyone feel welcome and at home.

The week also began on a sad note as the members learned of the passing of Mary Grech, mother of Provincial Minister Richard Grech (St. Paul, Malta). Mary, who lived in Australia, passed away on Monday. Those present offered Mass for her on Tuesday morning and prayerful support for Richard throughout the week. May she rest in peace.

Updates from the Eternal City
Conference welcomed the General Economo and General Secretary

GALVESTON, TEXAS - Thursday's "Study Day" brought two members of the General Administration to meet with the Provincial Ministers and Custodes of the Conference.

The morning session was led by Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, who currently serves as General Economo of the Order. Fr. John is the former Provincial Minister of the Assumption BVM Province based in Franklin, Wisconsin.

Fr. John used his time to update the members on the work that has taken place since the General Chapter last May to get a handle on the financial situation of the Order. John reported on the various new checks and balances that have been instituted. He shared great progress on the situation with a plan for future action.

His report included the following pieces: 
  1. A review and update on the current financial situation which began with irregularities in structures and practices at the level of the General Curia discovered in the summer of 2014.
  2. An overview of structures and procedures that have been implemented to establish financial stability at the level of the General Curia in response to the discussions and mandate from the 2015 General Chapter.
  3. A report on the year end 2015 financial operations of the General Curia showing that while the effects of the 2014 revelations are still present, stability has been established due largely to the generous financial assistance and support of provinces, custodies and friends of the Order for mission and formation projects as well as the reduction of debt.
  4. The introduction of a debt management plan developed by the International Commission for Economic Affairs (CIRE) and approved by the General Definitory in March 2016 aimed at a just and reasonable servicing of the 14.1 million euro debt.
The Debt Management Plan includes:
  1. Seeking a religious based partner to refinance the current debt of the General Curia under more favorable terms with less risk to the Order.
  2. Seeking further donations to directly reduce the debt principal.
  3. Seeking provinces and custodies to internally refinance portions of the debt, and (4) to reduce the debt principal through the sale of properties no longer essential to the life and mission of the Order.
The afternoon session was in the capable hands of Fr. Aidan McGrath, OFM (Irish Province), the General Secretary of the Order. Fr. Aidan, himself a canon lawyer, directed a workshop entitled, Canonical Input Regarding Suspensions, Dismissals and Dispensations. It was good information for the new members of the Conference and an excellent refresher for those who have been in this ministry a bit longer. 

Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM
Fr. Aidan McGrath, OFM

European friars establish Interprovincial Novitiate
Will serve friars of Northern Europe

GALVESTON, TEXAS - During the recently concluded Spring meeting of the English Speaking Conference, members of the European Sub-Conference met to discuss their plan to  establish an Interprovincial Novitiate for Northern Europe

In the past few years, the Province of Ireland has sent friars to the Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wisconsin, however, it has been increasingly difficult to obtain the necessary visas and permissions in a timely fashion, which has lead to an openness to pursue this new possibility with the participation of other European provinces and custodies.
The new novitiate will be located in Killarney, Ireland, and anticipates welcoming its first class of novices in 2017. Participating in this new endeavor will be novices from Ireland, Great Britain, Germany and Netherlands.

Meeting the people
Holy Family Parish, Galveston

GALVESTON, TEXAS - One of the wonderful experiences that Conference meetings offer is the opportunity to meet friars and the people they minister to in different settings around the world. This meeting was hosted at St. Patrick's Church, part of Holy Family Parish. On Tuesday night (April 5), the parish hosted the friars for a wonderful dinner complete with a Mariachi band. See the video below for a small taste of that night.


Group photo at St. Patrick Friary

Fr. David Gaa, OFM, new Provincial Minister of St. Barbara Province during Mass.

The Executive Secretary hard at work!

Lithuanian Provincial Minister Algirdas Malakauskas, OFM, during Mass