General Minister begins his report to the Chapter
"The future of our vocation hangs in the balance"
DOMUS PACIS, ASSISI - The first session of Wednesday brought with it the beginning of the Report of General Minister Michael A. Perry, OFM. The General Minister will present his report to the Capitulars today and tomorrow.
There will also be opportunities for the friars to meet in language groups to discuss the report by section, to offer their reflections back to the General Minister and to ask questions that they might have.
|General Minister Michael A. Perry, OFM, begins his Report to the Chapter
In his opening session, the Friar Michael named the challenge that the Order faces currently and in the years ahead. It is the challenge of renewal; a challenge that begins with each individual friar. He said:
The future of our Franciscan religious vocation hangs in the balance.
We must once again confront the threat of further reduction and potential extinction unless and until
renew our total and unequivocal commitment to follow the Lord Jesus,
and allow this to take control and direct all of our subsequent choices and actions.
We can no longer stand with 'one foot in' our religious commitment, while leaving the other foot dangling outside,
probing the horizons of our contemporary disjointed world and cultures for seemingly better opportunities.
We are at a tipping point in the life of the Order when we must make a choice to live totally for God,
to embrace fully our evangelical vocation, living in joy and with courage, and engaging all of our energies so as to mutually embrace and assist one another in this fantastic but difficult Franciscan adventure."
He invoked the image of a tsunami to serve as a metaphor for what is happening in the Order today. "In some senses, we friars and lesser ones are currently living in the midst of a tsunami. We are witnessing the consequences of many convergent forces at work destabilizing the Order from within and from outside over which we have little control.
We are living at a time of tremendous and ever-increasing change, which is provoking a crisis at the deepest levels of our human identity." The General Minister spoke of the many realities of declining numbers in Provinces throughout the world.
|Br. William Short, OFM (SB), General Secretary of the Chapter
But, he also struck a strong note of hope for the future. The General Minister asked the friars gathered to not give in to fears about the future or see the numbers as only a negative sign, but rather to embrace the moment with courage. He pointed out that there are places of great growth in the Order, especially in Africa, in Asia/Oceania and in Eastern Europe. He said:
"I urge you to let go of your fears.
I call upon the brothers of your entities to let go of their fears and to enter unconditionally into a process of discernment that necessarily will lead to conversion and transformation."
The General Minister than turned the metaphor of the tsunami on its head from one that has effected us in a negative way to embracing a spiritual tsunami that might shake up the Order into a revival of fraternal spirit and life. He said:
"It is my hope that the Spirit of God will produce another type of tsunami during this Chapter, a spiritual tsunami in the life of the brothers of the Order...In order for this to happen we must open our lives, individually, collectively, institutionally, to the transformative power of the Word of God...For many of us, there is a sense that what we currently experience, what we are holding onto, is a dramatic need of renewal,
revitalization, and restructuring, at the personal, fraternal, missionary and structural levels of the Order. I share the conviction, as do the members of the current General Definitory, that we must prepare ourselves to undertake an exodus, to leave behind all that is keeping us from reaching God (life of prayer), reaching one another (life of fraternity), and from reaching the people of God (life of itinerancy)."
To do this, the General Minister encouraged the delegates to recover the sense of being dreamers who dream big. He called on a greater sense of solidarity, of being more consciously aware of the global nature of the fraternity rather than the purely local view that can often take hold. He ended by placing all of the discussions of our way of life in the greatest context - that of the quest for eternal life paraphrasing the question of the Gospels, "Master, what must I, what must we friars and lesser ones do to inherit eternal life?"
The Second Session of the General Minister's Report to the Chapter dealt with financial issues, including the current financial crisis. This took place in closed session to respect the sensitive nature of the discussion and because of the confidentiality that is required in this matter by law.
The afternoon was given to small group discussions about the morning presentations.
|Provincial Minister John Puodziunas, OFM (ABVM), Moderator of the Chapter, chatting with Vice Economo Silvio Rogelio de la Fuente, OFM