Tom returned from Rome on January 22. He reports that his meetings with the General Minister, Giacomo Bini, the General Definitory and the newly elected Provincials, from around the world, were an extremely positive experience. He found the experience of fraternity at the General Curia most heartwarming and welcoming. The visit was made even better by the excellent liturgies prepared so that four language groups could interactively participate each time they gathered for prayer.
Giacomo Bini shared with the Provincial Ministers his insights on the spirituality of the minister. He invited them to look at their ministry in the terms of service to and animation of the brotherhood. Giacomo encouraged the ministers to listen to the brothers, to visit them and not to be afraid to fraternally correct them. He emphasized the importance of promoting co-responsibility and ongoing formation as essential elements of the minister's service to the brotherhood.
Stephan Ottenbreit, General Vicar spoke about the situation in the Order today. He cited some "problems": e.g., diminishing numbers, friars not persevering in their vocations, an apathy that tends to paralyze and diminish enthusiasm, a weakening of the quality in which we live our Franciscan vocation, the need to harmonize better our activities with our way of life, and the lack of adequate ongoing Franciscan formation. He also addressed some ways we can deal with these "problems." He mentioned the need to be closer and more present to each other, a need for committing ourselves to a personal and communal project for life, a need to be knowledgeable of what is happening in the Order as a universal brotherhood, a greater need to know Jesus Christ and to grow intimately with him in the service of people and to reconsider present structures so as to allow things to happen in more creative ways.
After each presentation a Provincial spoke of his experience of these issues and then the Provincials divided into language groups for further reflection and discussion.
Peter Schorr, General Definitor spoke on Authority - Obedience - Communion and the problems in leadership today. Great attention was given to the necessity of honoring and respecting the uniqueness of each brother. Peter mentioned that true obedience is the result of a genuine listening to the Word of God, of being attentive to the signs of the times, of listening to the truth of one's own experience and of representing ourselves as true friar minors. He suggested that we need to definitively and clearly state our objectives, make our decisions through dialogue, not lack being sensitive to individual friars and communities and the need to allow everyone to assume responsibility for decisions made.
Jose Rodriguez Carballo, General Definitor and General Secretary for Formation and Studies gave a report on Vocations and the Future. A portion of his report was statistical, i.e., the number of novices, temporary professed, etc. in different parts of the world. He mentioned that vocation recruitment is not simply continuing the efforts of the past. What we are committed to doing is to confer quality on the present. Solely by giving quality to the present we are creating our future. Jose stated that what is needed is a stability of heart. We need to discover and decide; to define and discern what we should be faithful to today. He challenged the Provincials to stop worrying about survival and to move ahead with a certain "creative fidelity." He suggested that "the shortage of vocations could be the thing that will bring us back to look into our inner selves again, and cause to germinate the seeds in the lower reaches of our hearts, and fan to flame again that fire hidden beneath our ashes." He reiterated the need to offer our candidates and young friars a solid and adequate formation. He said: "The problem is not numbers. At times the problem lies in an inability to establish a hierarchy of values (e.g., personal, fraternal, provincial life plan) and to live by these values with joy and conviction ... The problem is not that we are fewer and older. The problem comes when enthusiasm and creativity are missing."
In addition to the talks presented by the various members of the General Administration, the reflections of certain Provincials and the discussion in smaller language groups, Pierantonnio Norcini, Secretary General, shared several administrative and canonical procedures to be followed when dealing with the different offices of the General Curia.
Antonio (Tony) Franjic will become the new Secretary General on February 1. Some members of the Province may remember him. Tony is from Milwaukee and lived with our friars at San Damiano while he was studying in Milwaukee. In December, several of our friars attended his father's funeral. Antonio Franjic is a member of the St. Anthony of Padua Province of Venice.
The day after Tom learned about Berard's death, the Provincials celebrated Eucharist in their various languages groups. Sean Collins prepared a liturgy to commemorate Berard's life and asked Tom preside at it for the English speaking friars. Giacomo Bini and Xavier Yu Soo Il, (General Definitor for Asia) who met Berard when they visited Queen of Peace Friary, were also present. It was especially comforting to experience the brotherly care and sympathy extended to us at this time. One really felt the love and support of an universal brotherhood.
Tom also had the opportunity to meet Vumile Nogemane, Sergius and John Brice's Provincial from South Africa and Joel Colombel, Barnabas' Provincial from Morocco. Other Provincials attending this meeting came from: Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Canada, France, Belgium, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Spain Hungary, Vietnam, Ukraine, Irian Jaya, Mozambique and Peru. The meeting, to the say the least, was an extremely enriching and enlightening experience of meeting people with a wide range of backgrounds coming from a many diverse cultures of our world.
The provinces novitiate program will embark on its first multicultural experience within the novitiate year itself - and not afterwards during the summer as in the past - when the 10 novices depart Feb. 1 for Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Tom Gallagher, novice director, left Jan. 24 to make all the necessary arrangements with their Bolivian friar hosts. The pro-gram will last approximately two months. Address: Los Francis-cans, Casilla 894, Cochabamba, Bolivia. Tom may also be reached by e-mail: TG1021@AOL.COM
"In the recent past," Tom noted, "the newly professed friars were sent to Bolivia, Peru, or Mexico. In reflecting on the experi-ence, it seemed to the novitiate team that this multicultural expe-rience provided some elements that would be helpful to men while still in the novitiate itself.
"The novices will have the opportunity to reflect upon 1. the experience of minority--being pilgrims and strangers; 2. devel-oping a greater appreciation for the culture; 3. living in a Third World country; 4. learning the language; 5. living with friars out-side of the province; 6. experiencing a closer bond with each other as they recognize a greater interdependence.
"The time of the novitiate will also be extended so that these men will be able to continue their study at the Franciscan Insti-tute. The date of First Profession is moved from late May to August 5. The incoming novices (Reception is June 16) and those about to make profession will live together at St. Bonaventures while studying Franciscan Sources. The newly received novices will continue to study the history and writings, and the men pre-paring for vows will study Franciscan Spirituality and Ministry."
The novices will be engaged as full-time students at the Lan-guage School in Cochabamba. They will also experience life in a Bolivian friary and participate in the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours in Spanish.
The Provincial Council passed a resolution at its January meeting concerning the issue of the School of the Americas, as it relates to the Councils known positions on justice and peace. The following is the Councils resolution:
"The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), located at Fort Benning, Georgia, has trained nearly 60,000 military offi-cers from throughout Central and South America and the Carib-bean funded with US taxpayers funds. Historically and currently those trained have returned to their country, and the training they received at the SOA has been used internally against the people of their country, not against outside threats. "Many School of the Americas graduates have been involved in a wide range of human rights abuses. Two of the three Salvadoran officers cited as being responsible for the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero were SOA graduates. Nineteen of the 26 officers cited in the November, 1989 murder of six Jesu-its, their housekeeper, and her daughter in El Salvador, were SOA graduates.
"SOA graduates are not unique to El Salvador. As human rights violations in Colombia escalate, Colombia continues to be one of the major users of the services of the SOA. Many officers implicated in human rights abuses and/or linked to paramilitary forces have been trained at the SOA. Graduates of the SOA also have been indicted for human rights abuses and drug trafficking in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama and Peru.
"The historical use of the training of the SOA runs contrary to our democratic principles and respect of human rights for all people, and its legacy brings shame to us and our country.
"Therefore, in all good conscience, we the undersigned, Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province, call upon the US Congress and the Executive Branch to eliminate the funding for and to close the US Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia."
...This past years demonstration against the School of Ameri-cas at the gates of Ft. Benning boasted a record 12,000 protestors, more than any previous anti-SOA gathering. Nov. 21 marked the 10th time this meeting of nonviolent civil disobedience was spon-sored by SOA Watch. Several of the Provinces friars are reported to have traveled to Columbus, Ga., for the demonstration.
Some demonstrators walked forward at the head of a funeral procession to "cross the line" - trespassing on the U.S. military installation and risking arrest. Some 4,500 crossed the line, an act that is not necessarily consequence-free. Sixty-five people were arrested and 23 were cited for trespassing and will be prosecuted, said Lisa Chen, SOA Watch publicist.
Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, has been jailed five times in the last 15 years and spent four years in jail because of his nonviolent activities.
"Its important for some to cross the line and some to stay on this side," Fr. Bourgeois said. He didn't cross the line this year. Actor Martin Sheen and Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan, author and activist, crossed the line.
Fr. Bourgeois said the importance of the protest has its roots in spirituality, in standing in solidarity with the poor.
"People of faith feel, and believe, they are called to heal the poor - this is the essence of our faith. We are called to relieve the suffering of the poor, and people see the SOA as responsible for the death and oppression of the people of Latin America."
And so they crossed - three, four, sometimes five or six abreast, carrying white crosses with the names of victims they had never known, who spoke a language they may not have un-derstood.