Chapter of Mats of the French Provinces
From July 2-7, 2012, eighty-five Franciscan Friars of the Province of Blessed Pacific (Western France) and of the Three Companions (Belgium- Eastern France) held a Chapter of Mats at St. Thomas Cultural Center of Strasbourg, in order to reflect on the future of the new unified French Province. Roger Marchal, General Definitor for Central Europe (COTAF), who had come from Rome, was also in attendance. More than a merger of Provinces, the joint opinion of the Friars was that of walking toward a new foundation or a re-founding of the Franciscan presence in French-speaking countries. A key theme of the meeting was Evangelization, a reflection which was introduced by Msgr. Musser, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Strasbourg.
What kind of evangelization should be done after secularization and the times of post-modernity, in the framework of the synod on evangelization? Noteworthy was the insistence of the Friars on evangelizing fraternity and evangelizing our fraternity with contemporary tools, the use of the media, openness to the youth, and the pastoral care of vocations, without neglecting, however, the older Friars, who are worthy of all our love and gratitude. The Delegate General, Robert Mokry, Custodian of Morocco, was present and glad to accompany our journey toward amalgamation; he called us to trust and hope. The two outgoing Provincials, Brother Dominique Joly and Benoît Among Dubigeon facilitated throughout the whole discussion. Br. Jean – Paul Aragon and Br. Jose Kohler addressed the issue of the relationship with material goods and property. What legal and economic structure should be chosen for the new Entity? Even aspects of social security, paid work, pastoral commitment came up in the debates in light of the diversity between the regional concordat and non-concordat of the whole area.
The atmosphere was festive with an intense and very orderly liturgy. There were some particular reasons for joy, such as the sending out of a young Friar (Br. Stéphane) to the Mission of Morocco; the recent ordination of three French brothers; the growing success of the new Franciscan School of Paris who seek to increase collaboration with the international research centers of the Order; the arrival of several postulants; and numerous contacts with the French-speaking countries in Africa, Asia, and Polynesia. Two African students participated in the Chapter. Hence, the traditional missionary efforts of the two Provinces is still lively.