The General Minister greets the Order
Dear Brothers, May the Lord give you peace!
When this letter reaches you, my appointment as Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, by His Holiness Pope Francis, will already have been made public. I want at this time to share some thoughts with you, my dear brothers.
The first thought of immense gratitude goes to the Father of mercies for the kindness shown to me over the years for having chosen and called me since my mother’s womb. He gave me the gift of parents, Angel and Celia, through whom I not only received life, but also an education in the faith, which meant that, from a young age, I felt called to the priesthood and Franciscan life, thus allowing me to respond with great enthusiasm and generosity to such a call. With their example of work and love for the Lord, they always supported me on this journey and were real formators in following Christ. They were joined by my sister, my brother and my nephews, to whom I owe so much in my Franciscan and priestly life. Later, since I was ten and a half years old, the Lord gave me Franciscan brothers who welcomed and formed me, first in my home province of Santiago de Compostela and then in the Holy Land. The brothers of my Province showed me their trust by assigning me to offices of great responsibility, especially in the field of formation and government. Then, the brothers of the Order did likewise by electing me Definitor General, Secretary General for Formation and Studies, and Minister General. Throughout, I never stopped feeling the protecting hand of God and the confidence of the brothers both which failed me not, in spite of my weaknesses. Therefore, I will continue to thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy to me.
I extend special thanks to the brothers who formed me, many of them have already passed away to the Father’s house. I thank also those with whom I have shared responsibilities of leadership and government, first in my Province and then in the Order. Thank you, dear brother Giacomo Bini for your closeness and friendship during these years. From you, I learned so much! Thank you also to you brothers Definitors of my first and second term of service as Minister General. It was not difficult to work with you. You have always been understanding before my limitations and always trusted me. Thank you to my private secretaries, mainly Br. Francisco Javier Arellano, a faithful brother and collaborator, as well as all the brothers of the General Curia without which it would have been impossible to lead and govern the Fraternity. Thank you to all the brothers of the Order. With you I have shared my sufferings and joys, the hardships and joys of life. What a relief for me to know that I was accompanied by almost 15,000 brothers of the Order! Perhaps it has been much what I have given to you in the past 10 years as Minister General and 6 years as Secretary for Formation and Studies, but certainly far more is what I have received from you. Thank you truly! You have been for me a great gift! Now that we will be temporarily apart from each other, I beg you to continue to support and bless me with your prayers and the gift of your brotherhood and friendship.
With Thanksgiving I cannot help recognize my limitations. Yes, it is true, that he to whom much is given much will be required. At the moment, I feel more than ever the weight of my weaknesses, so I apologize first to God, who will judge me and knows me better than I know myself, and then to you, my dear brothers to whom I promised to serve the logic of the gift without reserve. Forgive as many times as I may have offended you. As I place my life before the Lord, I assure you that I never wanted to fail you or fall into favoritism. If humility is truth, then I can assure you with great humility that always I have sought at all times the good of the Order, without thinking about myself or what others would say. I also confess that I have always tried to do myself what I asked you to do. If I have not done so, then I entrust myself to the Lord’s mercy and your fraternal understanding.
Right now I feel in my heart both joy and sadness. Joy because the Lord continues to trust in me and because the Holy Father, my “Lord Pope” Francis, has entrusted a great responsibility to serve Religious and Consecrated life. This is also a sign of his confidence in me and the Order. I also feel sadness because I will miss you, my dear brothers. I will miss your company in prayer, at recreation, meals, and at all times. I will miss your wise counsel and outstretched hand in any need. I am comforted by the fact that I will continue to work for the life I love, for it is also my way of life, that is, the Religious and Franciscan way of life. Know that I will be at your service. Any time you may consider it convenient, do not hesitate to come to me and according to my limited means, I will make myself available, even if it be only going for walk with you.
My Episcopal ordination is slated for May 18, the eve of Pentecost. It will be in Santiago de Compostela. I will be ordained by His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State of His Holiness. I would like to have you all on that day with me physically present, but I know that’s not possible. So, I ask you to remember me in the Eucharist and your prayers because I need them. Indeed, pray for me as I pray for you.
This is my last letter signed as your Minister and Servant. With this thought in mind and deeply moved, I bless you in the Seraphic Father.
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm
Minister General, OFM