May 30, 2018

Today, I arrived at Casa Guadalupe, the Franciscan Friary in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was greeted at the front door by the joyful welcome of Jack Clark Robinson, ofm, the Provincial Minister.

What an amazing person. He was wearing blue jeans and a tee shirt, which certainly didn’t shock me. Only later, in seeing photos of him with Pope Francis and reading about him on the internet, did I come to realize what an important figure he is. He is so grounded and authentically humble, one would never guess that in the religious world of spirituality, Jack is so highly regarded and internationally renowned.

Today is a notable day for the Franciscans (other than my arrival 😉). Having just concluded a significant multi-Province Chapter meeting, culminating work that began in 2012, six of the seven provinces of the Order of Friars Minor in the U.S. have voted to form one new organization. Its goal is to reinvigorate Franciscan life in this country.

Once established, the new organization will comprise almost 1,000 Franciscan brothers and priests who belong to the existing provinces. Jack Clark Robinson is thrilled by what this unifying reality might accomplish. Robinson says, “The new entity will better serve the friars’ fraternal life and mission in the United States.”

The provinces are not calling this process a merger, but rather “Revitalization and Restructuring” (“R+R” for short). The stress is not merely on reducing overhead or saving money, but rather on revitalizing Franciscan life in this country.

Friar Jim McIntosh says, “The ministry opportunities, if we form one province, particularly for the younger friars, will increase dramatically. A young friar may work for a time in an urban ministry such as shrine church; he may choose to work for a while in parish ministry or in one of our ministries for the poor; he may elect to work on the border with migrants; he might choose to serve for a time in a historic California mission; he may decide to work in retreat ministry.”

St. Bonaventure, in his biography of St. Francis, tells us that towards the end of his life, St. Francis would tell the other friars: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.”

One of Francis’ other biographers, Friar Thomas of Celano, tells us that Francis “did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of holy newness, he constantly hoped to begin again.”

From this, it is easy to imagine that Francis knew the excitement that comes with beginning a new project and also of the need to reform structures which no longer meet our needs.”

Revitalization and Restructuring…consider how beneficial this brainchild could be for the entire church? Take it a step further and imagine how such a focus might improve faith communities at the parish level. And let’s go to the next step– the more I consider the possibilities, such an idea has remarkable potential for the faith journey of individuals in their commitment to other Christians.

I arrived in Albuquerque on May 30 and was welcomed by the hospitality and goodness of some incredible Franciscans—their doors and hearts

wide open. As I am learning about who they are and what makes them so remarkable, I feel I am being pursued by a grace I’ve never known before. It’s a grace I’ll call, “revitalization and restructuring.”

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