I’ve been offered the chance to write a few words of welcome to this quarter’s Newsletter and to give a glimpse of what direction I see the province moving forward in the four-year term just beginning. To be honest, I expect to see a lot of continuity between the things that are at the top of the list to be accomplished and efforts that have been underway for quite some time. We are the same group of friars, after all, even if we have been switching seats.
One of the things we friars have been about for decades now is “responding to the signs of the times in the light of faith,” a commission that comes to us from the Second Vatican Council. The signs of the times themselves may have shifted, but the call to respond to them remains constant. We have the great benefit, I believe, in living in a moment when reading the signs of the times is being done in such a prophetic and immediate way by Pope Francis. For Pope Francis, a central feature of the unfinished business of Vatican II is to change the structures of the Church so that they are more inclusive of all the gifts the Holy Spirit has poured into the hearts of the faithful. In these next four years I expect the province to heartily embrace the synodal process that is underway.
Over the course of the centuries, the Conventual Franciscan charism has included a strong sense of being available to the direction and impulse given by the bishop of Rome. We have striven to be good foot soldiers in the larger movements of the time. We have such a great advantage in our day that the pope’s direction is so clear, so compelling. In his most recent encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis has provided the whole Church with guidance that will hold pride of place in how I see us friars organizing our life and witness to the Gospel.
We have already begun to make changes in keeping with the great movements these encyclicals have recently put into motion. I see us continuing to work toward a sustainable presence in the world, one which strives to be a part of the solution to the environmental degradation and overuse of resources that is occurring and stays focused on taking seriously Pope Francis’s call to hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.
Our province has also been working for quite some time now on becoming better partners with friars throughout the order. We continue to work at discovering our common bonds which transcend individual cultures and starting points and which make possible inter-cultural living, beginning in the local friary community. I see such great promise in the call to encounter and dialogue that Francis spells out in his most recent encyclical. Those behaviors help us greatly to uncover our implicit biases and how they keep us from fully embracing our new life in Christ. They free us up for the work of proclaiming the Good News to all of creation.
It’s hard not to hear the call and to get excited to be a part of its answer. Knowing the friars as I do, I look forward to the new initiatives the Holy Spirit brings into our common life, and to working with all our friends and fellow laborers in the vineyard to bring a fitting harvest from all that God has given us.