In last weekend's bulletin, I wrote about the merging of six of the seven Franciscan Provinces (OFM) into one Province this year. That historic event will take place this week (October 16-20) in Kansas City, Missouri. Fr. Massimo, OFM, Minister General (the head of the Franciscan Order) will join us for discussion, prayer and the official establishment of the new Province to be called, Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. Fr. Massimo was elected as the 121st successor of St. Francis of Assisi in July 2021. The headquarters of the Franciscan Order is in Rome.
Please note that, with many of the friars required to attend this meeting in Kansas City, our ministry schedule this week at St. Peter's is greatly reduced. A special brochure for our ministry schedule this week is available in the church lobby or at the security desk. Be aware that times for Masses and confessions will be very limited this week. Please be respectful of the reduced times the small number of friars will be available this week. We will return to our regular weekday ministry schedule on October 23.
In case you did not see last weekend's bulletin, for your information, I repeat below some thoughts and reflections so that you might be more aware of this momentous change in our Franciscan life here in this country. If you have questions just ask one of the friars here at St. Peter's for more information. For almost 150 years the Franciscans have served here in the Loop and we anticipate living and serving many more years here in Chicago.
THE NEW FRANCISCAN PROVINCE OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
In 1493 members of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscan Friars-OFM) became the first Christian missionaries in the western hemisphere when they traveled with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage across the Atlantic. As the Franciscan Order grew and more immigrants arrived on the shores of North American the friars also came to minister to the newly arriving immigrants and to bring the Gospel message to the indigenous people who had lived in the western hemisphere for centuries. As the United States of America was established and grew to encompass territory from the Atlantic to Pacific so also did the presence of the Franciscan Order in many places of the growing country.
The Franciscan Order of Friars Minor throughout the world is divided into various provinces that oversee the friars in specific groups. In the United States there are presently seven Franciscan Provinces of the OFM branch of Franciscan life. Those provinces were established in various regions of the USA due to many different circumstances. Presently the Provinces in the USA and their headquarters are: (1) Holy Name Province, New York City, (2) Sacred Heart Province (we who staff St. Peter's Church) St. Louis, MO, (3) St. John the Baptist Province, Cincinnati, OH, (4) Assumption Province, Milwaukee, WI, (5) St. Barbara Province, Oakland, CA, (6) Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, Albuquerque, NM and (7) Immaculate Conception Province, New York City.
Facing a diminishing number of men entering the Franciscans, the aging of our present members and a call from the Church and the Order to renew our life and ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us as we search how best to live the Gospel way of life as Franciscans in the 21st century and beyond here in North American; the Franciscans began looking at how best to live our Rule given us by St. Francis. That Rule of Life (approved by the Pope in 1223) begins, "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one's own and in chastity."
After many years of meetings, discussions, and prayer in 2018 during a simultaneous meeting of the friars from all the USA provinces, we voted to dissolve our present historical provinces and come together sharing resources, personnel and histories in forming a new province to live and bring the Gospel message to others in the 21st century and beyond. When we made this decision to move into the future in a new way, we knew it would be painful and difficult. While all the members of the USA Provinces are Franciscans we also come from varied backgrounds and experiences. We know that, "we've always done it this way" must give way to perhaps new ways of living our Franciscan life and bringing the Gospel message to others does involve being open to change!
In a historic move, six of the seven USA provinces asked our Minister General (the head of the Franciscan Order headquartered in Rome) and his council to dissolve our present provinces and help us form a new Franciscan province for the USA. The members of Immaculate Conception Province (headquartered in New York City) decided for various reasons not to be a part of the petition for a new province in the USA. They will remain an independent province.
After receiving the petition to form a new Franciscan Province in the USA, the Minister General appointed a friar from Ireland to be his representative in helping the friars in the USA begin this difficult process of forming the new province. In the midst of the COVID pandemic and the resulting obstacles and challenges of that disease, the hard work of building the foundation of a new province began. With many Zoom meetings, on-site meetings, documents to read and study, discussions among the friars and lots of prayers these past few years, elected delegates and other friars will come together October 16-20 to formally establish this new Franciscan Province in the USA. This historic meeting will appropriately be held in the center part of our country in Kansas City, Missouri. Friars will come from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Friars will travel from the northern states of our country and from the ministries we have in the southern states. With faith and trust in the Holy Spirit, whom St. Francis called the real Minister General of the Order, we friars will step foot into the unknown of trying to find the best way to bring the Gospel message to the people of our time and inspired by the faith and example of our founder, St. Francis of Assisi.
As you might imagine, the logistics of this bold move is enormous. But in the coming months, even though we face many unknowns, we will continue to try and live our Franciscan life faithful to the spirit of St. Francis and guided by not only our past but the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. How the establishment of this new Province will affect individual friars and our present ministries will unfold as we begin this new adventure of our Franciscan life and our ministries. In the past few months, after many suggestions and consultations, the friars voted to name the new entity, Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. The headquarters for the new province will be in Atlanta, Georgia.
For the foreseeable future, there will not be any drastic changes. We have young men who are entering the Franciscan Order with a desire to live in Franciscan community and bringing talents to their future ministries. Many of our older friars continue to live and work according to their energy and health in ministry and providing a wealth of many years of experiences to enriching our friary communities throughout the country. We here at St. Peter's have been blessed over the years with having many of our older friars living here and helping out with ministries when they are able. We are confident that practice will continue throughout the many areas where our new province will be living and working.
We who live here in Chicago are the inheritors of the words and actions of Daniel Burnham. This American architect and urban designer helped shape the parks, lakeshore and growth of Chicago in the early 1900's after devastating fires in previous years. His words regarding the re-building of the city continues to guide Chicago. “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.”
For many of us who have been part of our individual provinces for many years, there is sadness in seeing the end of our familiar life. We understand that change is a part of our life following Christ and our ways of doing things over the years may not be what is needed today. However, as our young friars have vowed recently or for we friars who pronounced our vows many years ago, we are called to live The Rule (approved by Pope Honorius III in 1223) that calls us to live as we have vowed..... "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without anything of one's own and in chastity."
Our way of life as St. Francis modeled for us in his life is to be "Pilgrims and Strangers" always ready to find creative ways to live the Gospel and bring the Gospel message to others. St. Francis calls his brothers to rely always on the guidance of God. "And after the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel."(St. Francis Testament, 1226). The consolidation of six provinces into one is an awesome task and truly calls us to rely upon God's guidance.
As the great architect of Chicago, Daniel Burnham stated and we friars now also begin a journey that will challenge us to “Make no little plans...Make big plans; aim high in hope and work..."
As we step into the future, we, friars, need to be men of deep prayer not knowing where God's Spirit is guiding us. As we move forward, we humbly ask for your prayers and support so that we may continue to be men of the Gospel and your faithful servants. Here at St. Peter's, our Catholic faith has been proclaimed for over 175 years. In 2025, we will celebrate the arrival of the first Franciscan Friars to staff this church.
For almost 150 years you have seen us, supported us and together we have walked together the path towards Christ. We now ask for your prayers and support not only for us friars here in Chicago but for our brothers in Boston, New York, San Diego, CA, Pulaski, WI, Phoenix, Tampa, Cleveland, Teutopolis, Jemez Pueblo, AZ Galena, AK, and countless other cities, towns, villages and reservations where the friars serve.
The delegate of the Minister General, Caoimhín (Kevin) Ó Laoide, OFM recently wrote to all the friars who are preparing to form the new province of Our Lady of Guadalupe and asked that we pray the prayer I have included below. I ask that you also pray this prayer this week for us as we gather for our momentous meeting in Kansas City. We will be praying for you also as we gather for the first Provincial Chapter (meeting) of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.
O Mother of Guadalupe,
give us an attentive ear to hear your breath, your word, and diligent hands and feet to go and put forth all our effort to build the House you wanted:
a Church for everyone, a Church for those who cry, and for those who seek,
a Church that listens to the weeping and the sadness of the people,
a Church that purifies and heals all miseries, sorrows, and sufferings,
a Church that serves the Body of Christ
that works for the true and lasting justice, peace, and joy of the Gospel.
Give us again, O Mary of Guadalupe, the assurance of your maternal presence, as we walk with you as disciples of Christ. May we find in you a protective shade, a source of joy, and know that we are in the security of your lap fold and of your carrying cloth.
(Prayer composed by Franciscan Br. Javier Del Ángel De los Santos)
I conclude with this observation...By the end of October, you will have not only the 150 friars of the present Sacred Heart Province, but you will have all of us who have joined together to form one Province of almost 900 friars who will be praying for you, and ask for your prayers for us, who will be the new Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the United States of America!
Pastor of St. Peter's Church