As the Eucharistic Congress ended I got back on the road for another challenging week of meetings, this time with my community of friars. Friar Tom Purcell, with whom I live in Toronto, picked me up at the airport from Québec and together we drove to Buffalo to catch an inexpensive flight to Baltimore. We got stuck at the border, our flight was delayed… it was a long, long day and we didn’t get into BWI till midnight.
On Monday we spent the day preparing for the arrival of the friars. Tom was one of the co-chairs of this assembly and I was co-chair of the liturgy committee. It was a busy time and by the end of the day some 200 friars had gathered from two of our jurisdictions (called provinces) which together cover: Ontario, the east coast of the US and Costa Rica. We also had friars from Jamaica and Italy.
Our two provinces, one born from the other, have been collaborating in many ways for the last 40 years. The topic of our joint assembly was to see how we should move in the future. Is it time to consider becoming one province again?
We were especially graced with the presence of our Minister General, The Most Rev Marco Tasca. He reminded us that though many communities, including groups such as the Jesuits, Friars Minor and Christian Brothers have seen a net decline in members since 1965 of some 44%-79%… our community has had a decline of 1.8% over the same period. He called us a sense of gratitude and dependence on God.
There was a lot of very frank discussions. We celebrated a day of reconciliation to try and overcome past hurts, obstacles and pains that were holding us back. The friars were challenged to allow God to do something new in our midst. The friars voted (with an 84% majority) to ask our leadership to prepare the path towards the re-unification of our provinces into a new province. This will be confirmed by our respective provinces at the Ordinary Provincial Chapters (ultimate governing body of the friars) in 1010 with implementation after approval by the Ordinary General Chapter (the whole world) of 2014 or earlier with the extraordinary permission of the Holy See.