News from the General Curia
Dear Brother Ministers and Custodes,
Fraternal greetings of Peace and all Good. I am sending the results of the meeting of the General Definitorium held on July 19, 2012, in regard to the presence of friars in the territory of another Province or country. This issue was already dealt with in the previous six-year term. The General Definitorium sent a questionnaire to all Provinces and Custodies to assess the presence, in their own territory, of other Provinces, and to hear their opinion on the issue. The fruit of this process, which was carried out by the previous Gen- eral Definitorium, was Chapter mandate 50, in which the General Definitorium was requested to follow such cases and to ‘normalize any situation according to the indications in our legislation’ (cf. GGSS 128 §2), which were approved by the same Chapter.
To fulfill this Chapter mandate, the General Defini- torium began with our current legislation and prepared these ‘guidelines’. They take into account some con- crete situations, along with the opinion of many Minis- ters and Custodes who are dealing with this issue. Our purpose is to eliminate the risk of an identity crisis for the Order in regard to its being a fraternity (cf. GGCC 1§1; 38; 40).
The danger that I refer to is that of favoring, espe- cially in certain countries, some truly island fraterni- ties. They do not have a solid relationship with their home Province due to distance, nor do they have such a relationship with the Province that is receiving them, because juridically the new presence depends on the Minister who sends the friars.
Furthermore, these “guidelines” ask for reciprocity and solidarity between needy Provinces and the Enti- ties that are able to offer help, while always maintain- ing our Franciscan identity. Those friars who come to a
territory different than their own Entity ought to be pre- pared to collaborate readily with the Entity that is re- ceiving them. And the Entity that receives them ought to guarantee the quality of Franciscan life and mission, and not concern itself solely with economic issues.
The ideal is that the friars who arrive from other re- gions truly come to help the needy Entity, and not just the Dioceses, and that they enter fully into the life of the Province that welcomes them. In the cases where this is not possible – and these must truly be exception- al – the legislation of the Order and these “guidelines” from the General Definitorium are to be respected.
In each case, those arriving and those receiving ought to seriously consider the motives in asking for or in offering help. Nor can we forget the issue of re- structuring, to which all Entities of the Order have been asked to be attentive. Its goal is to give new mean- ing to our life and mission, based on the Gospel and our charism. We should seek in all ways possible to overcome a mentality of provincialism (cf. Bearers of the Gift of the Gospel 31), and not be so concerned with maintaining a presence that sooner or later will be closed.
While the Definitorium will see to it that the mea- sures they have approved will be followed, I entrust application of these “guidelines” to the goodwill of the Ministers and Custodes.
Rome, September 25, 2012
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm Minister General, OFM
The Franciscan Provinces were born from a missionary impulse that led groups of brothers to go into new territories under the ministratio of a Friar called Minister. They consist of Friars gathered in more hous- es and governed by a Provincial Minister (cf. GGCC 169 § 1 CCC 621) in view of a witness of life and mis- sion always open to new apostolic needs. The reference to missionary, assured the Friars some mobility, so that even today we have brothers from the territory of a Province who go into the territory of another Province engaged in an apostolate, such as proclaiming the Gos- pels in lands yet to be evangelized, pastoral assistance of migrants, the request of bishops or provincials for pastoral help, and more.
The relationship between the Friars of a Province and Friars coming from another Province is today es- sentially configured in the following ways:
1. Autonomous Presences of Friars who arrived for a specific apostolic work, but who have retained their independence from the local Friars and who often lived or are still living alone.
2. Presences by an agreement signed between the Pro- vincial of one’s Province of origin and the Provincial of the Province welcoming the Friar (cf. GGSS 128 § 2; 248). These are small fraternities of another Prov- ince who are entrusted with a Friary that is also a par- ish, so as to preserve on the spot, a Franciscan pres- ence and continue to serve that parish of the Province. In these two types of presences, the Friars are either isolated or form Franciscan islands that juridically depend on the Provincial of origin. Moreover, they do not participate in the life of the Province that wel- comes them and are likely to be as foreign bodies.
3. Inserted Presences in the Province of arrival, which means that the Friars are received as “guests” and live fully in the Province welcoming them. These presences can make a valid contribution to the Prov- ince and are to be favored.
In the face of this situation – which is evolving and taking different forms in the different geographical and cultural contexts of the Order – the General Definitory is asking itself, “how can we help in the proper inclusion of presences in Entities other than their own?” (Gener- al Chapter 2009, Mandate 50). How can we develop a good “collaboration between the parties” (SSGG 128 § 2)? How can we accompany the brothers who are in an- other cultural, Franciscan, and ecclesial context? How can we continue to foster, welcome, and accompany vocations? What is the future of the Provinces who are requesting and welcoming many fraternities of foreign Provinces, but who live in isolation?
The General View
The phenomenon is not new, but now we must go beyond the justification of pastoral urgency and enter into a vision of solidarity and reciprocity between sis- ters Provinces who are the only universal fraternity. A Province that has more personnel goes to the aid of an- other Province that has weakened in both personnel and vocations, in the name of fraternal solidarity. This sup- port is given primarily to the life of the same Province and afterwards to its pastoral activities. This enables, furthermore, a mutual sharing of gifts, so that some are helped while others are enriched with new experienc- es of Franciscan life. This also implies that the Friars blend fully into the Province that welcomes them (i.e. life in fraternity, ongoing formation, local and provin- cial meetings, etc.), thus contributing to Franciscan life and mission before being an aid to the Diocese.
1. Faithfully observe what is established by GGSS Art. 128 § 2, namely:
- -involve the respective conference, which must
submit its opinion to the Minister General
- -Have the consent of the Definitors of the two Provinces concerned
- -Have also the consent of the General Definitory
- -Draw up an agreement between the parties.
2. The Convention should contain at least the follow- ing: use and responsibility of the property, insertion of the Friars in the Province, care of vocations, and pastoral activity
3. In the first months, the brothers who arrive must be introduced within the context of the Province and the culture of the local church.
4. To ensure the best form of cooperation, each con- crete situation must be examined on a case by case basis.
5. To touch upon the theme of solidarity among the Provinces at the Conferences and at the unions of Conferences (UFME, UCLAF, FCAO, etc.) in or- der to raise sensitivity toward weaker Provinces and identify practical guidelines for the presence of the Friars in other Provinces.
6. In regions where the Provinces don’t have the vital energy, inter-Provincial and / or international fraternities should be promoted in order to give birth to a new Franciscan presence.