“I couldn’t be elected Dog Catcher….”

Chapter delegates in session
Chapter delegates in session

Our third day of Chapter continued with proposals, some of which gave birth to some very lively discussions among the friars. Discussions like these can be very intense and challenging to moderate, but Jim Kent, our Minister Provincial, has a gift for making sure that everyone is heard. Some proposals needed to be re-worked and re-submitted to the delegates; one was withdrawn so that more information could be gathered with the intention of a similar proposal being made at an extra-ordinary chapter.

The afternoon brought us to the election of Guardians (local superiors) of the Friaries of the province and the chairmen of the various province commissions. Guardians are nominated by the Minister Provincial, but they must be approved by the Chapter. When a person is elected, the Secretary of the Province, Friar Nicholas Wolfla, asks the person if he is willing to serve as Guardian or

Friars Tim Unser and Wayne Hellmann.
Friars Tim Unser and Wayne Hellmann.

Commission Chairman for the next four years. If the Friar consents, then Jim Kent announces that the friar is duly elected and may take full possession of his office. When a Friar is elected, but is not present, he must be contacted by phone; this can make for some interesting scenarios. In one case, a Friar returned the call to Nick and Nick asked him to be Chairman of the wrong commission; something that the Chapter delegates quickly corrected him. (All this is taking place on speakerphone, so if the NSA was listening, they probably thought, “Who are these crazy people?”)

Friends have asked me if I would ever like to serve in an elected office, such as Definitor, Guardian, Commission Chair, and my standard answer is, “I couldn’t be elected dog catcher [my apologies to those dedicated men and women in animal control].” Well, on Wednesday, my premise was blown to bits as I was proposed to serve as Chairman of the Continuing Formation and Education Commission. Not only was I proposed, but I was elected! This Commission plans province retreats, reviews requests for funding for continuing education or sabbatical opportunities for the Friars, and works with the Minister Provincial and Definitiory to provide opportunities for continuing education and formation among the friars. After my election, the Friar sitting next to me said, “You know, I was wondering who Jim was going to ask to take this Commission over, and when I saw your name, Bob, I thought ‘He’s a good choice.'” Thanks to my brothers for the vote of confidence.

Friar Wayne leading a group through the Chapel construction site.
Friar Wayne leading a group through the Chapel construction site.

After Dinner, Friar Wayne Hellmann gave Friar Paul Clark and myself a tour of the Chapel that is under construction. I asked Wayne if I could video it and he graciously agreed. The video should be appearing on our province website. I have to admit, it was a little dicey folllowing Wayne around the construction site; I had to keep my eyes on the LCD screen  AND be conscious of any spots where i might trip — I came close to a couple of times, but managed to stay upright.

At Evening Prayer, the Guardians of the province were formally installed. Because of the nature of their office, they are required to make a public Profession of Faith, which they did as a group after the reading at Evening Prayer.

Guardians make their Profession of Faith during Evening Prayer
Guardians make their Profession of Faith during Evening Prayer

We meet tomorrow morning to review and hopefully endorse the changes to our Strategic Plan and then all of us will depart home. Fr. Steve and I have a 220 mile drive to the Albuquerque airport awaiting us. Please pray that we arrive in time to make our flights. I wonder if the road construction on CTY 44 will have started?

Some of the new Guardians for the province pose with Friar Jim Kent.
Some of the new Guardians for the province pose with Friar Jim Kent.

 

Chapter…Day 2: A Day of Proposals

Friars Andrew Martinez and Miguel Briseno participate in a chapter discussion.
Friars Andrew Martinez and Miguel Briseno participate in a chapter discussion.

Day 2 of Provincial Chapter opened under overcast skies here in the Mesilla Valley. After Mass, the delegates gathered in the Large Conference Room for a review of the work that had been done the previous day in small groups. After some brief discussion, we returned to those same small groups to formulate responses to the work that the group facilitators had done in identifying common themes and strategies among the groups.

We broke for lunch and in the early afternoon we took up one of the significant tasks of a Provincial Chapter: the consideration of Chapter Proposals.

Friars John and Leo share a light moment after dinner.
Friars John and Leo share a light moment after dinner.

Any Friar, Friary, province commission, the Definitory and/or the Minister Provincial may bring a proposal to the chapter delegates. Proposals can deal with anything that affects the lives of the friars in the province; many of the proposals at this chapter addressed revisions to our province statutes, while others asked for changes around the manner in which provincial chapters are conducted, to a simple name change for a province commission.

Chapter delegates pose in front of the new chapel under construction at Holy Cross Retreat.
Chapter delegates pose in front of the new chapel under construction at Holy Cross Retreat.

Some parts of this session seem a bit tedious, especially when discussion on a topic goes on for a long time, but this is part and parcel of the Chapter process. Issues are discussed openly and frankly with all points of view considered. After sitting through one of these sessions a number of us ask, “Why would anyone WANT to do this?” It’s the work that we are mandated to do and we have to respect the individual friars or groups of friars who took the time to formulate a proposal and present it to the Chapter delegates for consideration.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of the Las Cruces diocese, offering his homily at Mass.
Bishop Oscar Cantu of the Las Cruces diocese, offering his homily at Mass.

Bishop Oscar Cantu, the bishop of the Las Cruces diocese, served as the celebrant for our afternoon Eucharist. We were also joined by several young men who are considering a vocation to religious life. (As a matter of fact, one of the young men has already been accepted into our postulancy program.) While the small chapel was a bit overcrowded, we did our best to make everyone feel included and welcome.

In his homily Bishop Cantu thanked the Friars for their many contributions to building up the church in the diocese but he also encouraged us to look to the future. He spoke of the balance that we all have to maintain between ministry and prayer (it was the Memorial of St. Martha, so the theme was apropos). He shared the story of his time as a pastor in Houston, and how he would often have a newly-ordained priest assigned to his parish. In one instance, the young priest was bright and earnest, but then-pastor Cantu noticed that this young priest would only leave his door open slightly. One day, pastor Cantu knocked and he noticed that the young priest was pouring over his upcoming homily. He gently reminded the young priest that the closed door was sending the wrong signal to people. Yes, it is important to prepare your homily, but it is more important to be available to the people of the parish, and an open door, signals that openness.

Friar Wayne Hellmann explaining the spirituality and theology behind the design of the new chapel at Holy Cross Retreat.
Friar Wayne Hellmann explaining the spirituality and theology behind the design of the new chapel at Holy Cross Retreat.

After Evening Prayer, Friar Wayne Hellmann, a professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University gave a tour of the chapel under construction. The shell of the building is up and the interior spaces are defined so as Wayne explained the layout of the new Chapel and the spirituality behind the design choices it was easy to picture what this beautiful space will be like in a few months.

Evenings for the Chapter delegates are free for the most part. Some friars retire to their rooms to read or catch up on correspondence and many gather in the Small Conference Room to play cards, swap stories and relax. These are the moments that lift everyone’s spirits as everyone has a “Do you remember when….?” type of story.  It’s a good time to catch up with one another and to renew the bonds of friendship and fraternity that we share.

Friars Paul Schloemer, Camillus Gott, Bob Baxter, Richard Kaley and Paul Clark share some quality time together.
Friars Paul Schloemer, Camillus Gott, Bob Baxter, Richard Kaley and Paul Clark share some quality time together.

Bienvenidos a Santa Cruz (Welcome to Holy Cross)

Holy Cross Retreat, Mesilla Park, NM, site of the Second Session of the Province Chapter
Holy Cross Retreat, Mesilla Park, NM, site of the Second Session of the Province Chapter

This week, Fr. Steve McMichael and I are attending the second session of our provincial chapter at our Retreat House, Holy Cross Retreat and Spirituality Center, in Mesilla Park, New Mexico. About 25 Friars from our province will be in attendance.

Construction on the new Chapel for Holy Cross Retreat is moving along on schedule. The building should be ready by the end of the year.
Construction on the new Chapel for Holy Cross Retreat is moving along on schedule. The building should be ready by the end of the year.

Chapter is a term used to refer to formal meetings of the Friars. In days past, a chapter of The Rule was read at these gatherings, and the term, “Chapter,” came to connote an official gathering of the Friars. We hold chapters on the local level once a month, but every four years our province elects delegates to attend this important gathering.

During the First Session of Chapter, which was held at Mt. St. Francis Center for Spirituality, the delegates listened to reports from the Minister Provincial, the Province Treasurer, the Chairmen of the various province commissions, and our Development Director. We also heard from the Vicar General of our Order, Fr. Jerzy Norel, and our Assistant General for the the English-speaking friars of North America, Great Britain and Ireland and Australia, Fr. Jude Winkler. Much of our work at this session of Chapter was to review our Strategic Plan in small working groups.

Friars Fred Pasche, Bob Baxter, Paul Clark, Joe West, Randy Kin and John Bamman, one of the four working groups that are tasked with revising our province strategic plan. (I am a part of this group, but I'm taking the picture.)
Friars Fred Pasche, Bob Baxter, Paul Clark, Joe West, Randy Kin and John Bamman, one of the four working groups that are tasked with revising our province strategic plan. (I am a part of this group, but I’m taking the picture.)

At the conclusion of this First Session of the Chapter, Fr. Jim Kent, was installed as Minister Provincial for a second term. He was joined by his new definitory: Fr. John Stowe, Vicar provincial; Nicholas Wolfla, secretary of the province, and Edmund Goldbach, Miguel Briseno, Mark Weaver and Randal Kin, all serving as definitors. (A definitor serves in an advisory capacity to the provincial; they are akin to a board of directors for the province.

As we gather in New Mexico, a state where the Friars first came to do ministry in the 1930s, many of us were anxious to see the new Friary residence for the Friars and the construction progress of the new Chapel for the Retreat Center.

Friar John Stowe, Vicar Provincial, presides at the opening Mass of the Holy Spirit on Monday. The large painting behind the crucifix is called a retablo.
Friar John Stowe, Vicar Provincial, presides at the opening Mass of the Holy Spirit on Monday. The large painting behind the crucifix is called a retablo.

Holy Cross Retreat and Spirituality Center is situated in the midst of a large pecan orchard. The property was originally owned by the Monaghan family, who built a 14 room hacienda around a central patio; the adobe used in the construction of the hacienda was manufactured on site.

In 1947 the property was owned by Henry and Beatrice Fountain (Beatrice was the foster daughter of Mrs. Monaghan’s sister, Shirley Thomas; the Monaghans had no children.) In 1954, the Fountains determined that the property was too large for them and they sold most of it to the OFM Friars in 1954. Friars arrived shortly afterwards and began construction on most of the buildings that the retreat center uses today. The first retreat was offered in 1957.

In 1980, the OFM friars gave Holy Cross Retreat to the Conventual Friars of the Custody of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an offshoot of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation. (In the early 1990s, the Custody was suppressed, and the friars of the Southwest were reintegrated into the Province of Our Lady of Consolation.)

Chapter officially began with the Mass of the Holy Spirit in the small chapel. After the Liturgy, the Friar-delegates gathered in the Large Conference Room to begin the Second Session of Provincial Chapter. After some announcements from the local Guardian and Retreat Director, Fr. Tom Smith, the delegates were welcomed by Minister Provincial, Fr. Jim Kent, who outlined the course of the next four, very busy days.

Friar Jim Kent, (2nd from the right), Minister Provincial, gives directions to the Chapter delegates.
Friar Jim Kent, (2nd from the right), Minister Provincial, gives directions to the Chapter delegates.

The first task that we are addressing are suggested revisions to our province’s strategic plan.  This work takes place in small working groups which are scattered throughout the Retreat Center campus. Work in small groups will continue through Tuesday lunch.

We have been blessed with some much-needed rain while we have been here. The cloud formation have been quite dramatic.

A view towards the retreat bedrooms. The corner of the Large Conference Room may be seen in the right corner.
A view towards the retreat bedrooms. The corner of the Large Conference Room may be seen in the right corner.

Remembering Wayne Egan 1937-2014

We had sad news on Friday; Wayne Egan, a long-time friend and volunteer at the Retreat House, passed away unexpectedly in his home in Prior Lake.  image

Wayne’s parents, Margaret and Mark Egan, were great supporters of the Retreat House. They ran a Service Station in Savage and allowed Fr. Urban to errect a large sign advertising the Retreat House on  the Service Station property.

Wayne would help out around the Retreat House in various areas, especially in the winter, when he would faithfully plow the parking lot. No matter the amount of snow, Wayne was always there to make sure that the lot was clear for Friars, staff and retreatants.

Wayne did not like being in the spotlight, but he was a generous and gentle soul. May he rest in peace.