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.
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.
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.
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.
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.