AN OPEN LETTER

to All the Fraternities of the Order
From the Friars Gathered at the
202nd Ordinary General Chapter of 2019

 

Let us begin, broth­ers, to serve the Lord God,
for up until now we have done lit­tle or noth­ing!” (1Cel 103: FF 500)

 

We, the fri­ars called to the 202nd Ordi­nary Gen­er­al Chap­ter, wish to share with you, dear broth­ers, the beau­ti­ful and mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ence we had dur­ing this fra­ter­nal event. We are 130 fri­ars rep­re­sent­ing every coun­try in which the Order is present. Among us there are nine­ty-six vot­ing mem­bers, thir­teen audi­tors and sev­er­al more fri­ars who work in the sec­re­tari­at as trans­la­tors, inter­preters, litur­gi­cal ani­ma­tors, etc. We thank them for their straight­for­ward, hard work and the many indis­pens­able ser­vices they pro­vid­ed.

On May 18, 2019, we gath­ered at the Sacred Con­vent in Assisi, the hub and birth­place of our Order. The days we spent there, close to the tomb of our Seraph­ic Father St. Fran­cis, were full of pow­er­ful prayer and reflec­tion. We should men­tion in par­tic­u­lar, the retreat led by His Emi­nence, Luis Anto­nio Car­di­nal Tagle and the solemn Mass presided over by the Most Rev­erend Domeni­co Sor­renti­no, Bish­op of Assisi, on the feast of the Ded­i­ca­tion of the Basil­i­ca of St. Fran­cis. More­over, we ded­i­cat­ed prayer to the new saints of our Order who had recent­ly been rec­og­nized by the Church and we par­tic­i­pat­ed in sim­ple moments of per­son­al prayer before the tomb of our father St. Fran­cis.

Dur­ing those first days, we eval­u­at­ed the pre­vi­ous six-year term. Sev­er­al inter­est­ing reports were deliv­ered in the Chap­ter audi­to­ri­um. The report offered by the for­mer Min­is­ter Gen­er­al, Fri­ar Mar­co Tas­ca, was one that cer­tain­ly caught our atten­tion and gave us pause for reflec­tion. His report also con­tained sec­tions con­tributed by each of the Gen­er­al Defin­i­tors. We salute Fri­ar Mar­co and offer him our sin­cer­est thanks and heart­felt appre­ci­a­tion!

On May 25, the Capit­u­lars gath­ered with great joy to elect a new Min­is­ter Gen­er­al. After invok­ing the Holy Spir­it, the doors of the Chap­ter audi­to­ri­um were closed and the fri­ars, anx­ious, but filled with faith, went on to elect Fri­ar Car­los Alber­to Trovarel­li as the 120th Min­is­ter Gen­er­al of the Fri­ars Minor Con­ven­tu­al. After his elec­tion, all of the reli­gious at the Sacred Con­vent, the Capit­u­lars, and many oth­er fri­ars, went in pro­ces­sion to the tomb of St. Fran­cis for the oath of the new Min­is­ter Gen­er­al and a moment of intense and fra­ter­nal prayer. For many of us, com­ing from many dif­fer­ent coun­tries and cul­tures, it was a mov­ing expe­ri­ence to be fri­ars togeth­er at the tomb of the Poverel­lo of Assisi, to expe­ri­ence our sense of fam­i­ly and belong­ing to a sin­gle Order. On Mon­day, May 27, we moved on to pre­sen­ta­tions and vot­ing for the elec­tion of the Vic­ar Gen­er­al, the Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al and the sev­en oth­er Gen­er­al Defin­i­tors and Assis­tants Gen­er­al for the indi­vid­ual Fed­er­a­tions.

With the elec­tion of the Gov­ern­ment of the Order com­plet­ed, our stay in Assisi was over and we moved on to Coll­e­valen­za, to the Casa del Pel­le­gri­no guest cen­ter, next to the Shrine of Mer­ci­ful Love. In this joy­ous and fra­ter­nal set­ting, nes­tled amid the beau­ti­ful Umbri­an hills, we reflect­ed upon and eval­u­at­ed some of the fun­da­men­tal aspects of our life of fra­ter­ni­ty and apos­to­late.

First, dear fri­ars, let us point out the fruit­ful­ness of our fra­ter­ni­ty. We stud­ied and approved the new Gen­er­al Statutes. We dis­cussed and reflect­ed on Fran­cis­can Dis­ci­ple­ship, the Ratio Stu­dio­rum and oth­er motions, but this was not always easy. Sev­er­al times dur­ing the dis­cus­sions in the Aula, dif­fer­ing view­points would emerge. How­ev­er, by real­ly lis­ten­ing to each oth­er, and engag­ing in thought­ful dia­logue, this diver­si­ty of opin­ion was trans­formed into an oppor­tu­ni­ty for growth and fra­ter­nal uni­ty. We were able to per­son­al­ly expe­ri­ence the joy and beau­ty of fra­ter­ni­ty when, by accla­ma­tion, we erect­ed two new Provinces: Kenya and Indone­sia. The fri­ars in the Chap­ter audi­to­ri­um were over­joyed and applaud­ed for sev­er­al min­utes. The eyes of some fri­ars were shin­ing with emo­tion. Oth­er fri­ars, their voic­es trem­bling and joy­ful, embraced and exchanged con­grat­u­la­tions and best wish­es. The joy and beau­ty of being togeth­er was vis­i­bly expressed in the fes­tiv­i­ties orga­nized by the Kenyan and Indone­sian fri­ars, in the beau­ti­ful pil­grim­ages the fri­ars made to Cor­tona and the Basil­i­ca of Saint Antho­ny of Pad­ua on his feast day. It was expressed in the vis­its the fri­ars made to Arez­zo and Peru­gia. It was won­der­ful to go back to the roots of our Order, to expe­ri­ence the sim­plic­i­ty of accep­tance and the joy of voca­tion.

Mis­sion is anoth­er top­ic we would like to share with you dear fri­ars around the world. We spent many hours, in the Aula, dur­ing fra­ter­nal moments in the refec­to­ry, in the hall­ways, even in our free time, fur­ther study­ing and dis­cussing how to make a Fran­cis­can dif­fer­ence with our fra­ter­ni­ties as we car­ry out Mis­sio ad Gentes and the New Evan­ge­liza­tion. We tried advanc­ing new pro­pos­als on col­lab­o­ra­tion with the laity and on ecol­o­gy, as well as deal­ing with oth­er issues in the light of the signs of the times. We also turned our atten­tion to youth min­istry, voca­tion­al dis­cern­ment and the ongo­ing crises in reli­gious life. We would be remiss if we did not men­tion — with some sad­ness — the many depar­tures from the Order. All of these issues are chal­lenges we must face. How­ev­er, in these trou­bled times for soci­ety, the Church and our Order, we are cer­tain that our hope in God will nev­er be mis­placed. We must take more care in our for­ma­tion process. We must fos­ter an intense and rad­i­cal spir­i­tu­al life and at the same time be mind­ful of the human per­son. If we do this, we will be blessed and sup­port­ed in liv­ing out our voca­tion as a gift to God and to our broth­ers. We shall over­come or trans­form cri­sis, fatigue or any per­ceived loss of pur­pose.

As we con­clude this Ordi­nary Gen­er­al Chap­ter, we can say that, despite our dif­fer­ences and dif­fi­cul­ties, we will return to our com­mu­ni­ties feel­ing con­fi­dent. With your help and with the help of the Vir­gin Mary and our dear saints, our blessed and ven­er­a­ble Fran­cis­cans, we shall renew our strength, hope and courage in fol­low­ing Jesus through our Fran­cis­can charism. Thus, God will­ing, we can be signs of reconciliation—friars in har­mo­ny with all of cre­ation, who desire to bring peace to our neigh­bor­ing broth­ers and sis­ters, espe­cial­ly those in pover­ty, liv­ing on the out­skirts of the world.

As a final point, let us tell you that we have no doubt that this Chap­ter assem­bly was strength­ened by the con­stant and heart­felt prayers which you, true broth­ers in the Lord, raised up on our behalf. For this we thank you! More­over, we are grate­ful for the trust you have placed in us.

We thank God for all the good he has done for us and to which we tes­ti­fy. We ask the Holy Spir­it to guide the new Gov­ern­ment of the Order as its mem­bers begin their ser­vice to the whole Order. As we con­tin­ue to pray for them, we humbly ask Saint Fran­cis to bless us all:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May He show His face to you and be mer­ci­ful to you.
May He turn His coun­te­nance to you and give you peace.
May the Lord bless you…” (FF 262).

 

Coll­e­valen­za, June 16, 2019

The Fri­ars of the 202nd Ordi­nary Gen­er­al Chap­ter