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