Ever since Easter of 1977 when the Capuchin friars of Mid-America and the Capuchin friars of Pennsylvania formed two provinces, the Capuchin friars of Mid-America have gathered annually for assemblies and, every third year, for “Chapters.” Assemblies are gathering of friars for fraternal renewal, input on various timely topics, and prayer together. Chapters are times of discussions on future directions and election of leadership. In 2010 (last year) the friars gathered for a “Chapter.” This year (2011) and next year (2012) we come together for Assemblies. Our next Chapter is in 2013.
This year’s Assembly was once again a joyful Easter gathering of fifty of us from Kansas and Colorado. Fr. Frank Grinko was there, too. Fr. Frank is the novice director for all the North American Capuchin Provinces (Guam and Australia, too), and is presently stationed in Allison Park, Pennsylvania. He remains, of course, a part of the Mid-America Province, and will return to our territory after a six-year term as Novice Director. Our missionaries were not able to join us. Of course, Archbishop Chaput and Brother Mark Schenk were also not able to be there either. (Brother Mark was in Poland, presiding at a Chapter of the friars in Cracow.)
The Assembly had some business reports, as usual. I reported on the finances and on various other projects that were happening in the province. Stephanie Pedersen, our Director of Development, reported on the work being done in the Development Office. Gina Francis, director of the Brown Robe Benefit, was there, too, and reported to the friars about her work on the Brown Robe. It was the first time some of the friars were able to meet Gina. These reports were all on Thursday afternoon.
The major parts of the assembly, however, dealt with two topics: Hispanic Culture and Ministry, and the revision of our Capuchin Constitutions.
Mr. Luis Soto, who serves Archbishop Chaput in Denver as the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, presented conferences for a day and a half on issues of Hispanic Culture and Ministry. St. John’s Parish in Lawrence as well as our entire ministry in Colorado has been strongly impacted by the presence of Hispanic people. The friars serve people of all cultures throughout our province, but the growth of the Hispanic population throughout the United States makes it important that we have an understanding of the gifts that these people bring to us and what we can bring to them.
Father Christopher Popravak, the director of our post novitiate programs in Denver and also the “vicar provincial” of our province, serves on an international commission that is revising and updating or Capuchin Constitutions. Fr. Christopher made several presentations on the “changes” and new wordings that will be in the Capuchin Constitutions. The “revised” Constitutions will be presented to the General Chapter of the Order which will take place in Rome in late summer of 2012.
We also celebrated a Mass for our deceased friars and affiliates on Tuesday of Easter Week. Fr. Curtis Carlson led that celebration. On Wednesday, Fr. John Lager led us in a Mass for vocations. Thursday’s Mass was a celebration for our jubilarians: Frs. Blaine Burkey, Matthew Gross, and Harvey Dinkel celebrating fifty years of priesthood; Brother Joseph McGlynn celebrating 50 years of profession; Fr. Canice Froehlich celebrating seventy (70!) years of profession; and Fr. John Toepfer celebrating twenty-five years of priesthood. Fr. Blaine was the main celebrant for the Mass and Fr. John Toepfer preached. The jubilarians were “toasted” during the supper.
During the Assembly, too, the Admissions Committee met to consider applications for Postulancy. And the Provincial Council met with all the students for a listening session.
The Assembly closed with a mass that I led on Friday morning. Some friars stayed for the ACE Auction. The Provincial Council met after the Assembly to begin our personnel planning and to review the Assembly. Most of the friars traveled back immediately to their friaries and continued again, till next year.
Br. Charles Polifka, OFM Cap.