Over 70 Capuchin Franciscan friars gathered for the Province Chapter at St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria, KS from April 22-26, including representatives from Rome, India and Eritrea. The purpose of a chapter is for the friars to elect new leadership, and to reflect on the integrity of their vowed life of prayer, brotherhood, poverty and service to the poor.
In a historic election, the St. Conrad Province elected Br. Mark Schenk as Provincial Minister. This is the first time in the history of the Province that a lay brother has been elected to this position. In addition to the role of Provincial Minister, the friars also elected four friars to serve as his counselors. These include Br. Bill Kraus (Vicar Provincial), Br. Frank Grinko, Br. Curtis Carlson and Br. Sojan Parapilly. The Provincial Council sets the direction and focus of the province for the next three years.
Br. Mark previously served the Capuchins in an international capacity as General Definitor in Rome. As a General Definitor, Br. Mark traveled to English-speaking Capuchin territories throughout the world to ensure their commitment to the Capuchin charism and to serve as an ambassador on behalf of the General Minister. At the time of his election as a General Definitor, Br. Mark was also the first lay brother to hold that position.
The chapter provided an opportunity for the friars to spend time together in prayer, fraternal recreation and, most importantly, in looking at important questions and challenges they face. For the first time in over twenty years, so many friars were present at the chapter that some members had to find lodgings at the homes of local residents. This is due in large part to the increase in vocations in recent years as well as the presence of numerous brothers from other jurisdictions who are serving and studying in the province.
Bishop Gerald Vincke of the diocese of Salina joined the Capuchins on Wednesday afternoon to answer questions and to celebrate Mass. He expressed his gratitude and enthusiasm at the presence of the Capuchins serving in his diocese and hoped that additional friars might be sent to serve in future ministries there.
The chapter also provided an opportunity to celebrate the jubilees of several friars. Br. Earl Befort and Archbishop Stephen Reichert celebrated 50 years of priestly ministry, while Br. Cyrus Gallagher celebrated 60 years of religious profession.