“This is a Franciscan moment in the Church,” proclaimed Bishop David Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, WI, and one of the main presenters at the Twelfth Ordinary Chapter of the Capuchin Province of Mid-America. Bishop Ricken, who chairs the United States Bishops’ Committee on “The New Evangelization,” was referring to the thrust that the newly-elected Holy Father, Pope Francis, was giving to the Church. Pope Francis’ desire is to rebuild the Church to be a “poor Church for the poor.” How much more “Franciscan” can one get, especially for the first Jesuit pope?
Bishop Ricken made immediate connection with the Mid-America friars. He was a graduate of St. Francis Seminary and was speaking to some of his former teachers: Frs. Blaine, Gilmary, Harvey, Cyrus, Gene, and others. He was immersed in the Franciscan spirit, as he often acknowledged. His presentations, as well as his homily at Mass, explained the “New Evangelization” and its history; and he challenged us to seize this Franciscan moment.
The current status and report of the 2010-2013 Triennium was presented in the form of a PowerPoint presentation by its Provincial Minister, Fr. Charles Polifka, who served as provincial from 1989-1995 and again from 2007-2013, in addition to 1988-1989 as vicar provincial when Archbishop Charles Chaput was taken from the province to be the Bishop of Rapid City. Charles reported on the ministries, fraternities, administration, finances, and direction of the province, noting in his closing remarks that the current “right sizing” of the province is in place and we are ready to move forward in evangelizing on all fronts of the province.
A straw ballot prior to the Chapter and one at the beginning of the Chapter indicated that the friars were seriously considering Fr. Christopher Popravak, vicar provincial from 2010-2013, to be the new Provincial Minister. On Wednesday afternoon of Chapter week, the official vote was taken and the friars united around Christopher and elected him as the new provincial. After Christopher humbly accepted the election, Charles embraced the new provincial and joyfully handed over the keys to the administration building and provincial office.
In the following days, interspersed with the presentations on the New Evangelization, a new council was elected to assist Christopher. Frs. John Cousins, David Songy, John Lager, and Jeff Ernst were elected to the Council. John Cousins was elected from the Council to be theProvincial Vicar.
Jubilees were celebrated on Thursday evening with a special Mass and a “toasting” of
Fr. Michael Suchnicki, celebrating 25 years of priesthood and Fr. Gene Emrisek, who celebrates this year 50 years of religious life.
The Chapter closed with a Mass on Friday morning in which the proclamation of the elections was proclaimed by Chapter secretary, Fr. Joseph Mary Elder. The newly elected provincial minister and council were then installed by Br. Mark Schenk
While no official proposals were passed by the Chapter, the friars left with a new understanding of the New Evangelization. The newly elected administration went to work immediately on setting the province in order for a new and exciting triennium.