December 08 – January 09
Two weeks ago I completed a visitation of the Capuchin Poor Clares. Fr. Bill Kraus assisted me in part of the visitation as each sister was individually interviewed. It was a two-week long event beginning on the memorial of St. Rose-Philippine Duchesne, the “woman who always prays” (the name given to her by the Native Americans in Kansas) culminating midway through the visitation in a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the sisters’ arrival in Denver, and ending with a community meeting in which the sisters echoed their Capuchin brothers in desiring to move toward re-envisioning and renewing. The sisters, like their Capuchin brothers, are praying for courage, wisdom, common sense as they face tough decisions. In a few weeks, I will be starting a visitation of the brothers. We have been through so much in 2008 – deaths, sicknesses, reassignments, closings, openings, building, financial losses, financial office re-structuring – and still, I believe, God is prodding us, calling us, encouraging us, loving us. We have lots to do yet, and if we make our simple commitment to prayer and service, I believe we will have the joy and the strength that we need to do it.
“Visitations” are special times for Capuchins and for all religious, for that matter. They are times when each individual re-assesses himself or herself in terms of everything from spiritual and physical health to ministry effectiveness to dreams for the future. Our Capuchin Constitutions require the major superior to do formal “visitations” regularly. Formal visitations are more than just a casual conversation about “how things are going.” They are times of examination, both individually as well as communally. Each community will also have a “House Chapter” during its time of visitation. It will be a time of serious discussion about community life as well as the direction of the province. It will be a time of affirmations and a time of challenges.I hope that you who read this will keep the sisters and friars in prayer in these weeks and months. The sisters are beginning their work of confronting some challenges that were raised from the visitation. Vocations, development, facilities, and aging are among the issues they must face. Their strong prayer life and deep commitment to their identity as Capuchin Poor Clares will make their decisions spirit-filled and hopeful.
The friars just completed a survey developed by the Provincial Council. It was an appraisal of how the many tough decisions have affected them in their Capuchin renewal. It was also an opportunity for all of us to reflect on “what’s the next step.” More than two-thirds of the friars were impacted by decisions that were driven by our values of fraternity, prayer, and service to the poor. Visitations will begin early in January and conclude in late March. The survey was just a beginning. The visitation will be a continuation. We meet in Assembly, as is our custom, during Easter Week, to continue our journey of re-envisioning and renewal.
The discontinuation of our ministries in St. Louis has been difficult for us. Compounding the difficulty is the serious illness of one of the friars who has served in St. Louis for most of his priesthood. Father Valentine celebrated his 60th anniversary of ordination and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer within days of that celebration. He is currently undergoing treatments.
On the other hand, we are so grateful for all the blessings God is giving us. We have wonderful students and candidates who are enthusiastic about Capuchin life and the directions of the province. We opened two new friaries in Colorado – friaries that are founded on basic Capuchin values. Our ministries to the immigrants and to the poor are flourishing from Lawrence, Kansas, all the way to Denver and Colorado Springs. The work of re-envisioning and renewing our life and our presence in Mid-America is off and running.
Each day, in every friary, we pray for vocations and we also pray the following prayer, which I invite you to pray with us:
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness and uncertainty of our hearts.
Give us true faith, certain hope, unselfish generosity, and perfect charity, as
we together renew and re-envision the life and ministry of our province. Give us
sense and knowledge, the ability to listen to you and to one another, and the
courage to carry out your true and holy command. Amen.
It is a prayer based on St. Francis’ “Prayer Before the Crucifix” and was adapted by the Provincial Council at the beginning of our journey of re-envisioning and renewal.
You will be remembered by me and all of us during this holy season of Christmas as well as throughout the New Year. You are special to us, and will always be special. Please remember the friars and sisters in your prayers, too.
May the Lord give you peace, joy, and every good blessing. Have a Blessed Christmas and a joy-filled New Year.
Sincerely in Francis and Clare,Fr. Charles Polifka, OFM Cap.Provincial Minister