We gathered, we prayed, we ate and drank, we listened and we had dialogue together. Over the course of two and a half days the O.F.M. Franciscans in Canada built upon our fraternal foundation. As mentioned in my previous post we gathered in preparation for our Union as one O.F.M. Franciscan Canadian Province. There were forty of us who gathered to mark this step towards union. We range in age from mid-thirties to mid-nineties (Which makes us pre-Baby Boomer through to the Millennial generation and believe me this is a whole other topic to write about.)
The input we received was timely and challenging. It pushed us to look beyond our comfortable places and face the realities of a changing Church, world and Franciscan order. The sharing of our two very talented presenters led us to meet several times in small groups to listen and dialogue with each other. It was here that stories were shared, questions were asked and our fraternal reality was enhanced. Simple and profound moments which continued to propel us forward, to look with courage into the future and to gird ourselves with the bravery of Francis and his first followers, as we revitalize and restructure. Here the gifts of listening and discerning where heightened and then continued as we broke bread together, socialized, committees met and we prayed together.
One of the most amazing gifts of being a Friar is when we gather together as a whole in prayer, sometimes a little rough around the edges yet moving and alive. The Spirit is indeed at work, and calling us to one voice in praising God and entrusting our life to our loving God. I believe in these moments of prayer you can hear our yearning to live a gospel life that is relevant and meaningful. In these moments of prayer you can hear our hopefulness and desire to revitalize our Canadian presence and continue to be effective evangelists for the Canadian Church. In these moments of prayer you can also hear our joy and openness for we know the Spirit is at work and we continue trust and step forward.
One of the most challenging parts of being a Friar at this time and space in Canada is the reality check we received with stats on our Order in Canada. Over 50% of Friars in Canada are over the age of 80. 24% of us are under the age of 60. These are sobering facts that we cannot deny. These facts challenge us to honestly look at our goals, dreams and possibilities. How do we live out our charism? How do we preach the gospel? How do we be brother to each other? How do look to the future? It is not with blind trust or denying these truths, rather it is acknowledging where we have come from and what we have built. It is recognizing what we need to let go of and what we can still do. It is in honoring our brothers who have gone before us and those who built our provinces. It is blessing the new work that the new generation will take on. It is in encouraging each other to continue to be messengers of the gospel no matter what age we are. It is here that the work of listening, discerning and living really comes into a reality check for each of us.
It is from this Chapter: the moments prayed, celebrated and reality checked that we move onward, filled with hope and trust that God is working in our Order in Canada and beyond our borders. It is from here that we step into the next six months leading up to the Chapter of Union, which will then begin the ‘new’ work of the Order of Friars Minor in Canada. We trust in our God who is our All. We continue to listen, to discern and to live for this is not a farewell tour, no it is a time for launching the future and securing the foundation. It is a time for hope… (it’s always a time for hope) for we are branches on the Great Vine.
We also continue to rely on your prayers and support.
(Much thanks to our Brothers N. & C. who took great photos)