The aim of the chapter was to give the brothers of the two provinces an opportunity to get to know each other and to talk about the fundamental values that inspire their life, as presented in the Order of Friars Minor document Ite Nuntiate. According to Br. Pierre Ducharme, vicar of Christ the King province and a member of the organizing committee for this chapter, the goal was achieved: “I sensed a profound fraternal spirit among the brothers who were present,” he said.
During this fraternal gathering, these spiritual sons of St. Francis had the chance to attend two enlightening presentations related to the challenges that await them as a new Canadian Franciscan province. “I liked that we were able to ask ourselves: Where are we and who are we?” said Br. Carlos Ona of the Vancouver fraternity. “This allowed us to rethink our mission in Canada.”
Br. Georges Morin, from the Parc-Extension (Montréal) fraternity, was very pleased with how the chapter went; he pointed out the perfect “balance between French and English in the presentations and in times of prayer in the chapel. There was a wonderful spirit of harmony and understanding,” he said. Br. Joachim Ostermann of the Duncan, British Columbia, fraternity added, “This chapter is completely in the Franciscan spirit. Renewal is not so much a part of our way of working. It is a reminder that our life as brothers is first and above all a life in community. If we want to move forward, we first need to learn from one another and see in each of us the same Franciscan spirit in our diversity.”
Br. Bob Mokry, minister provincial of Christ the King province in western Canada, described his pride in seeing how the brothers demonstrated openness to each other and made extra efforts to make themselves understood to their fellow brothers who spoke other languages. Despite the different languages spoken, he found it “inspiring to realize that the same vocabulary was used from one language to the next: change, presence, innovation, friendship, mission to youth, etc.” Regarding the cultural diversity of this event, Br. Roland Bonenfant of the Trois-Rivières fraternity said, “I never thought I would be talking about evangelization and pastoral work with a priest from Vancouver who lives with Indigenous people or eating with a brother from India or the Congo.”
Although this chapter was meant to be a time of privileged encounter so the brothers could get better acquainted, it is important to recall that this meeting was also one of the steps leading the Canadian Franciscans to a Chapter of Union, which will take place in Edmonton from October 21 to 25. Br. Peter Williams, who served as general delegate in the process of union, began his presentation of the agenda for the Chapter of Union by reminding the brothers that “we are always en route, trusting that the Lord is guiding us.” He also said that it was not only a unique experience for the two Canadian provinces, but an important one for the Order of Friars Minor as a whole.
This chapter concluded with a festive meal and an evening featuring the brothers’ artistic talents. Many musical numbers were performed, in French and in English. Several countries besides Canada were represented, including India, Korea, Vietnam and Pakistan. Speaking about the talent show, Br. Bob Mokry joked that “some brave brothers tried to show that the Franciscans have talent….”