(This article originally from TAU-USA Issue 102 Winter 2021)
By MARY STRONACH, OFS
National Minister Jan Parker, OFS provided historical perspective as she inspired and challenged the 47 regional ministers, delegates and guests during her State of the Order message.
Responding to Signs of Times
“You cannot quarantine the Holy Spirit” she said.
“In spite of the pandemic and all the upheaval, the work of prayer, peacemaking and building up of the Kingdom has continued in a thousand beautiful ways… We are moving forward in new ways, responding in faith to the signs of the times.”
She quoted the General Constitutions (26.1): “…Secular Franciscans affirm their hope and their joy in living. They make a contribution to counter widespread distress and pessimism, preparing a better future.” Then she added, “The pandemic is not squelching our desire for fraternity – it is strengthening it.”
A Course of Renewal
She then took the attendees on an historical perspective of the Order in the United States from the development of the Pauline Rule of 1978 to the recent “season of visioning” when youth, formation and JPIC leaders, and spiritual assistants came together to help take the Order “on a course to renewal.” She exhorted the brothers and sisters: “we must continue to look for the unexpected joy and open our hearts to this holy newness. We cannot stop now, and we won’t. The Holy Spirit impels us.”
“We are beginning to see the fruit from of our ‘season of visioning’.”
In Formation, new initial formation texts are in the process of being written and “wonderful” resources such as “Formation Friday” have been assisting Regional Formation Directors.
In the area of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, there has been a “real awakening.” JPIC focus groups have formed, and there is more involvement by members at large. A “Franciscan-looking JPIC vision” is being developed, one that we need LIVE and SPEAK “justly, courteously, in peace and with charity.”
In the area of Franciscan Youth and Young Adults, “there is new energy and momentum for outreach to youth and young adults.” An animator training on Zoom has provided new tools for outreach to support and establish YouFra fraternities.
She recognized the work of all committees, saying that “we have made great strides, but we have farther to go.”
She said there were projects that she and the council would like to “make a reality.” These included: a Communications Summit to “explore new ways for Public Relations, Website, Social Media, Database and TAU-USA folks to work together”; continued work on the database; “widening our embrace of culture”; updating the National Statutes, National Guidelines and the Spiritual Assistant Handbook; support of the newly formed “Franciscan Family Forum.”
At the international level, the working document for the next General Chapter, called the Instrumentum Laboris, shines a “bright light on the path ahead.” Announcing the theme: “Animate and Guide with Servant Leadership,” she emphasized that “servant leadership and co-responsibility truly is the way to move our Order forward.” She explained that the Instrumentum Laboris is organized “according to the challenges of leadership.”
She challenged the ministers to take the Instrumentum Laboris, review it and respond, considering what it means to animate and guide, to be co-responsible, to be a minister or council member, to lead collegially, to listen, to collaborate. She said that each region would be receiving the complete document with instructions on how to respond.
In closing, she urged, “live a life worthy of your call,” and quoted Francis’ Psalm 7 from the Office of the Passion: “Cast off the weight of sin, and take up the Lord’s holy cross, and follow the Lord’s most holy commands to the very end. So be it. Amen.”