They things slow down as a parish approaches summer. That has not been my experience. I am writing this column before things even more busy. There are lots of meetings about one thing or another. Some are meetings that are looking at the “year in review” – some are planning for September 2017 and beyond. Some are planning summer events for the parish. And some are part of life as a Franciscan Friar.
Today and tomorrow, we are heading north to participate in our Provincial Chapter at Siena College in Loudonville, NY – famous, not for the college, but as the hometown of our very own Fr. Sean O’Brien, OFM, who served here from 2005 until 2014. While you know us as a community of four friars, we are part of a larger community of Franciscan brothers. Every three years, all the friars gather for a meeting called a “Chapter.” While there is provincial business to conduct, reports to be heard, and planning for the years to come, it is a great opportunity to catch up with our brother friars who we rarely get to see as Tampa is on the southern frontier of where our province serves. We have ministries/parishes in Tampa, FL (as you know!), and a retirement home to our senior friars in St. Petersburg; Macon, GA; Athens, GA; Greenville, Anderson, and Clemson, SC; Raleigh, Durham and Stoneville, NC; and then I hear tell there are more ministries and parishes north of the Rappahannock River in Virginia. All kidding aside, most of our ministries are north of said river in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts – with friars serving in Bolivia, Brazil, Japan, Peru, Taiwan, and Rome. We will all come together as the friars have been doing since 1209.
At the 2014 Provincial Chapter we will elected new leadership, Fr, Kevin Mullen, who visited us back in February. Fr. Kevin is serving a six-year term. We will elect a council to serve with him. There is other routine and extraordinary items on the agenda, but in the end we will again scatter to the four corners to serve the people of God in the tradition of St. Francis. As we return home, Fr. Kevin and the new council will gather in a “congressus” to consider how best to serve the folks in our ministries and parishes. Six years ago, the Province asked Fr. Andrew to move to NYC and take over leadership at our “mother-house” parish on 31st Street. He loved it here in Tampa, but he answered the call for compassionate servant leaders. Three years ago, Fr. Dan, having completed a many years of pastoral leadership, came here as a parochial vicar. He came along with Fr. Frank – while Fr. Zack and I remained.
At this point, lest you think there is a hidden message, there is not. There might be changes among the friars here at Sacred Heart, there might not be. It will be as God wills. So, in this week that comes, please keep the friars, the council, and Fr. Kevin your prayers as they undertake the unenviable task of discerning the will of God, making difficult choices about assignments, and asking friars and the communities they serve to have faith that God will provide. God always does.