Order of Friars Minor in Great Britain

Opening Day of the Chapter

  On the Sunday, the first full day of the Chapter, we began with prayer in the retreat centre Chapel followed by a whole series of morning sessions in which the Friars from various language conferences of the Order shared something about their Provinces and the missionary activities the brothers were involved in. Whilst some of the presentations were a bit too dry and factual in the sense that they were a bit overloaded with facts and figures and numbers and age profiles, other presentations really captured the spirit of a province and region and the sense of joy and fulfilment that the brothers found in their work and in their life together. This helped develop the whole atmosphere of the Chapter; rather than being anything too formal, the Chapter was soon becoming a celebration of the life and work of the Franciscan brothers.

Chapter of Mats Mexico - Chapel (2)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Chapel (1)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Conferences (1)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Conferences (2)

Our Lady of Zapopan

  In the afternoon we travelled by coach to the area of Zapopan, on the outskirts of Guadalajara city, where we were greeted by some of the local indigenous people of Mexico who led us in procession through the streets of the old town to the shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan. A small statue of Our Lady had been brought to the area by a Spanish missionary in the 16th Century and after various intercessions she soon became the patron not just of the town but of the whole region. This same statue now accompanied us as we walked in procession to the shrine for the celebration of the opening Mass of the Chapter with the Minister General, José Rodríguez Carballo.
The theme of the Chapter was “Fixing our eyes on Jesus”, and as Mary is the one who has perfectly fixed her gaze upon her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, so it seemed appropriate to celebrate the opening Mass of the Chapter at this shrine of Our Lady. The shrine itself is maintained by the Friars of the Province of Saint Francis and Saint James. It is also their house of study for philosophy students with over thirty Friars currently studying philosophy as part of their initial formation. After the celebration of Mass we made our way to the huge courtyard area of the Friary for a celebration, Mexican style.

Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (3)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (1)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (5)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (4)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (7)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (2)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (6)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (10)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (8)
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (9)

Report of the Minister General

  On the following day, the Monday, we began with prayer and Mass in the retreat centre Chapel followed by the Minster General giving his report. After a few moments for reflection we continued with an open dialogue session; questions and answers with the Minister General. Personally I thought he was excellent in this session, full of enthusiasm for the Franciscan Order and life, but also realistic and not afraid to challenge some of the views and opinions of the brothers. We then split into smaller groups to share our own thoughts about the Franciscan life and the state of the Order, giving feedback the following morning.
After the feedback on the Tuesday morning the afternoon was partly spent listening to the personal testimonies of a handful of Friars. We had been asked before the Chapter to send in our personal testimonies, in which we were asked to share our joys and struggles as young Friars, and in which we were asked to give a short message to the young Friars of the Order. Having sent in my testimony I was then asked to read it to the Chapter.
Click here to read:

Chapter of Mats Mexico - Minister General giving h
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Discussion among the brot
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Padraig from the Irish Pr
Chapter of Mats Mexico - Discussion among the brot

Reflections from Brother Cesare

  On the Wednesday morning Brother Cesare, head of Franciscan Spirituality, gave a series of spiritual reflections to the Chapter. By now the brothers were hitting that midweek dip, after long flights, late nights, early mornings and three busy days of meetings, and so concentration was at a low point. But Cesare raised one point in particular that really struck me and gave a lot of comfort to Friars in regions where the numbers of brothers have been dropping. It was from a passage in the Assisi Compilation in which Saint Francis is troubled by the behaviour of some of the brothers and by the fact that some brothers leave the way of life. But the Lord reassures him with the words, “And so that you know that I love the life and religion of the brothers, suppose that in the whole life and religion of the brothers only three brothers remained: I would never abandon it” (The Assisi Compilation, section 112). I had only come to the Chapter because one of our brothers had left the Order, but I was reassured by these words that the Lord would never abandon us.