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franciscan - January 1998

© Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 1997

Community Routes

Out of Africa

Benedict will be in the UK in January after two years at Penhalonga in Zimbabwe. There he has been helping the Community of the Divine Compassion and working in the local Anglican parish and school. In addition, he has been very occupied by the mission shop, which has now been taken over by the church, and which Benedict has helped restore to viability after a period of financial problems. He returns to the UK finally in June 1998.

One of the ordained CDC brothers, Koama, arrived in the UK in late August to spend a year of study at Trinity College, Bristol.

South Pacific Sojourners

Many readers will remember Giles from his time as the community’s Novice Guardian in the early 1970s and as the Guardian of the Canterbury Friary from 1978 to 1982. In 1983 he went to the Solomon Islands and was elected the Minister Provincial of the Pacific Islands Province in 1992. At the end of 1996 he retired from this office but continued to live at Little Portion farm, close by La Verna Friary, Hautambu.

The duties of Minister Provincial have now been shared between two Regional Ministers, Andrew Manu in the Solomon Islands and Clifton Henry in Papua New Guinea, under the supervision of the Minister General.

In July, Giles visited New Zealand for a time and then returned to England in August to spend some time with his family. He has been living at Hilfield since early October.

Ministers Meet in New Zealand

The annual meeting of the Ministers of the First Order took place at the new Friary in New Zealand, with Damian and Joyce representing this Province, and Paschal attending for the first time as the new General Secretary SSF.

The brothers and sisters meet to undergird their ministry, to ensure that their prayer and support for each other is based on mutual love and knowledge and to hold together the different Provinces of the Order as one in Christ.

The new house in New Zealand (literally new – the buildings were only completed just before the meeting began) is owned by the diocese and will function mainly as the diocesan retreat house, with SSF brothers staffing the property. They are happy to welcome guests from far and wide.

Conference in Bruges

Daniel, Damian, Bernard, Hilary and Paschal were among the seventy delegates to the International and Interconfessional Conference of Religious, which met at Saint Andrew’s Monastery in Bruges in August.

This conference of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox and Anglican Religious meets in alternate years in different parts of Europe and, this year, included delegates from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, the USA and the UK. Bernard gave one of the four papers on The Eucharist and Unity: gifts of the Holy Spirit, focussing on the implications of Christians receiving, or not receiving, Holy Communion across the historical and doctrinal divides. The situation generally is in flux, especially among Roman Catholics. Much depends on the local bishop’s attitude and on how particular priests and laypeople interpret the directory of practice. In Bruges, the Bishop and the Abbey assumed intercommunion, both for themselves and for the other traditions present. As Mgr Serafi, Metropolitan of the Romanian Church, made clear, the Orthodox attitude is coherent and unambiguous.
The conference moved on to wider issues, particularly the hoped-for changes in the way the Bishop of Rome might come to exercise his ministry to the whole of Christendom, advice on which he requested from ‘the sister churches and other ecclesial bodies’ in his Ut Unum Sint encyclical of 1995. A great deal has happened in the last thirty years to change the ecumenical scene, not least in the Anglican decision to ordain women. Most members of the conference had experienced warm fellowship in the Holy Spirit across the divides. Certainly, the hospitality and friendliness of the monks (which included a lovely day out in Bruges, on the canal and around the beautiful buildings) and the quality of liturgy, prayer and small-group exchange was a reassuring reminder that ‘the divisions between Christians do not reach to heaven.’

Minister’s Sabbatical

As reported in the last issue, Damian was re-elected in June for a second term as Minister of the European Province. In the few months after his re-election, he was granted a well-earned sabbatical. He spent this time partly in solitude in a caravan in the Scottish Highlands, and partly at Lanzarote, standing in as Anglican chaplain there.

Assisi devastated

Since 26 September, the city of Assisi in Umbria, and in fact the whole area for hundreds of miles around, has been devastated by a series of earthquakes.

Amongst those who lost their lives were two OFM friars.

The situation of the Franciscan houses and churches, at the time of going to press, is as follows:

The upper church of the Basilica of Saint Francis is severely damaged and many of the works of art, painted directly onto the plaster, are either badly damaged or destroyed. In the lower church, the tomb of Saint Francis is intact, though there is much damage again to the wall paintings. The situation is so unsafe that work is suspended there until the earthquakes abate.

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels is closed on account of heavy damage to the vault, the lateral and central naves and the tambour of the cupola. The Porziuncula chapel itself is intact. The friary has suffered structural subsidence and the seventy friars have been evacuated. Many of them are living in tents, others in neighbouring buildings.

At the Basilica of Saint Clare, the building has suffered very heavy damage to its load-bearing structures: it has been closed to pilgrims. The convent shows signs of serious subsidence in its foundations and its load-bearing structures. For an indeterminate period the Poor Clare Sisters are being given shelter in the friary of Sancta Mary della Spineta in Fratta Todina, with the sick nuns living in the monastery of Montecastrilli. Five Poor Clare Sisters have remained, sleeping in a tent, in order to guard the body of Saint Clare. Not even the Second World War succeeded in making the Poor Clares leave the Protomonastero.
At San Damiano, itself only recently restored, there has been serious damage to the church, Saint Clare’s infirmary, and the load-bearing walls of the friary. The fifteen novices have been transferred to Perugia.

At the Monastery of Saint Quirico, the seismic shocks have rendered the building unsafe and the community of Poor Clares has been given hospitality in the friary in Amelia.

At the Chiesa Nuova, the little church built on the paternal house of Saint Francis has been closed as unusable. Here, too, the friars have been evacuated.

The first impetus of solidarity by the friars of the Seraphic Province has been directed to the Poor Clares in various ways, above all by receiving them into their own friaries. The friars are also giving help in the camps of people evacuated from their homes.
The Ministers of the OFM have asked that this information be shared with the Franciscan world, particularly friends of the city of Saint Francis, so that a real chain of solidarity may be created all over Christendom.

The Last of SDC

Mark Kemp, almost certainly the last of those once professed in the Society of the Divine Compassion, died on 21 August at the age of ninety-one. SDC worked in Plaistow from 1894 to 1952, after which SSF took over the Friary and its ministry. Mark was a Franciscan friar in SDC (1928-33), after which he transferred to the Brotherhood of St Francis of Assisi at Hilfield and was a significant participant in the brothers’ ministry to wayfarers, serving alongside Douglas, Kenneth and Charles.

Mark left the Brotherhood in 1936, was for a time a member of the Third Order, and was later ordained, serving in parishes in London, Edinburgh and North America. He was notable as a pioneer of liturgical changes, long before these became more widely adopted in the 1960s. He married, had four children and had become a great-grandfather before he died.

In recent years, Mark had renewed his contact with Hilfield Friary and SSF, attending the Stigmata Festival in 1994. His warm personality and humour endeared him to many, as did his deep faith and pastoral concern.
He was also a source of much information for the community’s historian in her research. In his final weeks he was particularly pleased to be able to read the new history of SSF, This Poor Sort, a history in which he had played an important rôle.

Preserved in Gold

Brother Philip continues to develop his skills as an iconographer, and has recently completed a major commission for the Parish of Small Heath, in Birmingham. The parish is one where several novices have completed placements in recent years, and was comprised of three Churches; St Aidan, St Oswald of Worcester and St Gregory the Great. Two of the church buildings have been declared redundant, but the icon preserves their memory for posterity. It depicts the three patron saints, each holding the church in Small Heath which had been dedicated to them. Philip has completed a number of commissions, since learning various techniques of iconography at Alton Abbey. He spent some time there during his noviciate.

Round Up

Gordon, after a period in hospital, has now moved to Ravensmount Residential Home near Alnmouth Friary ... Geoffrey has been on a pastoral visit to Zambia and Zimbabwe for three months ... Kevin has been elected to profession in first vows, and expects to make his profession on Saturday 13 December ... Silas has been granted leave of absence ... Kate has been released from her vows in first profession. §


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