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franciscan - May 2005

© The Society of Saint Francis, 2005

Community Routes

A New Chapter

The Brothers of the European Province are immensely grateful to the many readers of franciscan and others who will have been praying for us as we met in an 'Extraordinary General Chapter' at Hilfield in January. That meeting was mentioned in the prayer leaflet distributed with franciscan and perhaps people will have been wondering what it was all about.  Well, the Chapter was part of a process of reflection and review that has been going on for perhaps a couple of years now.  That began with the need to look at some practical questions about the efficient management of our Society, but our reflections became wider and deeper as we considered the changes that have come about in our community, for instance, in our numerical strength and age-profile - as well as the changing needs of the church and the world in which we serve.  Such a work of reflection continues annually in our June gathering of life professed brothers but, for this extraordinary meeting, we were also enriched by the presence and contribution of our novices and brothers in first profession.  Preparation for the meeting included reflections in houses and the seeking of the mind of the community through a questionnaire sent out to all brothers.  We were helped in the Chapter, as we continue to be in other parts of the process, by the expert facilitation skills of Jim Cannon.  It would be easy to assume that all this is just some kind of crisis management but we found ourselves refreshed and reinvigorated as we discovered that, despite our diversity, we share a deep desire to renew our life in Jesus Christ and live out his Good News as a community of 'Lesser Brothers'.  Practical down to earth decisions about houses and ministries etc. will be reported in these pages as they unfold over time.  Meanwhile, we continue to value your prayers.

Endings and Beginnings

Among those decisions was the painful one to leave Cambridge, and it is with much regret that SSF expects to end a period of 66 years of ministry in the city in October of this year.  There will be more about the Cambridge House in the next edition of franciscan. Our ministry for the time being 'north of the border' in the Scottish Episcopal Church will likewise come to an end after a period of 32 years with the forthcoming closure of our house in Dundee, although we have been in Mid-Craigie itself for only a short period of time.

Meanwhile though, opportunities emerge elsewhere and in a new venture Edmund, Hugh and Jonas Balugna have begun community life in St Martin's Vicarage in the East End of London where SSF will be assisting in the ministry of the parish.  St Martin's is about a twenty minute's walk from our house in Balaam Street and so will form part of a new development of our Franciscan life and witness in a 'Plaistow cluster'.

Thanksgiving at Canterbury

'Friar John, priest of Canterbury, primate of all England' is how the only Franciscan to have become Archbishop of Canterbury (1279-1292) described himself.  On 7 December 2004 (the eve of the anniversary of his death) 40 Catholic and Anglican Franciscan brothers and sisters of different orders and congregations from around the world came together at Evensong in the Cathedral and afterwards moved into the northwest transept where John Pecham's tomb is only a few feet away from where Thomas Becket met his martyr's death.

A short liturgy of Thanksgiving and Commemoration was prayed and sung and Fr Philippe Yates OFM, Principal of the Franciscan International Study Centre, laid flowers at the tomb and a candle was lit which burned throughout the anniversary day. Everyone then moved to the ancient Eastbridge pilgrim's hostel, which Pecham would have known about, for 'drinks and nibbles'.

John Pecham had lectured in theology in Paris, Oxford and Italy but also wrote poetry and the first English book on optics.  He was a reformer of abuses in the church and despite his age and office insisted on walking to Rome rather than ride a horse, that being contrary to S.Francis' Rule.

A Day in the Life...

James Anthony writes from Lindi, Tanzania:

 "So what on earth do you do all day?"  Good question.  The Head of a Theological College without any students - seems like a bit of a sinecure.  In actual fact I'm kept quite busy.  Take yesterday for example.

Back from Morning Prayer and Mass at 7.00 am.  From afar I could see quite a crowd waiting for me.  Abedi Juma the college odd-job man needs his keys and instructions for the day.  Paolo Omari's pit-latrine had collapsed, luckily without anyone inside it, and we need to dig another.  Right, Abedi, see to it.  Anybody available to do the digging?  Well, Rashidi and Ali just happen to be waiting around on the off chance of work, probably tipped off by Abedi.  Mama Likumbo's front door needs attention and what about that leaking tank over at the Pre-Form One Dorm?  Abedi trots off. 

Amuli the tractor driver next.  What's on today?  Mohamed Omari wants to sell some rocks he's been breaking up in the bush.  Can we pick them up today?  Hassan Hamisi said he wanted to hire the tractor to take his cassava down to the main road but he hasn't turned up yet.  Right, the stones have it.  We need the stones for the foundations of the Laboratory we are building.  The Theological College may have no students but that is because we are concentrating our scarce resources on building up the secondary school which is also on the same campus.  Gradually it has taken over many of the College buildings as it has grown.  It now has ten teachers and about eighty students, - with a new intake of forty due to arrive at Easter.

Filipo the maize miller, next in line, needs some more diesel.  I search for the key to the garage which should be hanging on its hook in my office but it's not there.  Send Filipo off to look for Terensi the driver for him to open the garage.

A quick breakfast. Pawpaw, bread homebaked in the new sun oven, an egg, and tea with goat's milk.

Then off to see the new cement-block Dispensary latrine which we're building in place of the old little hut which has been half-eaten by white ants.  Alfani, those holes are too small.  Yes, he admits, they are.  But the nurses didn't want children falling down into the pit.  Well, yes, that's a point.

To the Dormitory, being built by Ferdinand and Kassian.  Out of sand and likely to be out of cement tomorrow.  Right.  I'll see Amuli.  When I can find him.  Our sand is scraped up from the road that runs by the College, but we have to pay a gang of youths to do the digging.

Eventually to the office where I spend an hour or two sorting out the accounts with our cashier.  Then time for a meal.  Today of cassava and pumpkin all mashed up and some chickpeas boiled with onions and tomatoes.  Some of the last of the mangoes and pineapples appear in a fruit salad.  Delicious.

From 1 pm to 2 pm is my siesta and then indoor work while the sun is hot.  At 3.30 is evensong and after that I do some computer classes with the Form Four boys.  I have a laptop which is not too heavy a drain on the solar panel.  The battery hasn't been exhausted yet.

In the twilight I water the garden.  It's the rainy season now but there are many days when it doesn't rain and the plants need a bit of refreshment, especially the tomatoes.  Soon enough it's 8.00 pm and time to be thinking of bed.

From Russia, with love

A year after being in Montreal, Thomas Anthony has been spending six months as Anglican Chaplain in St Petersburg.  He writes:

What is the city like?  When I came the many parks were ablaze with colour in the low autumn light, with domes and fleches of churches and public buildings gleaming in the sun.  St. Petersburg is in full spate of restoration - a bit messy where it is happening, but with amazing results: endless examples of Russian baroque architecture. There are innumerable lavish palaces in and around the city. The tsars and tsarinas spared no expense having them designed and built, but there's little wonder there was a revolution…

I live only five minutes' walk from St. Isaac's Cathedral, and it's not much farther to The Hermitage. Imagine having all those paintings and other works of art on your doorstep!

At our church here we have a Sunday attendance of around 50, of various nationalities and church backgrounds. We meet in the Swedish Lutheran church, which serves as a sports centre, but has recently been reclaimed from the government. We have only one service a week, though we have started a 'students' fellowship.' With the rise of violence against foreign students - two have been killed in the last months - they need all the support they can get; many are afraid to go out alone.

As Anglicans we are facing the question whether to claim our old church back. Its history goes back 250 years, although the present structure was completed in the mid nineteenth century. The Chaplaincy was in abeyance from the time of the Revolution and the building in time became a conservatoire. Services were resumed in somebody's home by a small group of people 10 years ago. The old church, appropriately on the 'English Embankment', is in surprisingly good condition, and it would certainly be possible to get it back. However, with the future of the chaplaincy anything but secure, do we want to be responsible for a big building?

Yes, I'm enjoying life here. Apart from all the paintings and palaces, there's the famous Mariinsky Theatre. Twice now I've been taken to a ballet performance there.

There are plenty of churches one can slip into, with wonderful icons to pray through. May the Prince of Peace allow us to work for Peace, in people's lives, in our homes, in our nations.

Round up

Stephen KFB is spending six months in the UK, from March. Giles has moved to Stepney  Jonathan is expecting to move to the United States towards the end of May.  Jason Robert is expected to arrive in June from the Province of the Americas to spend two years in the United Kingdom.  He will be based at Glasshampton. 

Jenny Tee was clothed as a novice on 20 February.

Jennifer, now known as Jennifer Chan, who began her novitiate in San Francisco, made her First Profession on 25 February, during the Sisters’ Meeting, when the Sisters from the Province of the Americas were also present because of the Centenary celebrations. She moved to Brixton in March. 

John has been elected to First Profession.  Gregory has been granted leave of absence. David Francis has been released from life vows and membership of SSF.  f



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