As the Sisters and Brothers finish their journeys back to the corners of the world where God has sent them, the work of a new year in our life together begins. This year’s Chapter was filled with surprises, tender moments, shared grief and shared joy. Healing moments came alongside raucous laughter. There will be plenty of opportunity to share the recorded minutes, the copies of sermons, and the other records generated while we were gathered.
For now, let it suffice to say that the community is growing! We are growing in numbers, receiving two postulants, vows from five novices, and vows from six lifetime professed. We are growing in relationships, as fellowship gatherings take shape and grow in New Zealand, Northern Ireland, The West Coast of the United States and the North Country of New England and New York. We are growing in talents, as members new and old offer up their lives in service to the Order, allowing the community to be blessed by powerful worship, music, advocacy, prayer, peacemaking and discernment. We are growing in spiritual maturity, learning to be vulnerable, authentic and honest in our speaking and open, hopeful and wondering in our listening. We are growing in understanding, discovering the incredible stories of the partners in Gospel transformation that are connected to OEF through the Sisters and Brothers lives. We are growing in trust, embracing the idea that in the Gospel we are totally free and therefore able to follow God’s gentle guidance through the Holy Spirit wherever it leads. As it says in Philippians 4:13 “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.”
In the coming year, as we listen for the urging of the Spirit, as we pursue the mission and ministry which God has given each of us to do, we are called to deepen our commitment to prayer, to listening in the silence and to offering encouragement to one another. We do not know everything the journey will entail, and yet we walk by faith, trusting that we are led by God. With prayers of thanksgiving, we continue that which is ours to do. We pray for the siblings called to help us discern what else is needed in our Statutes. We pray for the Servant Team, called to help us discern whom God is calling to be our Council. We pray for the Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Animators, that they would animate us and give us courage to speak and act. We pray for the Joint Committee on Franciscan Unity, that it would help knit the whole family together in the outpouring love of the Holy Trinity. We pray for all sisters and brothers, as they engage the world in a spirit of hope and love, proclaiming the Gospel and finding ways to rebuild the Church. Let us all see what love can do. Peace and All Good.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I have to the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, it does not seek its own, it is not provoked, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; but where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully—even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13