The meeting of the Minister General and his Definitory with the Bolivarian and Guadalupe Conferences took place at the port of Veracruz in Mexico from 3rd to 8th February. Attending, in addition to the ten friars of the General Definitory, were ten Provincial Ministers, a Custos and two Provincial Vicars coming from the fourteen entities which make up the two Conferences. The event took place in the context of the 494th Anniversary of the arrival of the so-called “Twelve Franciscan Apostles” in the then “New Spain” in 1524 which marked the beginning of a systematic and orderly evangelization in continental America.
In parallel, whilst sharing moments of prayer, food and fraternity, the meeting of the Under Ten brothers from the twelve Provinces that make up the Conferences was taking place. Thirty-four friars in total took part and as well as sharing their dynamism, dreams and worries, they studied several documents and discussed their vocation, mission and the challenges which they have to confront.
The gathering was enriched by fraternal meetings, analysis of the Entities, reflection and dialogue with the fundamental question of what God is asking of the Friars Minor today in the Church, in the Order and, more specifically, in the Bolivarian, Caribbean, Central American and Mexican regions being always at the forefront of our minds. Having listened to the reports of the Provincial Ministers and Custodians and discussed the matters arising, the Minister General, Fr. Michael Anthony Perry outlined several indications for the renewal of the Entities and made concrete recommendations to them.
To celebrate the arrival in Mexico of the first Franciscan missionaries the Minister General on Saturday 3rd February, blessed a statue of Fr. Martin de Valencia (the leader of the group of twelve) sited in a square of the town of Veracruz, and proceeded then in procession to the Cathedral where he presided at a solemn holy mass and thanked God for the gift of salvation offered by Christ to all peoples. He said, “Today we remember the generosity and dedication of Fray Martin de Valencia and his companions who through their words and actions, and with great sacrifice, rendered the salvation of Christ actual in their time, and recognize the necessity for us to renew ourselves in Jesus Christ so that we may incarnate the impulse that inspired these great missionaries to share the joy of the Gospel”.
In order to raise awareness in those present of various experiences and service that the friars offer in the region some moments were dedicated to that. Fr. Tomás González reported on the situation of the migrants travelling from Central America to the United States through the territory of Mexico and the work that is done in “The 72. The Home of the Migrant”. We visited “Las Patronas”, a group of ordinary women who give something to eat to the Central American migrants, who travel on the goods train called “The Beast” from the south to the north of Mexico. We prayed for peace along the tracks of the same train. There was also a visit to the Franciscan Library of Cholula, Puebla, which has a valuable collection of books and historical documents. There, the Minister General presented a written recognition to Fr. Francisco Morales, doctor in history and Director of the Library, for his contribution to research and publicizing of the history of the Franciscans in the Americas.
The programme concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the city of Mexico, where Fr. Michael, starting from the Gospel passage of the visit of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth, thanked God for the joy of the meeting and concluded by saying, “however the dialogue between Mary and Elizabeth developed, each one of them discovered something new, a new sense of their identity in God and an inexhaustible blessing which has begun to invade their lives”. In conclusion he invited those present to share with urgency the joy they received from God so that his power could act within each person and in the whole world.
A deep note of thanks to the Conference of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which hosted this meeting, for their fraternal hospitality, and in particular to the friars of the Province of the Holy Gospel of Mexico, led by their Provincial Minister, Fr Juan Medina. The meeting was not only organized in an excellent manner, but it was also an occasion for the brothers to hear, feel, contemplate and savour in many ways the Mexican culture and warmth.