friars around table

One of the first Council Zooms from Cincinnati (l-r): Page Polk, Vince Delorenzo, Bill Farris, Mark Soehner and Dan Anderson

A year ago, the entire Provincial Council was able to meet at the novitiate in California. We had a productive meeting and were also able to gain some insight into the excellent work of the novitiate team, the desires of the novices, and enjoy just some plain fun for the Council. These opportunities to visit around the Province, and with formation, even the New Province, were dashed in March of 2020 with the closures due to the coronavirus. Travel became risky, and face-to-face meetings in groups endangered the participants and others through “spread”. What a difference a year makes!

Today most of our Council and MP-6 meetings are through the medium of Zoom. The organizer sends out a “link”. Then all a participant needs to do to activate it is to click on the link. In a twinkling, we are brought on line with people from all over the country. The advantages are obvious. No plane tickets or long lines. No scramble to catch the connecting plane. No quick pickup of a calorie-laden McDonalds burger and fries. No waking up in a hotel wondering, what city am I in? What day is it? What time zone is it here? And CFO David O’Brien reminds me of the savings for the Province.

The disadvantages are also present. “Zoom fatigue” became quickly apparent. We try to limit our meetings to no more than two hours. Business gets done. But when something requires discernment, or just some time to sleep on something, it may not get that time. A lot of good decisions have been made during a coffee break, or after a meal and night of rest. Zoom does not permit that easily. Many appreciate that our meetings don’t drone on. But I wonder if we don’t come to decisions in a more compressed, stunted, way. Is there enough oxygen around them?

For the next months we will need to continue to balance good health and safe distancing with the need for human contact and well-considered decisions. I am certain that God will generously bless these Zoom decisions as the best we can do in these pandemic days.