friars with luggage

Friars check in with Chapter organizers at the Capuchin Collegio San Lorenzo da Brindisi in Rome. Photos by Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM.

The Journey to Rome

SJB Provincial Minister Mark Soehner reports from Rome, where friars from around the world are gathered to renew their vision and embrace their future at a historic 15-day General Chapter July 3-18.


Portrait of Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, by Fr. Frank Jasper, OFM

June 28: Left Cincinnati for Rome
At the last-minute I discovered online that Delta deleted my ticket for the day. I got to the airport with Dan Anderson and had him wait in the cell phone lot. I explained that I had a ticket to be on the flight to Atlanta and then to Rome for that day. I showed the agent the copy of the April transaction. He acknowledged this paper relic but said that Delta has become a skeletal crew and that things shift at the last minute for no known reason due to the pandemic. Delta had to lay off many people, he informed me. And the paper relic is no ticket. The only available ticket was for the next day. I asked him to check again. And with a little prodding, he discovered that there was a seat available – and then another one to Rome.

All was well until we found ourselves sitting on the tarmac after boarding due to possible lightning strikes: It was not possible to fuel the jet. After a two-hour wait, we were ready to go. Then I realized I would just barely make it. We landed with 20 minutes to spare. Before we boarded, there was the normal request for a passport, but we also provided a Digital Passenger Locator Form, as well as a recent test indicating that I am Covid-free. Luckily, I took the time the day before to fill it out. The couple ahead of me was not so lucky; most people had not filled out such a newly requested document. I made it onboard.

building and gardens

The Capuchin Collegio San Lorenzo da Brindisi

June 29:
The large fellow next to me on the airplane was a nice chap, a water polo coach for high school kids. We both turned on our movie screen to get lost in a movie. Dinner was good, though tight to move in such a small space. One does not really sleep on such a plane when in the general passenger section. I would doze off, but my head would drop and bounce. Maybe I snatched an hour or so all together.

Arriving in Rome, I met Jim Gannon of Assumption BVM Province at the luggage area. He had been on the same plane and saw me get in late. We gathered our things and went to the front of the airport. Standing in habit was a Roman friar, Antonio, who guided us to his car. We got to our rooms after a brief tour. I unpacked a bit and immediately fell into a demanding sleep.

June 30-July 1:
These days were spent acclimating. I took mini-naps, though I had slept soundly both nights. Fellow SJB friar Manuel Viera and I took a few walks. Manuel is here as one of the Canonical Experts. He is also, of course, the Visitator for St. Barbara Province. More of the English Speaking Conference friars arrived. Before dinner, we held the first meeting of the ESC. Included in the ESC are England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Canada, and the seven U.S. Provinces. Not all were able to make this advertised evening meeting, but there was a quorum and I was elected Vice President for the Conference. We spent some time discussing the candidates for Minister General, and our two preferences for Definitor General.

friars and luggage

Friars from around the world are attending the General Chapter.

July 2:
We thought that someone had agreed to preside at Morning Mass, but no one stepped forward. I decided to volunteer, though I had the Mass earlier in the week. Our little chapel that previously had three friars was now full of English Speakers. And the refectory was full of many friars from all over the world. I sat with the provincial from South Africa. He knew of Howard Hudepohl and was taught by Gil Wohler, two of SJB’s missionary friars. After Pranzo (a large 1:20 p.m. lunch), name tags, backpacks and Lenovo tablets were handed out. We signed papers that we will return the little computer back intact so it can later be used by children in some part of Africa. They say that we will be voting with this tablet.

Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, is the Provincial Minister for the Province of St. John the Baptist. His next update is Fr. Mark at the General Chapter: July 3-8

For more photos visit our Flickr album: Fr. Mark at the General Chapter

For all General Chapter 2021 information, visit:

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