many hands clasping

While the efforts the US-6 provinces are engaged in as they strive to unify have come to be known as the Revitalization and Restructuring (R&R) Process, the emphasis is also on fraternity and relationships, said Lawrence Ford, OFM, during a recent visit to the SJB Province.

3 friars

Friars Mark Soehner, Murray Bodo, and Larry Ford at the Transitus service at St. Clement Church.

Since being appointed as director of the R&R Office in the spring of 2020, Larry (Holy Name Province) said he was eager to begin traveling, once permissible, to meet the friars of each province, see where they minister and get to know staff members.

“I came to this role with things as a blank slate,” explained Larry, whose own ministry and leadership experience includes serving as pastor of a large New York City parish. “I’m trying to get to every province to get to know the culture. I think it’s important that the friars meet me and see what I’m doing. I expect to be on the road a lot.”

“I really view my role as Guardian of the process,” he added. “It’s about building relationships with the friars. The role comes with authority, but it’s also about listening, learning about the friars and caring for them. There’s the organizational piece – bringing systems together – but also supporting the friars’ ministries and fraternity.”

His visit to Cincinnati included meetings with provincial staff, a walking tour of Over-the-Rhine with Mark Soehner, shared meals with plenty of fraternal conversation, celebration of Sunday Mass at St. Francis Seraph, Transitus at St. Clement and a visit to Roger Bacon High School.

The goal was to create a level of familiarity that leads to trust, Larry said. “Having meals together, sharing stories of the past, excitement regarding the future, making ourselves available to each other. Isn’t that what we’re about?”

He also spoke of how his role has evolved over the past 18 months, and the progress that has been made in the R&R process. “We have a date, and I feel confident that we’re receiving good guidance from our consultants. These kinds of organizational decisions bring security to the friars,” he said. “Now we’re focusing on how to engage in broader conversations about our lives together, outside of the men we live with. The organizational piece of things has been handled very rationally. It’s not that the human piece is being handled in an uninformed way, but it doesn’t follow a set direction. It’s relational, with both local and provincial mutuality involved in decision making.”

Larry said his face-to-face meetings with friars have been fruitful and insightful. “I find when I meet them in person, they feel affirmed and are more open to and excited about the process than has been anecdotally reported to me,” he explained. “I think there is some impatience, a sense that we need movement and completion. There’s a mixture of guys who are already living this and don’t define themselves by a particular province. And the older friars have so much to contribute in a generative and legacy way, and we have a need to learn from them.”

Regarding the SJB friars specifically, Larry said, “What this province did for ministry and vocations is just profoundly generous.”

He was referencing former Director of Vocations Tim Lamb’s recent move to missionary service in Jamaica in support of Brothers Walking Together, the new interprovincial post-novitiate experience coordinated by the US-6 provinces. “The US-6 vocation group was already working so well together, that the province was willing to send a man to ministry and deal with ‘what do we do without a vocation director,’ demonstrates incredible trust,” Larry said. “Therein lies our strength and belief in each other, the faith that ‘we can handle this.’ It’s the most fraternal of things to trust your future like that. I know it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it’s working. Out of the province’s sacrifice, the men in Brothers Walking Together are having a great experience. This shows what the US-6 can do, and the friars should be affirmed for what they offered to help build our future.”