Friars chat in front of a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Friars chat in front of a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The majestic mountains and quiet desert landscape at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., set the scene for the second of three interprovincial US-6 sponsored retreats.

The January gathering, led by Fr. Caoimhin Ô’Laoide, OFM, the Delegate of the Minister General in the R&R process, brought together 36 friars from the various provinces to reflect, pray and strengthen their fraternal bonds.

Drawing from a variety of sources, including artists, poets, theologians and the writings of St. Francis, Caoimhin said he was “hoping the retreat would be a space for the friars to let down their opinions and speak instead about the unknown, to rest in the mystery and pursue the relationship,” with God and one another.

There was also the opportunity, he said, to discuss the practicalities and vision as the provinces move closer to becoming one. “I wanted to reassure the friars that October is really just the end of the beginning. There is so much more that is going to evolve,” he said. “These retreats are interprovincial, but there is very much the sense of already being one.”

A statue of St. Francis on the grounds of the Franciscan Renewal Center

Among the retreat participants were Mike Chowning, Jeff Scheeler and Vince Delorenzo, who each found the event to be meaningful and helpful.

Vince especially enjoyed “just being with the other guys and experiencing a sense of excitement” about the merger. “It was a reminder and celebration of what we’re all called to: living a simple life, living by our example of fraternity and supporting each other,” he said. “We have our different cultures, but what we have in common, what we share, is so evident.”

“I really appreciated Caoimhin’s creativity and found his broad prospective to be very engaging,” Jeff said. “We had talks in the morning and in the evening, and in between, I appreciated the beautiful Blessed Sacrament and meditation chapels. The food was great, and I feel like the retreat fed body and soul. I left with the sense that I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of the friars better and the opportunities to relate our brothers in a new way.”

“I thought Caoimhin was really trying to help us recognize the changes that are happening in the Order, in our society and personally. I think the main message was that as we face the future, we shouldn’t be fearful,” Mike said. “There are many things in the Church, in our society and in our personal lives right now that are conflictual, that can fill us with anxiety, but the future is hopeful when we recognize that Christ is present with us. And that presence is real sacramentally, in the hand of the Holy Spirit and in the gift of one another.”

friars participating in the retreat

Caoimhín Ô’Laoide speaks with retreatants.

“We’re walking this journey together,” Mike added. “I have some concerns, but am okay with not knowing. I’m very much at peace with whatever comes down the line because I trust my brothers and God is with us.”

The third retreat is scheduled for Feb. 6-10 at San Juan de los Lagos Retreat Center, San Juan, Texas. Also led by Caoimhin, it will use the synodal approach of encounter, listening and discernment, with time being given to Scripture-based listening and sharing. “Encounter at the Border,” a two-day companion program, conducted by Br. Keith Warner, OFM, will provide the chance to visit the Humanitarian Respite Center, operated by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Brownsville. Participants will walk across the border to visit some of the migrant camps in Reynosa, Mexico.

Photos by Jeff Scheeler, OFM