Friar leads the retreat at podium

Fr. Caoimhin Ô’Laoide, OFM, leads the retreat in Texas.

Friars from the various U.S. provinces came together for the third recent interprovincial retreat, this time held at San Juan de los Lagos Retreat Center in San Juan, Texas, from Feb. 6-10. As with the January retreat at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., this gathering was led by Fr. Caoimhin Ô’Laoide, OFM, the Delegate of the Minister General in the Revitalization and Restructuring (R&R) process. He drew from a variety of sources, including poets, artists, Scripture and the writings of St. Francis, and used the synodal approach of encounter, listening and discernment. Participants reflected, discussed and prayed about both the challenges and the opportunities currently facing the Catholic Church, as well as the friars, as the US-6 provinces prepare to become one.

Friars at a roundtable discussion

Friars engage in discussion during the retreat.

Among the participants were Fr. Henry Beck, Fr. Robert Bruno, Br. Juniper Crouch and Fr. Carl Langenderfer from SJB Province. For Carl, the retreat was “very interesting and very challenging. We reflected on many Church and Franciscan issues and how we are to be synodal in both the Church and the new province as we move forward.”

In addition to a number of other friars, Carl stayed on after the retreat for an optional “Encounter at the Border” experience, conducted by Br. Keith Warner, OFM. Those taking part visited the Humanitarian Respite Center, operated by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Brownsville, and walked across the border to visit some of the migrant camps in Reynosa, Mexico. Carl noted that they were particularly impressed by the ministry of Sr. Norma Pimental, MJ, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and her staff, who operate several migrant camps and facilities in both Reynosa and McAllen, Texas.

A statue of St. Francis with a child and animals

A statue of St. Francis on the retreat center grounds

“They provide food, housing in tents, medical care and opportunities to contact families and sponsors in our country,” Carl explained. “They staff the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center, which helps families complete the application forms for their hearings by the immigrations officials. Sr. Norma has a good relationship with the Border Patrol and other government officials, and they work together for the good of the migrants and refugees. It is not a hostile relationship, and they all respect Sr. Norma and her work for the people. I found her attitude and trust in God and God’s people admirable and humbling, a good example.”

Br. Bruce Michalek, OFM, US-6 Retreat Committee chairperson, said of the recent retreats: “It is wonderful to witness the fraternal atmosphere from day one to the final closing Eucharist. It reminds me of a large family reunion where cousins meet for the first time since their childhood. Stories are shared and ministries are discussed and we discover that geography and province cultures do not matter. The results are similar: we are one family of men, living in community and in simplicity, who are focused on the Gospels in an effort to minister to God’s people with the example of our father, Francis of Assisi.”

All photos by Fr. Carl Langenderfer, OFM.