A headshot photo of Provincial Minister Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM

Vicar Provincial Elect of the new Our Lady of Guadalupe province, Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM

The past couple of weeks have been somewhat of a roller coaster ride as I was named to a new role as Vicar Provincial-elect in the new Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in October. I am really honored by the trust of our fraternity and General Council to assume this ministry. Those who know me also know that I was hoping for a bit of sabbatical time and am not thrilled with the move to Atlanta. That said, as I brought what seemed to be a “burden” to prayer, I felt it lifted by the simple assurance of Christ. There is a real freedom that happens for me, when, in the listening of obedience, I hear the words, “I will be with you.” It’s a relief, a weight lifted, a burden shared with the One to whom I am happily yoked. After all, He does all the heavy lifting!

It is an exciting adventure for me to be walking with our new Provincial-elect Larry Hayes. He’s an incredibly brilliant man, fully engaged with our way of life, and optimistic about our future. We both believe it will be a new future (isn’t that always true?). Our Franciscan life won’t be the same, though certainly, as we begin, there will be a lot of continuity. Maybe that’s why this initial term for the beginning Provincial Council is only three years. It will allow us to set in place some new structures that will revitalize our chosen values. These values are:  A Spirit of Prayer and Devotion, Fraternal Communion, Minority/Poverty/Solidarity, Evangelization, and Ongoing Conversion. All of these are meant to send us to “heal the wounded, bind up the broken and bring back those who are lost”, according to the Legend of the Three Companions (58).

Revitalization and Restructuring are not “one and done.” It is a journey that we are on, a pilgrimage (to use the image of our Chapter of 2022). Each fraternity will need to assess how best to respond to the needs of those who are “wounded, broken and lost” in a revitalized way. And there will be help from the Regional Provincial Councilor, the possible Plenary Council, and the staff to engage in this mission of Franciscan living in the United States. As a coast-to-coast province, it will be important not to get lost in its enormity, but do what the Lord inspires in us in our local situation. In the end, all enduring change is local, or there is none at all.

So, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love.  Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.  And You will renew the face of the earth.”

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