Around the Regions March 2017


Here we highlight some national events, and initiatives from various regions.

The programme for the National Assembly to be held in Gibraltar in April is now available. We are delighted that every region is represented. There may still be places available should others wish to attend. It seems that the Extra Costs will now be only £40, and not £110 as originally expected. This is to help meet the costs of the Speaker and Spiritual Assistants and the catering for the weekend. We believe that the Gibraltar Fraternity will revitalise everyone who comes. We know they have devoted a huge amount of time and energy to make this unique experience uplifting and successful.

And in September Paula Pearce will lead a Living in Faith in Daily Life weekend retreat at Pantasaph Friary. Details may be found here.

Formation: We hope you are making good use of the excellent formation material that our national formation minister, John Power, has provided. John is also now working on material for Ongoing Formation.

South Wales and South West region have an interesting programme of events for 2017, and perhaps members from other regions might like to join them. Many from other regions will recall that in 2016 South Wales and South West offered the excellent “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response” weekend in Cardiff.

London Region have a Youfra initiative with an event in April: Working together to build Peace in our families, schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, our nation, our world…..and ourselves. See the hurt of the world and want to respond in the way of Peace, Joy, Hope, Love, Good….? There are many ways to be involved: pray for this initiative; publicise it; support one-off events; or join us in our year of monthly meetings/activities, growing together as we explore our Christian life in the Franciscan spirit.
Come and See: Friday 28th April 2017, 6.30pm-8pm Our Lady of the Rosary Church Hall, Brixton.
Get in touch and keep in touch: Facebook: Franciscan Youth UK
and on Twitter: @YouFraLondon
Email – YouFraLondon@aol.co.uk
If young people from other OFSGB regions want to make contact for resources etc, please get in touch.

The latest Southern Region newsletter “Viewpoint” is just in. There is much interesting material in the newsletters that the various regions provide.

East Anglian Region are drawing our attention to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales initiative referred to as the Holy Land Co-ordination.
After a recent visit the CBCEW say that “In 2017 we see a land of tension and division, walls and suspicion.” They invite us to “Take Action”, one suggestion being contact with our MP’s. David Gleave of East Anglian region says: “They have provided a pro-forma letter, so it is quite easy to share their message with your MP – all you have to do is provide your name and address.”
Since 1998, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has organised an annual meeting of the Co-ordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land. Mandated by the Holy See, an international delegation of bishops meets in the region every January to act in solidarity with the Christian communities there and to share in the pastoral life of the local Church as it experiences extreme political and social-economic pressure.

And we have details of the East Anglian regional election last weekend: here, and also here.

Our North East Region are energetically drawing our attention to a charity ride in memory of the much loved Michael Almond, of the Leeds fraternity, who died last year.

South East Region have details of the funeral arrangements for Declan Walsh ofs, dearly missed Minister of the Croydon fraternity. The Requiem will take place on Friday 31 March 2017 at Our Lady of the Rosary, 2 St Barnabas Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 4NL at 10.00 hrs. Followed by burial at Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Warlingham, and a reception at The Horseshoe Pub, Warlingham. The region are suggesting donations to the OFS Barton project instead of flowers.

A further update may follow with news from Scotland, the North West Region, and the Midland Region.

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The Trump Travel Ban and the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.” (OFS Rule, Art. 19)

 
As you will know US President Donald Trump recently issued an Executive Order banning travel to the USA from seven Muslim-majority countries. Enforcement of this order has been suspended since a federal district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against it. That injunction was upheld by the ninth circuit court of appeals in a 9 February ruling.
Now, according to various news sources, such as Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, President Trump plans to rescind his executive order and replace it with a new one. “Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” the justice department writes in a brief to the ninth circuit court of appeals. A draft of President Donald Trump’s revised immigration ban targets the same seven countries listed in his original executive order (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya), and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they haven’t used it yet.
 
It is good to see the Franciscans of the United States have taken a stand on this issue in prayer for and solidarity with our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. The Franciscan Friars of the United States have issued this statement signed by the Provincials of the seven OFM provinces in the USA. And Carolyn Townes, the OFS National Animator for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the United States has said that “The U.S. Seculars will stand with and support our brother Friars as well as our Bishops.” She says: “Let us come together in prayer and solidarity for our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters!” And she offers this “Prayer for Migrants” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Merciful and loving Father,
We beseech you, open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality and refuge to migrants who are lonely, afraid, and far from their homes. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst, to invite them into our communities as a demonstration of Christ’s love for us. We pray that when we encounter the other, we see in her the face of your Son, when we meet a stranger, that we take his hand in welcome. Help us to live in solidarity with one another, to seek justice for those who are persecuted and comfort for those who are suffering. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (The Prayer for Migrants, USCCB)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website also has these reflections on Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration.
 
May we in the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain stand together with our sisters and brothers in the USA. And may we, as communities, respond to the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme that Cardinal Vincent Nichols outlined to us when he spoke recently on the BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour. The Cardinal spoke about President Trump’s executive order, and he also spoke in praise of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme, a UK government-backed initiative that enables community groups – including the Catholic Church, its agencies and charities – to take on the role of welcoming and supporting resettled refugees in the UK.

trump-catholicherald

In the interview, the Cardinal explained that safety ‘is not secured by fear, it is secured by improving relationships…by opening up things not shutting them down.’ He also expressed concern that the executive order ‘increases the risk faced by Christian communities in the Middle East because it implicitly backs a false notion that this conflict is between Christians and Muslims. It increases the image of Christianity as a Western phenomenon.’
Reflecting on political leaders’ duty of care, Cardinal Vincent emphasised that this is ‘a question of how you exercise that duty’. The Cardinal expressed his concern that the executive order would not help. ‘Safety can never be the overall and ultimate aim, because if we try and live safely by simplifying, identifying others as our enemies, then we live in an increasingly enclosed mentality and an enclosed environment and that is not the best way for people to live.’

Speaking then in praise and encouragement of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme he said ‘The challenge is not only to the government, but to the communities in this country who often speak about their generosity, to really take up this opportunity. Then, I would hope, that programme can be speeded up and expanded.’

Cardinal Vincent acknowledged the difficulty in making decisions regarding acceptance of more refugees, but emphasised that ‘the intention that we play a concerted effort to solve this dramatic crisis of our time is very important because otherwise it is the extreme voices that win, whether they’re the extreme terrorist voices or the populist voices. I don’t believe that any form of leadership is best exercised by using fear.’
The full BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour interview is available to listen to here.

Do let us know of any initiatives drawn from the Community Sponsorship Scheme (or similar projects) that your fraternities, your regions or your parishes are engaging in or planning to engage in. An excellent Presence in the World project.

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Children Praying for Peace

children-for-peace

Michael Martin, of our Oxford fraternity, has alerted us to a letter “Children praying for peace” from the Minister General of the OFM (Fr. Michael Perry OFM), and from the new Custos of the Holy Land (Fr. Francesco Patton OFM). The letter was posted on the First Sunday of Advent on both the OFM website, and on the website of the Custodia Terrae Sanctae (The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land).

The letter is addressed “to all the friars of the Order of Friars Minor, to the Poor Clares, to the sisters to the brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, and to all women and men of good will.”

This text follows Fr. Michael’s recent message, at the time of the feast of St Francis, regarding Syria and Aleppo, which we posted here.

A PDF of the letter, which you may download, is available here.

children-in-aleppo

Fathers Michael and Francesco say in the letter that they wish to join, and “want to propose to all our communities”, the “Children praying for peace” initiative that began with “Aid to the Church in Need.” They say that “our Parish of St. Francis in Aleppo, which has been strongly affected by the tragedy of war and which has been tenaciously anchored to its hope for peace, has already joined the initiative. From Aleppo, we are now sending out our invitation to the whole world.”

“We believe that the Lord hears the cry of the “little ones” and that their prayer will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.”

“We are asking each community to dedicate their children’s mass, or the mass most frequented by children, on the first Sunday of every month, to prayer for peace, according to what is locally possible. The same thing can be done in a celebration during the Oratory or by involving the schools, thus, in this way giving an ecumenical and interreligious spirit to the initiative. If a community does not have a children’s liturgy or if it does not have a ministry for Oratories or a school, it can make the gesture during the communal Praises or Vespers, or on an occasion created especially for this initiative.”

They offer, in the letter, some practical suggestions using the example of how it is done in Aleppo.

They ask all those who take heed to their proposal to report it on to their Facebook page “Children in prayer for peace” which is based at St Francis parish, Aleppo.

If you do not have access to facebook, then add a comment to this post mentioning your community’s response to the initiative, which we can pass on to them, to assure them of the solidarity of the various communities / fraternities that make up the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain.

As Fathers Michael and Francesco mention, “Children Praying for Peace” is an Aid to the Church in Need initiative. In May this year Aid to the Church in Need reported that children from Syria’s different Christian denominations (Catholic and Orthodox) would be joining together to pray for peace in that country on International Children’s Day.

And on 7th October Aid to the Church in Need reported that More than one million children in Syria have been calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the violence engulfing the country. “At least 2,000 schools from many parts of Syria are taking part in the initiative in which youngsters have been drawing pictures and writing messages for the attention of the United Nations in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. Children of all denominations in the capital, Damascus, as well as in Homs, Yabroud, Marmarita as well as Aleppo have been taking part in the Peace for Children initiative with songs, dances, drama and prayer, all calling for peace.”

Aid to the Church in Need project partners including Aleppo-based Sister Annie Demerjian have stressed the number of traumatised children, with many experiencing violence, sexual exploitation, abduction and the loss of loved ones. Sister Annie Demerjian (pictured below), was recently in London at an Aid to the Church in Need event, and spoke of the extremely difficult conditions they faced in Aleppo.

Fathers Michael and Francesco suggest that the prayers of the “little ones” will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.” Grown-Ups wishing to add their prayers to those of the children may find an additional resource on this page.

Sister Annie Demerjian:

sister-annie

Children from Al Nouzha, Homs showing pictures of the Infant of Prague which they drew in Catechism classes – from Aid to the Church in Need:

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Feast of St Francis: OFM Appeal for Syria

rovine-siria-e-frate
May the Lord grant you peace on this feast day of our Holy Father Francis!
And on this great feast the Friars Minor have launched this urgent appeal calling for the designation of Aleppo, and other places in Syria, as Safe Zones. The appeal is co-signed by the Minister General Fr. Michael A. Perry OFM and by the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francesco Patton OFM.
In particular – note Fr. Perry and Fr. Patton – the establishment of a security zone around Aleppo “would allow the whole population, worn down by the terrible effects of the conflict, to receive essential humanitarian aid without discrimination, to find safety and security, and to recover some trust and hope in a speedy solution, which would be motivated by peace alone”. The Religious Superiors also pledge their prayers and support to “our confrères who courageously continue to live in Syria. Through their closeness and practical service to all those weighed down by the harrowing consequences of the conflict, the friars have shown themselves to be true “good Samaritans”.
Currently there are about fifteen Friars Minor in Syria. Among them, in addition to the religious dispersed in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia, there are two friars who continue to carry out their pastoral service in Knayeh, Yacoubieh and Jdeideh, in the villages of the Orontes valley, subject to the domination of jihadist forces, where some hundreds of baptized continue to live, pray and attend Masses celebrated in the three Catholic parishes stripped of the bells, crosses and statues of saints. The two friars who are with them are the only priests and religious Christians left in the lands where jihadist militias dictate laws.
May we secular franciscans also pledge our prayers and support to “our confrères who courageously continue to live in Syria”.
To read the message as a pdf see here.
For more information on the work of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land see here and here.
The full Agenzia Fides report on the launch of the appeal is here.
aleppo

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