(This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 TAU-USA Issue #110)

by Sharon Winzeler, OFS

Visitors and NEC. Front row:_Cherryle Fruge, OFS._Second row (left to right: Fr. Carlos Gines Campos Julve, TOR; Mary Frances Charsky, OFS; Kathleen Molaro, OFS; and Dina Shabalina, OFS.  Third row (left to right): Susan Ronan, OFS; Jane DeRose-Bamman, OFS; Diane Menditto, OFS; Claudia Kauzlarich, OFS; Layna Maher, OFS._Back row (left to right): Fr. John DeLaRiva, OFM Cap.; Donna Hollis, OFS; and Joshua Molidor, OFS.

Seventy Secular Franciscans, friars and visitors met at the General Chapter in St. Louis amidst a record-setting heat wave Aug. 22-27. One day the mercury soared to 104 degrees, breaking a record of 101 degrees set in 1943.

This was a visitation year, and Secular Franciscans were honored by the presence of fraternal visitor Dina Shabalina, OFS, from Ukraine, and pastoral visitor Fr. Carlos Gines Campos Julve, TOR, of Peru. Visitations are held every six years at the national level. This year’s event was at the Pallottine Renewal Center. Secular Franciscans recognized the celebration of Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24 by singing the national anthem and providing a generous check to Dina for the Secular Franciscans in Ukraine.

Dina and Fr. Carlos spent the week talking in groups and individually with members of the National Executive Council, regional ministers and spiritual assistants.

“My hometown is thousands of miles away from this place, but this week I couldn’t feel the distance. I felt like I am at home,” Dina said.

“I appreciate very much that you were honest with us. You shared not just your joys and achievements but also your challenges,” she said.

She praised the NEC and the regional ministers for their work.

“The higher you are, the more burden of service you take upon your shoulders,” Dina said.

She praised the efforts that the Secular Franciscans were making to reach out to youth.

“I appreciate that you are looking for ways to find the young people. The young people need you. Don’t be afraid to show them who you are,” she said.

Dina was fluent in English. Fr. Carlos had an interpreter, but he delivered his closing remarks in English.

“This moment is by the grace of God. I discovered the Franciscan fraternity years ago. It helped my vocation as a friar grow,” he said.

Fr. Carlos said he saw true fraternity among those gathered and encouraged them to seek God’s grace and spiritual support in guiding the Order.

“Let’s not only use our logic and wisdom but also our faith in the grace of God because this is his work,” he said.

The chapter concluded with the recitation of the Hail Mary in many of the languages represented at the chapter English, French, Spanish, Polish, and Ukranian.

The week also included meetings, Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis on his feast day, budget adoption, the Minister’s State of the Order Address, the JPIC award, and an activity demonstration by the Centenary Committee.