Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Leaders Bring Special Messages to Q

National Minister Deacon Tom Bello
CHICAGO -- National Minister Tom Bello,General Minister Encarnita del Pozo and Chicago Auxiliary Bishop George J. Rassas all had special messages for more than 500 Franciscans participating in the opening of the 18th Quinquennial Congress here July 3.

Deacon Bello said he had three simple prayers for the group.

"My first prayer is that everybody knows we are family. There are no strangers here. We're all brothers and sisters." The audience erupted into wild applause.

His second prayer was to "think of yourself as the largest manifestation of the national fraternity," and as such, to ponder "what it means to be a Secular Franciscan in the United States in 2012," and "where do we go from here, what is our future?"

His third prayer was to remember that "we are all brothers and sisters of penance," which to him reflects a turning away from sin and a turning toward God."Let us be Spirit-filled… Let this be daily on-going conversion."

General Minister Encarnita del Pozo
The general minister, who flew in from Spain and was introduced to a rousing standing ovation, said she was struck by the theme of the Quinquennial, "Why Francis? Claim the Gift." It hit her as an "insistent call" for a "supernatural gift," to ask for it over and over again. It's not unlike the way Francis responded "to the supernatural love God gave to him." Noting that congress would be a journey for herself as well as everyone else, she prayed that "we all perceive in ourselves the gift God is offering us."

Bishop Rassas celebrated the opening liturgy, noting it was the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Thomas was the epitome of the saying, "seeing is believing," doubting the risen Christ really had visited his fellow apostles while he was away. But his later profession of faith, "my Lord and my God," turned the saying around to "believing is seeing."

Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas
Believing is seeing the presence of Christ in the world, he said.

St. Clare, he noted, took it a step further by encouraging followers to gaze on the image of Christ, consider the image of Christ, contemplate the image of Christ, and then take action and imitate Christ.

Likewise, the bishop encouraged the Franciscans to take action and "extend the compassion of Jesus to others, especially the most vulnerable."

Doug Clorey with Encarnita del Pozo
During the evening's welcoming remarks, Doug Clorey of Canada, the vice general minister and also president of Franciscans International,  noted:
"I've journeyed with five of your national councils... I've come to know many of you."

He drew applause when he added: "For me this is kind of like a family reunion!"

The Quinquennial is taking place at the Holiday Inn Chicago North Shore.