25 July 2023

Graced Encounters of Fraternal Dialogue and Intentional Relating

Dearest Family and Friends,

My heart is full as I look back on the first half of the year. I feel like I have been running non-stop especially from April onwards with the Spirituality Conference by Friar Wayne Hellmann, followed almost immediately by the declaration of our Custody as autonomous on 25 April, and the quick trip Friar John Wong and I made to Kota Kinabalu to show our Minister General Friar Massimo Fusarelli our latest mission. Then, with only a few days to catch my breath, I found myself in the thick of the Franciscan Conference of Asia-Oceania meeting in Bali, which you can read about in the News section.

In most of these trips, there was prior discernment and preparation to be done, work work work during, and follow-up action and more discernment after. But what anchored all this labouring was fraternal dialogue and intentional relating.

With Friar Wayne Hellmann for example, well, he and I have been in contact since he conducted a retreat for us in 2015. When I was in Rome for studies, Wayne made it a point to have a meal with me whenever he was there to find out how I was doing. This relationship and trust made planning the Spirituality Conference together so much easier. Accompanying him to each location was a joy. I felt I had a spiritual father and brother guiding and teaching me as we shared deeply about our prayer life and all things Franciscan.

I also found connecting with Friar Massimo very refreshing. It has never been clear to me how to relate to people in top positions, but Massimo was very brotherly and genuinely concerned about how I was doing and how the Custody was doing. There were several light[1]hearted moments in Kota Kinabalu where I saw a very human side of the man in charge of the entire Franciscan Order. He is my brother in Christ and in Francis, and I related to him from the authentic core of who I am, as Derrick. This is part of a deepening of my discovery of who I am and how I am to relate to those around me, simply as a brother, like Francis did.

Now that our Custody is autonomous, I am fully aware of the greater responsibility I have. The buck now stops at me, so to speak; no longer can I refer to the Australia Provincial for decisions and approvals. Fortunately I have a team of Councillors and office bearers who also desire a more authentic expression of Franciscan living.

I pray that this Franciscan spirit of fraternal dialogue and intentional relating can be experienced by everyone, especially those we friars encounter. We all journey together with St Francis who knew that these earthly fraternal encounters spark a deathless hope in our hearts.

So with these graced encounters in the past months, how can my heart not be full?

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