A Pro-active Capuchin Response – Part - 1
This article brings you the insights about the new initiatives of our brothers from Belgium. It may also give you a new hope of doing something in your own jurisdiction. Franciscan Capuchins have a special grace to begin again even in situations where others may give up. Thanks to Br. Kenny Brack Ofm Cap for sharing this with us. We hope it will help those jurisdictions that are undergoing difficulty due to fewness of the number of friars. The second part can be read in our Formation Office website: [email protected]
(Fra. Charles Alphonse & Jaime Rey Ofm Cap)
Franciscan Experience Centre Meersel-Dreef (Belgium)
Grand opening on the 8th of March 2019
On the evening of Friday the 8th of March 2019, there was a unique Franciscan celebration in the Capuchin fraternity of Meersel-Dreef (Belgium); the Capuchin Flandro-Belgica province opened their Franciscan Experience Center.
The evening opened with a vesper prayer service in the church of the fraternity, where more than 200 people thanked the Lord for this opportunity.
Br. Adri Geerts (min. prov.), br. Pieter Pecceu (ofs. - min. YouFra) and br. Kenny Brack (vic. prov. & local guardian) said a few words to all gathered together. Then the centre was blessed and opened for the public. At the same time, a small reception was held in the tavern next to the fraternity. An evening overflowing with pastoral encounters and for some a unique introduction to the Franciscan spirituality.
What is the Franciscan Experience Centre?
The Franciscan Experience Centre has a unique concept. It invites the visitor to follow a path, the path of the visitors own spirituality and Saint Francis is the guide to this unique path. A totally different way of approaching Franciscan spirituality. We do not tell the story of how we can live the Franciscan way. For this specific way of a historical or educational point of view, the curators suggest a visit to the museum 'De Mindere' in St. Truiden.
After a prolonged searching for and contemplation of what the centre could become, the curators held a poll to find out what 'the average joe' is occupied with in life, what makes them happy, what fears do they have. A pertinent question was asked: "tell us one thing that you are busy with and that you can't find the answer to". Finally, we brought all the answers together to arrive at a few subjects where we could give a Franciscan answer to. This is how we arrived to change seven of the oldest rooms of the fraternity into an answer, into a meditation around these questions. The seven spaces are conceived to be rooms to reflect on each question... or that your breath is taken away, or you become filled with joy, or you find silence and begin to meditate.
Two information panels in each room help you along. A provocative description of the theme of each room and how Saint Francis approached this theme. This last description allows the visitor to get a view into our Franciscan spirituality. The texts are written to invite to dig deeper. Each area in the Experience Centre invites the visitor to look for more in life.
What are the different themes?
- Peace and all good. (Welcome and timeline of the life of Saint Francis)
- The garden of the community (Resurrection and relationship)
- Canticle of creation. (thankfulness and respect for creation)
- My God and my all. (about trust)
- The little poor one, full of capabilities (about poverty)
- Fear and trust ( Admonitions 27:4 & The Wolf of Gubbio.)
- Pilgrims & foreigners
To whom is the centre aimed?
A few years ago Giacomo Bini, old-general of the Franciscan Friars Minor held a speech at chapter in the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, it could be summarised like this: it is unbelievable that nearly all our energy goes to the 3% of people who have found the way to our spirituality and that we remain indifferent to the 97% of people who (no longer) have interest in what the Church has to say.
This stuck with the curators. The centre is therefore aimed at all people, unconcerned to how they are orientated in life. We are sure that our universal brother Francis of Assisi has something to say that will add something of value to their life.
It is good to know that Belgium has become a very secular country, where the Church has its share of criticism to endure. In the past, the Church in Belgium was too directive in the day to day lives of people and now has to pay the price. At the same time, there are so many people who are searching for truth in life and through the criticism, indifference and intolerance of parents and family towards the Church, never would have found their way to the Chruch.
A new generation is also standing up, free from past burdens. We detect the strong desire from youth and adolescents for spirituality but are scared to search within the classical Church structures, because none, with exception of a few, are to be found in Church on a Sunday.
Our first intention is that aiming at high school students and young families we can stimulate a desire for more depth in the fullness of life. That anyone can come here in the peace and quiet and find oneself with brother Francis of Assisi as a guide.
In the long run, we hope to also provide an educational side to the story, via a dedicated app on a tablet, to help bring each theme even closer to the lives of people by engaging the Franciscan spirituality even more.
By Br. Kenny Brack Ofm Cap
To be continued….