On the 21st July 2019 Post-Novices from France, Ireland, Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany gathered in Altötting in the Bavarian region of Germany for the 3rd Annual formation programme of the CENOC conference. In the previous years the post-novices of these provinces, along with Malta, had met and enjoyed similar positive formation experiences in the Holy Land and Assisi.
Walking with St Conrad of Parzham
We arrived in Altötting on a hot and sunny Sunday and were warmly welcomed by the brothers of the St Magdalena Friary. The famous Bavarian hospitality we received there was a perfect way to prepare for our fraternal pilgrimage.
St Conrad spent many hours walking the countryside surrounding Parzham, taking pilgrimages to significant sites and attending Mass in the local churches. To follow his call to join the Capuchin order he walked again, and his walking continued between the porters room, the friary door, and the Blessed Sacrament. In order to come to know St Conrad, ourselves, and each other, we too would walk and along those same paths and in those same places.
Following Mass at his family home and a hearty lunch of Weisswurst and Pretzel, we set out from Parzham following our very able guide br Hans Pruckner of the Austrian province. Three days later the brothers arrived once again in Altötting having walked around 50km under the hot sun, taking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful Bavarian countryside, praying in out of the way places (including a bus shelter), talking, encouraging, resting, eating, and playing, and although exhausted and road weary bonds of brotherhood had begun to form which we all hope will last our lifetimes. A quiet and reflective peace seemed to pervade the group. We had achieved something and we had achieved it together.
Back in Altötting the guardian of the community br Norbert Schlenker gave us a tour of the Friary where St Conrad had been the porter for 40 years, once St Anne’s and now St Conrad’s. He shared with us his deep knowledge of St. Conrad and the history of the Capuchin Order in this part of Germany. We celebrated Mass at the tomb of St Conrad and here reflected with new insight on our Capuchin vocations and the example left to us by this remarkable lay brother.
With our pilgrimage over, and our feet still a little sore, our fraternity moved to Salzburg, Austria. Walking up the Kapuzinerberg (Capuchin Mountain) to the friary was the last thing many of us wanted to do after our long walk but the view from the terrace over the wonderful city of Salzburg was truly a welcome gift.
The three days in Salzburg were spent encountering the emotional life of St Francis through reflective group work based on the 1st Chapter of the Ratio Formationis. These were moments of sharing which required patience, sensitivity, and ingenuity to bridge language and culture and gave us the opportunity to come to know the thoughts and experiences of our brothers in the differing situations of our order. Of course, the work was mixed with times of prayer, liturgy, and recreation. We even had the opportunity to sample the great beer garden tradition.
During the closing Mass of the formation week br John Peter Vallabadoss, post-novitiate director for the Province of France, spoke of the hope that remains in these parts of Europe. That 10 good men trying their best to discover and live out their vocations will encourage and inspire others. Hope remains. This was met with enthusiastic agreement, that although we may not be able to see where this is leading us, we are all convinced that something is happening. St Francis trusted in this, St Conrad trusted in this, and we too, having spent this time together, grow more and more in this trust.
Our farewells were filled with a genuine hope of seeing each other again soon. A wonderful fraternal experience had come to an end and each of us set out on our walking once more.
Br Ade Green Ofm Cap – Province of Great Britain.
(Thanks to Br. Harald Weber Ofm Cap, our Intenational Councilor for Formation (CENOC) for sharing this article with us and we appreciate Br. Ade Green Ofm Cap for writing this article)
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