Fifty friars from throughout the Province met to elect their leadership, approve a strategic plan, reaffirm their presence in Northern Mexico and send a friar to help establish the Order in Vietnam.
Fr. Matthew Elshoff, OFM Cap, was reelected as Provincial Minister of the Capuchin friars of California and Northern Mexico. Four additional friars (Definitors) were elected as his councilors: Fr. Jesús Vela, OFM Cap, pastor of St. Lawrence of Brindisi Parish in Watts, Fr. Antonio Marti, OFM Cap, president of St. Francis High School in La Canada, Fr. Roberto Barbato, OFM Cap, director of San Lorenzo Seminary in Santa Ynez, Harold Snider, OFM Cap, a prison chaplain in Solvang.
Fulfilling the mandate of the Chapter 0f 2008, the Provincial Minister established a committee of friars and laity to create a three year strategic plan. This Chapter approved the plan which focuses on their Capuchin spirituality and ministry to the laity throughout California and Northern Mexico. With the growth of the Capuchins in Northern Mexico, and as part of the celebration of the mission’s 25th Anniversary, a formal petition was made to Rome to give the mission autonomy by raising it to the status of Custody of the Order. Capuchin friars in Yécora, Sonora, serve indigenous peoples in remote locations as well as the people in Durango, Chihuahua, and Monterrey. Six solemnly professed Mexican friars attended the Chapter and shared their experiences of the Order in Mexico. There are a total of 26 young friars preparing for solemn vows, many of whom will be ordained to the priesthood for Northern Mexico.
Responding to a request by the Capuchin’s worldwide leader, General Minster Br. Mauro Jöhri, OFM Cap, to help establish the Capuchin Order in Vietnam, the friars of the Western America Province will send one of their brothers of Vietnamese origins to assist in this important work. Leading the Chapter meeting was Br. Mark Schenk, OFM Cap, a General Definitor who serves the Capuchin Order in Rome. Among those who addressed the friars were Mr. Michael Smith, a businessman and friend of the Capuchins in southern California and Fr. Michael Healey, a priest of the San Francisco Archdiocese who has known the friars since his childhood in Ireland. Both spoke to the strengths and opportunities of the Capuchins in the Western America Province. Sr. Regina Fox SSND was the facilitator for the Chapter and consultant for the strategic planning process.
As members of a religious Order established in 1528, the Capuchins who number 11,000 worldwide, follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the example of their founder, St. Francis of Assisi. Capuchins have historically been missionaries. Irish friars originally arrived in the western region of the United States in 1910. Seventy five years later the friars extended their mission to Sonora in Northern Mexico to serve the poor in many remote locations in the Sierra Madre. At present, the Capuchins of the Western America Province have eight friaries in California.