On March 14-18, 2022, the friars of Lebanon and Turkey gathered at Adonis-Jbeil, Lebanon, to celebrate the first part of the Ordinary Custodial Chapter of the Provincial Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land.
The first day of the gathering coincided with the ninety-ninth birthday of the oldest friar in the Custody, Friar Massimiliano (Antonio Luigi) CHILIN, a native of today’s Italian Province of St. Anthony of Padua (Northern Italy). In a certain sense, he had re-founded the Conventual Franciscan mission in Lebanon, having arrived there 1966.
The Minister Provincial of the Mother Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania, Friar Damian PĂTRAŞCU, together with the Provincial Custos, Friar Anton BULAI, and his Vicar, Friar Roger KOUYOUMDJI, first visited Friar Massimiliano, who was being treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon. Then they went on to join the friars of the Custody at the retreat house in Adonis-Jbeil, run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Later that evening, the friars welcomed the Minister General, Friar Carlos TROVARELLI and the Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP), Friar Giovanni VOLTAN.
The Chapter began on March 15, with a spiritual reflection led by the Most Reverend Joseph SPITERI, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon. Next, the friars gathered around the Eucharistic Table together with the Nuncio and the Most Reverend César ESSAYAN, OFM Conv., Vicar Apostolic of Beirut.
On March 17, after two days of reflection, discussion and planning for the future, Friar Anton BULAI was elected on the first ballot as Provincial Custos for his second term. That afternoon, the members of the Custodial Definitory were elected, namely, Friars Felician TAMAŞ (Custodial Vicar), Marian Emanuel VĂTĂMĂNELU (Custodial Secretary), and Iulian PIŞTA and Friar Andrew Jeylan HOCHSTEDLER (Definitors). Friar Michał SABATURA was elected as the Custodial Econom and Friar Iulian PIŞTA was elected the Custodial Exactor.
On the morning of March 18, the Chapter officially concluded. While the friars were still gathered, they took advantage of the opportunity to conduct a fraternal outing to Batroun and Byblos, Lebanon.
On March 19, the group attended the consecration of the altar of the Saint François d’Assise Church in Zahle, with the Nuncio, Archbishop SPITERI and our confrere Bishop ESSAYAN also present. Construction of the church ended in 2020, but the consecration of the altar was postponed waiting for the pandemic to wind down and thus was expected to coincide with the Chapter. At 3:00 p.m. that day, news arrived that Friar Massimiliano, who had just entered his hundredth year of life earlier that week, had finished his earthly journey at Beirut’s St. Joseph Hospital.
On Saturday evening, March 20, the friars of the Custody, pained at the loss of their confrere but grateful for his witness of life, gathered to pray for Friar Massimiliano. They were joined by the faithful of the Parish of St. Antoine de Padoue in Sin-El- Fil where Friar Massimiliano lived for more than thirty years.
Bishop ESSAYAN presided over the funeral, which took place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, again at the same Parish in Sin-El-Fin. A great number of faithful attended this moving event. Among the concelebrants was His Beatitude, Youssef III YOUNAN, the Syrian Catholic Patriarch; the Minister General, Friar Carlos; the Assistant General, Friar Giovanni; the Provincial Custos, Friar Anton; and the friars living in Lebanon.
Special thanks to all those who accompanied the “patriarch,” Friar Massimiliano, on his journey, namely, the community of Sin-El-Fil and its Guardian, Friar Felician TAMAŞ; the Pastor, Friar Roger KOUYOUMDJI; as well as other friars—particularly, Friar Jalil HADAYA who spent fifty-five years with Friar Massimiliano.
The second part of the Chapter is scheduled for April 25-30, 2022, in Istanbul, Turkey.
We wish Friar Anton and the new Definitory fruitful service for the benefit of the Custody.
Friar Andrew HOCHSTEDLER