On August 21-25, 2023, twenty-three friars belonging to the Province of the Franciscan Protomartyrs in Zambia and the Mission in Malawi conducted their annual Provincial retreat. The event took place at the Franciscan Pastoral Centre in Ndola, Zambia.
The Retreat Director was Friar Augustine MWAPE, OFM Cap., the Custos of the Capuchin Franciscan Custody of St. Francis of Assisi in Zambia.
On the first day of the retreat, Friar Augustine reminded the friars that St. Francis, at the end of his life, told his friars, “Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing!” Friar Augustine explained that these words would be the guiding theme for reflection throughout the retreat. The words were meant to help the friars renew themselves and rediscover the purpose and meaning of their calling to be Conventual Franciscan friars.
Referring to Genesis 3:1 and 9, Friar Augustine posed three existential questions for each of the friars to reflect upon: Where are you now and where are you going? What has gone wrong in your life, and what is going on now in your life. What motivates you to remain a friar?
He pointed out that the future of the Order depends on friars who are silent martyrs, who volunteer, who are committed, open, available, joyful, more loving, eager to serve and willing to make sacrifices for the common good of the Order.
He challenged the friars to ask themselves if they saw the Order as their true home or if they were just passing through. Where was their treasure? (cf. Mt 6:21). He asked them to refocus on their lives as friars.
He explained that the Incarnation shows that God works with them through their weakness. The friars may be scarred and suffer disappointment and despair, but God inspires and encourages them. Even if they are wounded, slightly or deeply, by their own friars, they should ask, “Where am I? Where are we? What are my fears? What are our fears? What are my scars? What are our scars?” Whatever their difficulties, the friars should always see the Order of Friars Minor Conventual as their Jerusalem, their holy city, and their home (cf. Lk 24).
He exhorted them to be confident and committed disciples and to understand that the religious life they have joyfully chosen is the greatest treasure they shall ever have.
Friar Mathews KASONGO