By BOB and MARY STRONACH, SFO
PITTSBURGH, PA, July 4, 2007 -- An exuberant evening procession of cultures kicked off the Secular Franciscan Order’s 17th Quinquennial Congress July 3 at the Radisson Hotel Pittsburgh Green Tree. The colorful display of dress from Bulgaria, India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Latin America, Native America, the Philippines, Romania, Spain and other cultures served as the procession to the opening mass, celebrated by Steubenville, Ohio Bishop Daniel Conlon.
Noting the Congress theme, “Many Cultures through Francis in Christ,” National Minister Patrick Mendés welcomed the 430 participants, and recognized a few special guests; among them:
-- Canadian Doug Clorey, OFS, the international councilor for English speaking countries;
-- past national ministers Richard Morton, SFO, William Wicks, SFO, and Carol Gentile;
-- representative from the Anglican Third Order Society of St. Francis, Rev. Joan Verrett, TSSF.
In his homily, Bishop Conlon referred to the Gospel reading about the apostle Thomas doubting Christ’s resurrection, saying he had to see the Lord for himself and touch his cross-born wounds. When he was in the seminary, the bishop said, St. Thomas was called the patron saint of doubt. The thought behind that was that “we should not have blind faith…We should test, discuss, probe…”
However, the problem occurs when the basic premise is “truth starts with me.”
“If the Word of God is not enough for a basic coming to the truth, then what is?”
For a period, the Apostle Thomas “was grappling with truth…standing alone” while coming to terms with his faith.
Today, the bishop said, “we walk together as members of the Body of Christ, as members of the household of God,” as members of the church community and its tradition, which is “the lived experience of the faith.”
He cautioned against approaching faith from the premise that “truth starts with me,” separated from the “community of the living faith, handed down to us.”
“Doubt? Yes, of course, because we are imperfect.” In this world, “our faith is constantly challenged,” he said. “What the world needs is truth spoken with certainty…with gentleness…with sureness.” Doubt, on the other hand, should be “in our minds and hearts and consciences, not out there causing confusion.”
He added: “If there are any blessings to being a bishop…it’s the call to as strong a faith as I can muster…The people I have been chosen to serve deserve a faith with certainty and conviction.”
A highlight of the mass was the official debut of the Quinquennial theme song, “One God of Us All,” performed by the composers, Clare McCluggage, SFO, and Jan Parker, SFO. Assisting them in the musical presentation were flutist Teresa Orozco, wife of one of the presenters, Javier Orozco, SFO; pianist Dianne Falvo, music director for St. Winifred Parish, Mt. Lebanon, PA; and percussionist Debbie Zugates, a cantor for the Pittsburgh Diocese who played the Djembe.
Following mass, over 30 Franciscan youth received rousing applause as they were asked to come up to the front of the room, which spurred them to break into song.
Part of the procession for the Quinquennial's opening mass.
Bishop Daniel Conlon of Steubenville, Ohio, was the celebrant for the opening mass. At right is Deacon Tom Bello, SFO.
BELOW: The 'Q' theme song, "One God of Us All," gets its musical debut at the Congress, performed by composers Jan Parker, SFO, and Clare McCluggage, SFO, with the assistance of a pianist, percussionist and flutist.
Teresa Orozco, SFO, and Jan Parker, SFO.
Clare McCluggage, SFO; Debbie Zugates, and Dianne Falvo