Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Provincial Chapter: the Elections

It was my original intention to put up a post every day of the Chapter; but the events of the second day blew that plan (plus a lot of my other plans) out of the water. Now, three months later, I can get round to relating what happened.

The day began, as before, with Mass and Morning Prayer. The Mass was a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, asking for Him to guide us in our decisions – most importantly the elections to be held that day. And then after breakfast we were back in the chapel for a time of further prayer. So the following proceedings were well soaked in prayer.

Elections at our Chapters involve all the brothers sitting round the edge of the room along long tables, so that everyone is facing inwards. After a roll-call, the electors take an oath to vote only for those whom they consider in conscience should be elected. Ballot papers are distributed, on which each brother writes the name of his preferred candidate, and these are then collected by the scrutineers, who count the votes. In order for a brother to be elected to the post, he needs to have a majority of the votes. At this Chapter, for example, there were 29 electors, so 15 votes were needed for a brother to be elected. Multiple ballots are usually required before such a majority is forthcoming.

The first round of ballots was, as you might expect, for the position of Provincial Minister. It would not be right for me to reveal everything that went on in the Chapter; suffice to say that when we arrived at Pantasaph less than two days earlier I was nowhere near being the favourite for the elections, but the God of surprises did His customary thing and I was elected on the third ballot.

When the result was announced the President of the Chapter asked me if I accepted my election. For a brief moment of panic I considered refusing; but that would have been disobedient to the voice of the brothers, so I accepted and slipped into a state of mild shock. My fears and consternation were somewhat alleviated, however, by the subsequent elections for the Definitory, which gave me a good team of advisors.

In the evening there was the Proclamation of the Elections, as part of Evening Prayer. As the new Provincial Minister, I then made the profession of faith, and was presented with the seal of the Province, to symbolise the authority I was receiving.

In the Capuchin Order the new Provincial takes up his responsibility immediately, so I had no time for things to sink in before I was making decisions. It's been a steep learning-curve; but there have been several consolations and helps along the way. Firstly, as I mentioned, the Definitory (i.e. my four councillors) are an excellent group, with a good mix of characters and experiences. Secondly, the outgoing Provincial, Br. James, stayed around for a good two months before heading off for his sabbatical; so there was plenty of time to pick his brains and lean on his sympathy. Thirdly, the Lord has been with me all the way. He hasn't always made it easy, but He's shown me how He can work with my mistakes at least as much as with my correct decisions. Fourthly, I attribute the graces thus far to the many prayers that people are sending up for me. Thank you, one and all!

I apologise for the autobiographical nature of this post. I felt some explanation was due, however, for my three months of silence. Now that I'm blogging again I have some backlog of stuff to share. The next post will be a slightly modified version of my Christmas letter to the friars. After that, my sister has told me she expects "a scintillating post on leadership." No pressure...

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