Foundation of Blessed Joseph Vaz

Prep Com for the Chapter

62/1 Meekanuwa Road
Ampitiya (KY) 20120

RE: 2008 Foundation Chapter

20th October 2007

Friars Minor
Franciscan Foundation of
Blessed Joseph Vaz
Sri Lanka

Dear Brothers:

Peace and every blessing!

Last Sunday, the 14th of this month, we the members of the Preparatory Committee for the 2008 Foundation Chapter, Sebastian Logu, Prabath Krishanta and I, met. We want to present to you some proposals and questions towards preparing the Foundation for such an important event.

1. Pre-Chapter Sessions

We propose that we have three pre-Chapter sessions, so that the Chapter itself can become more focused:

1.1 An evaluation of the past triennium through an updating of the SWOT analysis done last year and a review of the proposed directions of the Foundation.

1.2 Introduction of the Hall/Tonna Values Technology into the Foundation, so as to align each individual values or the group’s values with the organisational values of the Foundation (cf. Brochure anent issue).

1.3 Situating the Foundation in the politico-economic and religio-cultural matrix of Sri Lanka.

2. Proposed Chapter Agenda

Besides the Foundation President Report and the Provincial Visitation Report, we are making the following proposals as Chapter Agenda:

2.1 Strategic Planning, which is a consequence of 1.1 – 1.3 above. We need to plan well our commonly accepted directions and commitments.

2.1.1 Internationalisation of the Foundation (which had already been discussed in last year’s evaluation and approved by the recent Provincial Chapter;
2.1.2 Koslanda Project;
2.1.3 Fraternity in the North/Northeast;
2.1.4 A post-novitiate house with apostolic/missionary endeavours.

2.2 Systematisation of the Foundation’s Financial Operations

2.3 Thalangama Parish vis-à-vis the Foundation

2.4 Preparations for Elections

3. Postponed Date of the 2008 Foundation Chapter

We also want to suggest that our Chapter take place during Easter Week (Easter Monday to Easter Friday, 24-28 March 2008) at Thalangama with a community outing in the following week.

Thus, in connection with these, may we request you to answer the enclosed questionnaire and send it to us as soon as possible.

Thanks for your cooperation!

Yours fraternally,

For the 2008 Foundation Chapter PrepCom: Bienvenido Q. Baisas ofm

Encl. a/s

Report of the Provincial Visitator to the Foundation Chapter

Sri Lanka
March 23-28, 2008


01. I arrived at the international airport of Colombo in the early morning of March 24 and there I was met by the friars, Andrew Litigio (President of foundation), Bienvenido Baisas and Ferdinand Pestaño. Ms. Bella Dumas, who was conducting values technology sessions and workshops with the members of the Foundation, was also with the welcoming group. From the airport, we proceeded to the Foundation House.

02. In the afternoon of the same day I began my individual talk with the members of the foundation. I started with the aspirants and then with other formandi and finally with the solemnly professed friars. Since I came later than expected when the Foundation chapter had already started a day before, I had to squeeze the individual conference either in between sessions or in the evening. It took me almost three days to talk to all the brothers. I was not able to talk to Percival Tayem, a member of the Foundation, because he is at the moment in Canterbury, England pursuing a course on Franciscanism.

03. With the sharing of the brothers to me, I was able to come up with the following observations and recommendations.

Living in Minority, Simplicity and Fraternity

04. One of the first questions that I asked the Sri Lankan candidates (aspirants, postulants, and novices) was: what attracted you to join the Franciscan Order in Sri Lanka? And I asked as well both the friars in formation and solemnly professed brothers the question: what keeps you going? They were the same and unanimous in their responses: We were inspired by how the friars live – a witnessing in simplicity and poverty. Unlike in other religious houses and even in the national seminary, the friars here cook their own food, wash their own laundry and dishes. They clean the house and backyard. They eat together and share the same food prepared and set on the table. They all treat each other equally and fraternally as brothers regardless of their status as a priest, lay brother or formant. Having said this, almost everybody attests that this is the kind of life that they want to live because they saw it in the friars.

05. Household chores may seem trivial compared to what others pretend to see as more necessary and important such as academics, studies, degrees, etc. But insignificant as they seem, these little things are those that really project the authentic spirit of Franciscan minority and poverty. You yourselves can attest and confirm this because they did influence your decision to be a part of the Franciscan fraternity. And these are those that keep you going in spite of the struggles, the challenges, the doubts, the difficulties and frustrations that in one way or another made warped the path that the foundation had tread since its inception.

06. In spite of the many developments that had happened, the members of the foundation can still pride in the fact that such little things still form an essential part of the community’s everyday life. It will be an immense remiss to the foundation if this modus vivendi will be lost along the way. Those so called big words, like philosophy and theology, should never be an excuse just as to neglect those “insignificant” things that we do which in reality truly justify our claim that we, Franciscans, are indeed identified as “lesser brothers” or “friars minor”.

07. Others may see the new building (foundation house) as a risk to this simplicity. But on the other hand, the foundation saw its importance and relevance because of the gradually increasing number of its members plus the necessity of having a place to accommodate visiting friars and other guests. Besides it’s not the size that makes the house a home, it’s the people living in it. It will moreover be a transgression against simplicity and poverty if such a home will not be given utmost care. Neglect will entail more repairs and hence bigger expenses in the future. I suggest that the Foundation sees to it that ample budget is set aside for the maintenance and upkeep of the Foundation house. A periodic maintenance check of the house should be scheduled on a regular basis.

Spirit of Prayer and Devotion

08. The life of minority and poverty is always derivative of a life that is in communion with the very source of life itself who is God, our Lord and Creator. This communion is always given the opportunity in the communities because of the regular schedule of prayer, meditation, celebration of the Holy Hours and the Holy Eucharist. There is also a regular schedule of recollection and retreat for the spiritual nourishment of the brothers. I believe that a more meaningful celebration of the liturgy can be had if contextualized and indigenous forms can also be explored and tried. With its rich Buddhist culture and tradition, Sri Lanka can offer much especially in the area of personal and communal meditation and contemplation and in developing other prayer forms.

Mission and Evangelization

09. Franciscan living is not only lived within the community. Our rule and constitution remind us that the Franciscan spirit should flow from the life of communion to the ministry of the friars. The main apostolate of the foundation now is the parish. Although some friars have had exposures and immersions in other areas of ministry here and there, the foundation had not really explored yet other possibilities that would suit best our Franciscan identity on a more sustained basis.

10. The Koslanda presence and Jaffna project may be perfect opportunities for the foundation, and hopefully, for future overseas missionaries, to engage in more “Franciscan” apostolate or ministry. The Minister General and the Order today talk of apostolate with the poor, the marginalized or the excluded. The recently held JPIC International meeting in the Philippines exhorts the friars to seek ministries where they can work for and with the excluded in the society and promote social and environmental justice and be instruments of peace in the communities.

11. It might still be difficult at this stage but the foundation may already begin discerning on how to get involve seriously in the inter-religious dialogue apostolate.


12. In the initial years of the Foundation, it was made clear that one of its main priorities is the formation of local candidates. This was to ensure the growth of the Order in this country. Indeed, we are seeing results. The Foundation is now blessed with some Sri Lankan friars, both solemnly and temporarily professed, with the novices, postulant and aspirants. There could have been more but regrettably the preparation of qualified friars to be formators either locally, from the Mother Province or elsewhere, became an oversight and has stifled significantly the process. Now the foundation is struggling with friars assuming multiple roles because of the lack of personnel esp. trained and full-time formators. The request from the mother Province for additional personnel has always been constant in all the recent and past chapter resolutions but it seems that response is not always forthcoming because of the problem with personnel that the Province experiences as well.

13. It behooves then the Foundation through its council to facilitate discussions, discernment processes, and even strategic planning among its members in order to address this very urgent concern. An objective assessment of how the formation program was formulated and implemented in and by the foundation in the course of its existence should be done so as to ensure proper discussion, discernment and decision-making on the matter. Other possibilities may be explored even if they would require some drastic measures only to assure the solid training, preparation and formation of future Franciscans in Sri Lanka.

14. It is hoped that this objective assessment of the formation program of the foundation will result to a formulation of a more relevant and workable local ratio formationis with all the necessary contents, topic descriptions, processes, goals and objectives, time frame and evaluation tools included. Such manual will be of great help to both the formators (and future formators) and formants in the formation process. It will definitely set a direction to the program and guide them as well in their day to day activities hence allaying the worries of many that their formation is only about doing household chores.

15. I have also pointed out in my individual talks with the formants about the need to have a spiritual director who can accompany them in the formative journey. The foundation council should see to it that this very essential element of both initial and ongoing formation is being addressed.

16. It must be noted that every new policy or innovation in the formation program should always be initiated through a concerted process that will actively involve all formants, formators or, if possible, all members of the Foundation.

17. I am not quite familiar with the status of Formation and Studies in the Conference (SAAO) to which the Foundation belongs. But it would surely benefit the formation program of the foundation if it would collaborate with the other entities of the conference with regard to common activities that it may participate in, such as, exchange programs, language courses, exposures and immersions, etc. The foundation may also collaborate with the other Asian conference (EAC) with regard to these programs.

18. Planning and proper strategizing should also be done in the area of the pastoral care of vocation. The foundation should also see to it that this concern is included in the assessment and implementation process.


19. Everybody is aware of what the Foundation went through in the past. But in spite of this, it did not deter some friars to pursue the vision and mission that they had already worked on at the beginning of the Foundation’s life. We really have to commend these brothers: the President of the Foundation and the Council members, for the sacrifice, the pain and the struggles that they had to go through to keep the presence going in spite of the difficulties caused by those mistakes in the past that had unfortunately compromised the standing of the Foundation in Sri Lanka. Though they themselves admit that they do have their own weaknesses, they jumped over the hurdles and went against the odds so as to take the Foundation to where it is now. Because of this, we congratulate and salute you, the outgoing Foundation Council members: Andrew Litigio, Hippolytus Benedict and Leonard Caldera, for a job well done!

20. Finally, I think that indeed the Foundation is still in its childhood stage even if 13 years had already passed since it came to existence. Every child in the early phase of its development has to be assisted so it will be able to negotiate its first strides. But even with the comforting guidance of its parents it is still inevitable that the child will stumble in its many attempts. But definitely it will get up again, stand and continue to learn how to walk. Once it is able to stand and take stride after stride confidently, it may now rely on its own two feet and may not need to be guided anymore to continue in its journey.

21. I believe that the foundation is still going through the same process. But in the long run it will have to eventually rely on its own two feet and become more confident in taking stride after stride in providing the space and time for the Order to grow and make its Franciscan presence felt in the Sri Lankan Church and society. Without discounting the important role played by the Philippine Province and the other early missionaries who first established the Franciscan presence here, the main protagonists in this process are still the Sri Lankan brothers themselves who inevitably have to take over the driver’s seat as this presence and spirit will continue to journey on along the winding path of life and history of this country.

22. Lastly, I wish to thank all the brothers in the foundation for the hospitality and warm welcome and accommodation. I really felt like I was home all along. May God give you peace!

Prepared by: Jose Femilou D. Gutay, ofm – Provincial Visitor