I have just returned from India after officiating 8 Provincial elective Chapters. During these chapters the desire to live the Gospel and the charism of the Capuchin Order was very clear and evident. The young and old friars spoke and demanded that we need renewal and return to the spirit of the founder, return to the Capuchin life and traditions. The desire to live the charism anew and to read it in the present cultural, religious and political context is must on the part of every member. The provincial chapters celebrated every three years is a reminder that we belong to the universal church and the charism of the Capuchins is entrusted to us and we have no monopoly over it. But we have to take up the task of living it in a vibrant and active way. The chapter of a province, therefore, is not a private affair which concerns only the members of province. It is an ecclesial event which is of interest to the Christian community as a whole. It is normal that this should take an interest in it and be concerned about its orientations. For a province, it is the occasion par excellence to become newly aware of its links with the Church in whose mission it plays a part, and with the world to whom it has been sent by Christ.
At the time of a chapter a province places itself in a situation of listening. Listening, first of all, to the Word of God. This Word comes to it through its own tradition, and also through what its members are experiencing, perceiving and saying. It comes to it also through what the Spirit is saying to the Church today as well as through the signs of the times, that is, the contemporary social and cultural context.
In times of profound and rapid cultural change such as these which we are experiencing in our day, religious province can, through their chapters, bring to society their reading of human situations such as, for example, the massive displacement of peoples, the ever widening gap between rich and poor, the massive encounters of cultures and religions.
The chapter has not only to be concerned with the quality of the religious life of its present members, but also with the quality of the province itself, which has as its mission to keep alive its charism and hand it down to future generations, through a well-knit complex of doctrine, traditions, observances and rites.
Through the chapter, an institute is called to cast a look of love and compassion on the world around it, in which it lives and to whom it is sent in mission.
A chapter cannot be simply the affair of a group of people chosen for this task. It is the affair of all the members of the institute. The capitulars are the "delegates" who exercise their function in the name of all the members of the institute. A chapter is a collegial and community act. Collegial in its functioning, which means that the decisions taken in the chapter are taken by the college of participants legally designated. Community, since it is the expression of the life of the whole community of communities which is the institute.