The 'Q' Beckons SFOs

It's a scenic river community.
In fact, it's where three major rivers converge.
It's also home to the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.

Yes, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will host the 17th Quinquennial Congress. Held every five years, the Congress will convene July 3 at the Radisson Hotel Pittsburgh Green Tree, 101 Radisson Drive, Pittsburgh, and run through July 8.

The 'Q' Planning Committee had to change plans and relocate the congress from Steubenville, Ohio to Pittsburgh in order to better accommodate the needs of the Secular Franciscan Order, reported past National Vice-Minister and 'Q' Chairperson John Sanborn, SFO.

"We are delighted with the Radisson Green Tree facility, which has a convention center and breakout meeting rooms, all in close proximity," Sanborn said. "It will facilitate our featured presentations, the daily liturgies, and the three tracks that the Congress will offer - the general sessions, the youth/young adult track and the sessions for spiritual assistants. In addition, the meeting rooms and the hotel's 465 guest rooms are equipped with complimentary high-speed internet access."

The 'Q' offers Franciscans of all stripes, and anyone with an interest in St. Francis of Assisi, the chance to share and explore the Franciscan charism. With a focus on celebrating cultural and ethnic differences, the 'Q' theme is "Many Cultures - Through Francis - In Christ."

The multicultural theme will be highlighted during liturgies and presentations.
There will be masses in Korean and Spanish, plus an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy and an Indian, Syro Malabar Rite mass.

Three plenary sessions will feature the Rev. Eric Law, an Episcopal priest and Missioner for Congregation Development in the Diocese of Los Angeles, noted Sanborn. Father Law has been featured at conferences sponsored by Catholic dioceses and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and has written numerous books, including "The Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb - a Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community" and "The Word at the Crossings - Living the Good News in a Multicultural World." He has served in a number of long-term multicultural ministry projects and has taught at Theological Seminaries in Chicago and San Antonio.

Other sessions and workshop topics include:

-- Caregiving and the Elderly by Patti Normile, SFO, former teacher, hospital teacher and retreat director. She has written several books and is the author and teacher of "Caring with Faith," a video series designed to train people for ministry to the sick and dying.

-- Spirituality in Today's Secular World by Ed Shirley, SFO, professor of religious studies at St. Edward's University in Texas and chairperson of the National Fraternity's Ecumenical/Interfaith Committee.

-- Secular Franciscans and the Catechetical Ministry by Ron Pihokker, SFO, director of the Catechetical Office of the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ and chairman of the Religious Education Division of the National Catholic Education Association.

-- Francis, Divine Providence and Our Secular Life by Javier Orozco, SFO, chaplain at DePaul University and newly elected vice-minister of the Mother Cabrini Region.

Besides the general sessions, there will be Youth and Young Adult sessions for those between the ages of 16 and 26; and sessions for Spiritual Assistants.

Plans are for Youth and Young Adults to participate in a Franciscan Youth Congress, the first one held in the USA in over 30 years. This track will include a collection of new tennis shoes and socks to be donated to Footprints Ministry, a non profit organization that helps the underprivileged, begun by Rose Averill,SFO, as well as workshops on Youth to Youth Leadership Training, Franciscan Ecology with an Urban Renewal Restoration Project, other activities and dances.

The Spiritual Assistant sessions will provide hands-on training and formation for those religious and lay who are serving SFO fraternities as spiritual assistants.

The Quinquennial Congress is open to anyone who loves Francis of Assisi - his spirituality, his ability to think outside of the box, his dedication to church (despite its faults), his willingness to 'embrace the lepers' of society and his kinship with the world and its creatures, Sanborn noted.

Situated just three miles from downtown Pittsburgh, the Radisson Green Tree offers complimentary airport transportation and free parking for guests.

Noted National Minister Patrick Mendés, SFO: "They have given us a very favorable package. The dates remain the same and there will be a bit of savings over the previous venue...On behalf of the National Executive Council, I want to express our heartfelt thanks to (former National Minister) Carol Gentile, who handled the highly successful negotiations with the hotel, and to the entire 'Q' Planning Committee for their diligence and perseverance."

Mendés encouraged all U.S. Secular Franciscans to consider attending the Quinquennial Congress, and urged regional and local fraternities to send representatives.