The Capuchin’s 85th General Chapter

Author: Br. Bill Hugo, OFM Cap.

The Capuchin's 85th General Chapter is not a single story. In fact, there are many stories going on, and not all are of equal interest to everyone. 

Our brother Roberto Genuin was impressively elected Minister General on the first ballot. He is an honorable friar whose skills are lauded by many. The Holy Spirit has been good to the Capuchins in his election. 

Underneath Roberto's election was a sub-plot or story that is not so evident to the casual observer. Many members of the North America and Pacific Capuchin Conference (NAPCC) and other conferences believed it was time for a Minister General who was not from Europe or North America. They did not have a specific candidate in mind, but believed me the time had come to symbolically accept the fact that half of the Capuchins in the world now live in the geographic south. 

Many capitulars were looking for a clue from some southern Capuchin conference; who were the candidates from the south? Neither Asia nor Africa offered such a candidate. So, most who hoped for a new alternative looked to Latin America. Even there, no candidate emerged in time. Potential candidates from Portuguese and Spanish-speaking South America could not muster enough local support. The dark horse turned out to be Alejandro Josué Núñez Ennabe, the talented general treasurer of the Capuchins from Guatemala. He tied for second place in a straw ballot for general, much to his chagrin. He informed the General Chapter through the outgoing Minister General that he would not accept election. 

Those for whom a nod to the south was important continued their search. In the end, it focused on José Ángel Torres Rivera, the Custos from Puerto Rico. But it was too late to surface his name for General Minister, as Roberto Genuin proved to be the strong and popular first-ballot choice of the chapter. 

José Ángel would go on to handy election as Spanish-speaking counselor from Latin America and narrowly missed a first-ballot election as General Vicar. The second ballot was more than decisive, and José Ángel became the first General Vicar not to come from Europe. 

This is my third General Chapter. Each successive chapter has reflected the changing demographics of our Order. The Capuchins have lost their center in Europe. It will not be replaced by a single center elsewhere but by a variety of strong centers and a multicultural reality that will change everything. Someday in the not-too-distant-future, the Capuchins will have a General Minister from the geographic south. Will he be the next General Minister?