Thoughts from Your Regional Formation Director – June 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! It appears that spring has actually arrived and we are now heading towards summer! It is time to pick up where we left off in April, our discussion about Initial Formation and in particular, Inquiry.

I have already said initial formation doesn’t formally start until Inquiry, although Orientation is very important. We are helping a person to get to know the “Franciscan” language and some of our customs. But the real meat of formation starts in Inquiry and never ends! As we said in April, during Inquiry, it is essential that all of the “Admission Documents” be collected and reviewed with the formation team and council. The goal should be that by the end of Inquiry, the indications of a vocation to the Franciscan life should be easy to see by the individual, and the council. Although individuals and the council may discover otherwise during Candidacy that should be the exception not the rule. Candidacy should be a time of continued discernment and seeking and learning that which is already loved!

Inquiry formally starts with the very simply “Ceremony of Welcome” it is in the Secular Franciscan Ritual (sometime called the Brown Book)1. It should be noted that it is not a Rite and should not be done in the context of liturgy, or liturgy of the hours. It should be performed during the regular gathering time after prayer.

I have mentioned several times that the Formation Team and or council should discuss the individual’s progress at the normal monthly council meetings. They should also be praying for the individuals. During Inquiry, there should be at least two opportunities for the individuals to talk to the council and the council to talk to them. This can be done in very creative ways so it is not so stressful for everyone. In my local fraternity, we typically have a BBQ or some sort of Potluck with the formation team, council and those in Inquiry in order to have some quality time with all.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.

Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

1Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order: page 9

 

 

 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – May 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

May 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! It finally looks like spring has arrived. NEPA, north of the tunnel, hasn’t had snow or ice for several weeks and our flowers and trees are blooming praise God.

On April 22, 2018 Holy Cross Fraternity had the privilege to profess two candidates1. It was a wonderful experience and a joy filled time for all! But it got me thinking, along with some other events, about profession and the deeper meaning. It got me thinking it is time to remember what profession means and what we all actually did during that priceless Mass.

I want to start with something I know you all are familiar with but is always worth repeating. That is Father Cangelosi words, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas2 on the value of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order and because of this many Secular Franciscans do not live the “grace” of Profession for what it really is. A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Christ3 aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.4”

We must work hard to not let our Fraternities be “Foggy” places or not fully embrace all that profession is; “A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Chris aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.” As Father Cangelosi said, we have been professed into a nuptial relationship for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and by that relationship firmly bound to each other, the Church and all that the church is! We are not alone, nor are our fraternities. We are all bound together and journeying together.

As a reminder to what we actually say during our profession is important, all of it is important, but here I will focus on the actual “words of profession”.

“I, (Name), by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state, I promise to live all the days of my life the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Order of Franciscan Seculars, by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our holy father Saint Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.5”

Those words are powerful and full of significance. What does it mean to consecrate oneself?

{Verb (used with object), consecrated, consecrating6. 1 – to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building. 2 – To make (something) an object of honor or veneration; hallow: a custom consecrated by time. 3 – To devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to ministry. 4 – To admit or ordain to a sacred office, especially to the episcopate. 5 – To change (bread and wine) into the Eucharist.}

In our case number 3 is the definition to use. We promised to dedicate ourselves to the church, the order and the rule. We made that promise to each other, to the Church thru the ecclesial witness and to those participating other than our sisters and brothers. We should never forget we are family and an ecclesial order bound to each other and our higher fraternities by our promise!

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 Media presentation available on the HCF web site: www.holycrossfraternity.wordpress.com or on the HCF You-Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/74KqWOZfDB8

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

4 Emphasis mine

5 Taken directly from the “Ritual of the SFO”

6 Modified from the New Catholic Dictionary (On Line) Emphasis mine

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director 
April 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.
All peace and good be with you! In my March letter I was optimistic and said as
we say “goodbye to winter and hello to spring”, well here we are on April 2, 2018, the
day after Easter and old man winter just dumped at least six inches of snow north of the
tunnel! Praise God it wasn’t on Easter Sunday.

Last month we started talking about what we do with all the paper we collect!
And we discussed the chart “Pathway to Profession(i)” as your road map to proper Initial
formation. At the risk of repeating myself, we will continually return to that document as
a guide! And as we said last month the reason we gather all this documentation is to
assist in the discernment process for the council and the individual. It is the local
council’s responsibility to decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession(ii)
and they need all the help they can get!

This month we will focus more on the start of formal initial formation with Inquiry.
I have been asked why we say initial formation doesn’t formally start until Inquiry, I like
to say that orientation is just that. We are helping a person to get to know the
“Franciscan” language and some of our customs. The real meat of the matter starts in
Inquiry and never ends! By this time, the individuals should have made their written
request to enter formation, and that request should have been discussed among the
formation team and then with the council. If no issues arise that would prevent
continuing the person is invited into Inquiry starting with the “Ceremony of Introduction
and Welcoming(iii)” this simple ceremony marks the beginning of a life’s journey and
should not be overlooked or thought of as unimportant.

During Inquiry, it is essential that all of the “Admission Documents” be collected
and reviewed with the formation team and council. The documents are listed in the
February 2018 letter. If there appears to be any anomalies, these should be discussed
privately with the individual with recommendations for overcoming the anomaly. At
times this will require clerical intervention. If the anomaly appears to be a true
impediment such as unresolved Divorces and remarriages, lacking evidence of full
initiation into the Catholic Church (sacramental records), belonging to unapproved
organizations like the Free Masons or just plain not being Catholic (even if they are in
the RCIA[iv] program), they should be asked to resolve those issues with their Parish
Priest before starting Candidacy. Although, I usually don’t wait that long.

I have mentioned several times that the “Formation Team should discuss” I
understand that not all fraternities have an actual team. The Formation Director is it. If
that is the case the process is the same just discussing with the council. I do highly
recommend that all fraternities work towards building teams.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Directo

i Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or
http://www.skdregion.org/wp‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg  ii Pathway to Profession chart
iii The {Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order} St Anthony Messenger Press, 1985, Page 9  iv Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – March 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

March 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you as we say goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring, at least that is what I am hoping for!  But for those of us that live in North Eastern PA, old man Winter can linger well into late March.

In my last letter to you I said we would start talking about what we do with all this paper we collect!  So here we go. To start with, several letters ago I directed you to the chart “Pathway to Profession[i]”; you will find we end up there a lot.  It is a great resource and lays out what has to happen. The reason we gather all this documentation is to assist the potential candidate and the local council in determining if an individual has a vocation to the Franciscan Secular life and rule.  In smaller fraternities it is easier in most cases for everyone to get close to each other, in larger fraternities this becomes difficult at times.  The letters, homework, sacramental records and interviews all help the individual express their thoughts and feelings but also help the local council and formation team to truly get to know them.  It is ultimately the council, including the Spiritual Assistant if you have one, that will decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession[ii].

This can be a daunting task, but if done a little at a time will make it much easier.  In addition, no individual in the process should be surprised at the outcome.  What do I mean by that?  No one should get thru candidacy and then the council questions their vocation.  The Formation Team or Director should be reporting progress, issues or concerns to the council right from the start.  According to the Pathways Chart that would be the first interview.  The first interview is very telling; is the individual forth coming or reluctant to share information?  How do they respond to very personnel questions about marriages, clubs and other organizations they belong to?   This interview becomes a part of their permanent record.

Once invited to participate in orientation, the home work starts and is also collected.  Depending on the dynamics of the individuals and as I get to know them, I will either assign homework questions from the Franciscan Journey Book or I will let them chose.  If I see they are selecting the easier questions I then start to assign them.  They are told to review all the questions, but to give a written response to at least two questions and always the last question concerning the scriptures.  Then the entire chapter and supporting documents are discussed.

During the various stages of initial formation, this homework is presented to the council for them to review if they chose to do so. Once an individual is either professed or withdraws, the home work is returned to them so that they can look back and reflect on what they experienced.  Something like Mystagogia[iii] in the RCIA.

As Orientation comes to an end, the formation team discuss their impression of the individual, and then invites the individual to apply for Inquiry.  I ask them to write a formal letter to the council sharing some of their experience and why they feel lead to Inquiry and the start of formal formation.  I do have to share with you that our council has had to make the hard decision at times not to invite a person to continue although it is normally a mutual agreement.

Next month we will discuss some of the documents and process for Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

[i] Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or

http://www.skdregion.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg

[ii] Pathway to Profession chart

[iii] Greek word that means to reflect upon the mysteries

February 2018 - Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

February 2018

 

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you as we say farewell to January and move into February and the Lenten season.

As promised, we will start discussing how the fraternity council and formation team use the Interview Form, Letters of Reference and Sacramental documents, and how to organize formation files.  As mentioned in previous letters, all documents must be saved and properly stored.

I will start with what should be saved and filed as part of the fraternity’s permanent records:

  • Any letters received concerning the Candidate
    1. A letter from the Pastor (mandatory)
    2. A letter from the spiritual director if different than the pastor (optional)
    3. A letter from a third person “not Clergy or family” who knows them and their Catholic faith expression well (optional)
    4. And lastly, a letter from the spouse, if he/she is not in the process with them (optional)
    5. The Candidates’ own letters requesting Inquiry, Candidacy and Profession
  • Initial Formation records
    1. Attendance records
    2. All sacramental records
      1. Baptism
      2. First Holy Communion
      3. Confirmation
      4.  Marriages – All Marriages and Annulments
      5. Holy Orders
      6. If the individual was a member of another third order or religious order, a letter releasing them from their prior professions or vows is required
      7. If any of these records cannot be produced, the individual must not be professed until they can be found or resolved thru their local pastor and Bishop
      8. These documents should be produced before the individual starts Candidacy. Sometime during Orientation or Inquiry.
      9. Interview forms
  • Profession Record normally a journal, although I also record this information in the Initial formation attendance records, that includes
    • Date
    • Place
    • Minister Receiving the candidate
    • Ecclesial witness
    • I also include the Formation Directors name (Optional)
  • Other Documents such as transfers, correspondence concerning correction, withdrawal or dismissal from the order

So, what do you do with all this paper?  Great question, you have to keep it.  My fraternity invested in a fire proof safe.  About the size of a large micro wave.  We keep our original Member Register in there along with our ecclesial formation documents and so on.  As formation director for my local fraternity I keep all other records in a file.  But, I also digitize them (scan) and save to a computer file.  That file is also saved to a disk that two members of the fraternity keep.  The secretary and one other council member hold copies.  This helps preserve records in case of a fire or other disaster at my house.

I also have what I call a temporary file.  In this file I keep all the homework and special assignments the individual turn in over the course of the three years of initial formation.  We do return that file to the candidate after profession.

Next month we will talk about what the Council does with all this paper, including the homework!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

 

 

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director - January, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director
January 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. I hope that this past Christmas Season was a blessing for you and your families. And I pray that the coming year, 2018, be filled with God’s abundant blessings for you, your families and for your fraternities!

As we discussed last time, those who have gone before us have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to have strong Initial and Ongoing formation programs. We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Handbook, the Franciscan Journey, each other and various sources on the SKD Region web site. We started with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of direction: the “Pathway to Profession” chart. The chart can be found in the Regional Formation Handbook, second section, page 43, or at the link belowi.

As I said in December, this month’s letter we will be discussing the use of letters of reference. In the SKD Regional Formation Handbook it recommends two letters:
References: Please give us the name and addresses of your pastor or spiritual director and another person who support your desire to enter initial formation in the OFS, and can attest that there are no canonical impediments to your profession in the OFS. Please have them write a letter confirming their support of your decision in a sealed envelope. Letters of reference should be sealed and mailed. Sample to Priest from Fraternity is in Part IV.ii

I recommend the following:
1) A letter from the Pastor (mandatory).
2) A letter from the spiritual director if different than the pastor (optional). This occurs on occasion and both individuals will have different opinions.
3) A letter from a third person “not Clergy or family” who knows them and their Catholic faith expression well (mandatory).
4) And lastly, a letter from the spouse, if he/she is not in the process with them. (Recommended) You need to know that they have the whole-hearted support of the person to whom they are married. We do not want marital discord!

In all cases, you will need to get the proper name, address and title of the persons. Write a letter to them asking them to write a return letter to the fraternity and provide them with a self-addressed stamped envelope. If the individual in initial formation is reluctant to provide this information it should be discussed, but in the end it is mandatory. The person in initial formation should let those individuals know that they will receive a letter from the fraternity’s Formation Director. A good sample of a letter to
a pastor is in the SKD Regional Formation Handbookiii. All the other letters can be adapted from that one. Anyone interested in samples can contact me and I will send PDF files.

Next month we will start discussing how the fraternity council and formation team use the Interview Form, Letters of Reference and Sacramental documents, and how to organize formation files. As mentioned in previous letters, all documents must be saved and properly stored.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

i http://www.skdregion.org/wp‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg ii SKD Regional Formation Handbook, page 54
iii SKD Regional Formation Handbook, page 151

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – December 2017

(A PDF version of this document can be downloaded here.)

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others. “We must radiate” the love of God i.   It is by radiating that life giving Agape “LOVE”ii,iii that we will attract our brother and sister Catholics and help them hear the call to vocation increasing the “Helpmates” answering the call of Jesus to Saint Francis, go rebuild my Church.  As I discussed in my November letter, and spoke of at the recent regional gathering, we are called to be Jesus’ helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!  This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred. We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, and the best way to do that is a healthy and strong formation process.

Thank God for those who have gone before us!  They have laid a very good foundation and given us the tools we need to do this important and noble task.  We have the FUN Manual, the Regional Formation Guide, and the Franciscan Journey.  We also have each other and sources on the SKD Region web site.  I want to start with a very simple one-page document that gives you an immense amount of aid:  the “Pathway to Profession” Chart (the chart can be also be found in the regional formation handbook, second section, page 43).  For this month, I will focus on the First Contacts.  The chart tells us to conduct initial interviews and Faith Inventory.  I cannot over emphasize how important this simple step is and, if done properly, can help you avoid problems in the future.  It can also help the individual going through the process to overcome any simple impediments in their faith.

The template for the initial interview is on page 53 of the regional formation guidebook.  The Holy Cross Fraternity took that template and made it a fraternity document so that it is easy to print and save to record.  (By the way, it is essential that all documents created or collected are saved.  I recommend digitizing them and saving to a file and a disk or other external drive.  That way, if something happens you have multiple file sources.)

A careful and slow read of the form will give you a very good idea of how detailed this interview is.  It gives you the opportunity to find out very specific information about the person.  And note that anyone who is not comfortable answering any of the questions should send up that RED FLAG.  Don’t be afraid to ask your own, additional questions.  For example, if you ask questions about sacramental development, and the person says that he does not have any record of being confirmed, ask some more questions concerning his family of origin and faith development.  If an irregularity is found, assist the person by directing him to a parish priest for resolution.  All irregularities or perceived impediments should be resolved before initial formation begins.

A question that comes up fairly regularly is “What about a person who is in the RCIA program?”  Can they start the initial formation process?  After all, most RCIA programs are one year and our formation can be three years.  The answer is simple, although it makes some people uncomfortable.  If a person is in RCIA, they are not yet Catholic.  To start the process a person has to be a catholic in good standing who has received all the sacraments of initiation.  Also, as a former RCIA director, I would not have wanted any of my Catechumens distracted in any way.  Their entire focus needs to be on their journey into full communion with the church!

Next month we will start discussing the importance of reference letters.  I use three at a minimum.  More on that next time.

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director


i Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005
ii Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agápē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, “”the highest form of love,” “charity”” and “”the love of God for man and of man for God”””
iii H. G. Liddell; Robert Scott (October 2010). An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon. Benediction Classics. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-84902-626-0.

Thoughts from the Regional Formation Director – November 2017

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

November 2017

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

I pray that the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and our spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi are with you and, in you, overflowing in life-giving abundance to others.  For it is this peace, joy and life-giving union that is truly the external sign of our Franciscan charism.  As Walbert Buhlmann, OFM Cap puts it.  “We must radiate!”  It is the love of God traveling in both directions that make us radiate.  When I say both directions I mean first and foremost from God to us, then, in response to his love for us, we love him back.  In this reciprocal love affair, we can become what Buhlmann said: “we can be a question mark, an exclamation mark…”[1].

It was in great humility and a bit of good old fashioned “Who, Me?” that I accepted appointment to the position as Regional Formation Director a few months ago.  I ask that you pray for me as I seek, with your help, the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Over the next year or so, I plan to attend your regular Fraternity gatherings in order to get to know you and you to know me.  I will also be listening to your Initial and Ongoing formation questions.

In the meantime, I do have some thoughts to share concerning Initial Formation.  These thoughts come from the study of what we have come to know as “The Cangelosi letter”.  Let’s take a look at one part of the letter, a part that I am sure we all have read before but may not have embraced it fully into our lives.

Father Cangelosi said, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas on the value of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order and because of this many Secular Franciscans do not live the “grace” of Profession for what it really is. A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Christ[2] aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love andthe realization of Saint Francis mission.[3]

I assume we have all heard this talk of Nuptial Alliance and realization of the mission, but have we really taken a deep look at it and grasped what the words are saying?  If we had, it would be life changing!  By virtue of our profession, we are in a nuptial relationship with Jesus.  What does that mean?  We are also called to the realization of Francis’s mission…  We are called to be Jesus’s helpmates, building and rebuilding the church in love and fraternal perfection, to radiate the spirit of Francis and of Jesus!

            This nuptial relationship with Jesus makes our profession sacred and our fraternity sacred.  We need to protect both our profession and our fraternity, always making sure that they remain sacred.  In my mind, the best way to do this is to secure our foundation and have the basics down.  And that means initial and ongoing formation!  I am asking each and every one of you to make sure that you are following the FUN manual, the Regional Formation Guidelines and the Pathway to Profession so that we may truly accomplish our mission to rebuild His church.

[1] Excerpts from Walbert Buhlmann OFM Cap – Address to European Capuchins, May 5, 2005

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

Peace and Good

Thoughts for July from the Regional Formation Director

Greetings dear brothers and sisters!

Hope all of you are enjoying your summer and when necessary keeping cool as well.

This month I would like to speak about prayer and the spiritual journey.

We know that our Rule addresses prayer in our articles which are Article #4, Article #8. Article 4 We devote ourselves to careful reading of the gospel with openness going from gospel life and life to the gospel. We reflect on scripture and listen to God and see how he is speaking to us and incorporate the Gospel into our lives. Article 8 addresses the sacramental life of the Church which is the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Word and of course the Liturgy of the hours.

We must quiet ourselves in our reading of the scriptures. Our quiet place can be in our home but more enjoyable in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. » Click to continue reading “Thoughts for July from the Regional Formation Director” »

From Your Regional Formation Director - June 2017

I would like to wish you all a happy Pentecost, a time for a new conversion.

A little bit of History. Some of us may know that Pentecost began as a Jewish celebration of the wheat harvest in the late spring. It gradually became customary to celebrate the feast 50 days after the Passover. The Jewish scholars calculated that when their ancestors left Egypt, they arrived at Mount Sinai approximately 50 days later, this gave an additional meaning to the feast. It was there that God gave them the Law and made a covenant with them. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Pentecost became a time for Jewish people to celebrate the covenant with God which made them God’s chosen people.

Jesus claimed these words from Isaiah as his own mission: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” By following Jesus and Francis, we are challenged to do the same. What are you called to do? Serve the poor in some way. Bring communion to those who are homebound? Making a phone call to someone who lives alone? It goes on and on the possibilities to Serve, Inspire and to Evangelize.

We must be messengers of joy in every circumstance, striving to bring joy and hope to others with the realization that Christ is present in everyone. (article19)

An example in scripture of what conversion looks like: We hear the story of Lydia and how her experience of listening to the Lord opened her heart, she was moved by grace. She listened to the Lord and responded and asked to be baptized and shared her experience with her household, and they too were baptized. This is the pattern of conversion: God give His grace, we respond, and the result is a powerful transformation. This type of “ongoing conversion” can happen anytime and anywhere.

May we experience the grace of God at Pentecost and all during our lives, and respond to do what is ours to do.

Resources: Little books of the Diocese of Saginaw, Queen of Peace Regional Fraternity and a commentary from scripture The Word Among Us.

May the Lord give you His Peace!

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