[This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in the Winter 2019 Issue 99 of the TAU-USA. Also – Resources – Meeting Documents and Proceedings – 2019 National Chapter – State of Order Address OFS-USA 10-16-19 ]
National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order – USA
By JAN PARKER, OFS, & MARY BITTNER, OFS
In consultation with the National Executive Council
THE HOLY SPIRIT CONTINUES TO MOVE
The Holy Spirit continues to move us on a trajectory of renewal. We see this in the initiatives, activities and achievements of this past year.
These have been reported to you in detail by the various Commissions, Committees and those individuals appointed for a particular service, but they bear mentioning here. Many of the individuals responsible for this wonderful work are present this week at our Chapter.
THE PRIORITY OF FRATERNITY
One of our major initiatives and a driving force behind all of our efforts is the National Priority of Fraternity. The day we made our profession in the Secular Franciscan Order we said these words, “may…the fraternal bonds of community always be my help.”
The NEC has focused on building fraternity: during our visitations to the Regional Fraternities; by way of outreach to our non-English speaking brothers andsisters; through articles on fraternity in each issue of the TAU-USA; and resources on our website. It is gratifying to see the topic of fraternity being used for ongoing formation across our National Fraternity.
A major achievement is the interactive map on our website showing the location of every local fraternity in the United States. This past year we added five new local fraternities to this map, with more to come in 2020, including the establishment of St. Padre Pio Fraternity in Guam this coming January.
We cannot speak of fraternity without mentioning the bond we have with our brothers of the First Order and Third Order Regular. Spiritual Assistance is a “fundamental element of communion” (GC 89.1). Our bonds with the friars were strengthened significantly this past August at an historic three day gathering of national OFS leadership with Provincial Ministers, their delegates to the OFS and Regional Spiritual Assistants – a true gathering of the Franciscan Family. This event, entitled “Life Giving Union – Discussion and Discernment,” was facilitated by the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants (CNSA). This dream of many sunsets finally became a reality. We celebrated our “Life-Giving Union” as one Family. This gathering provided an unprecedented opportunity for us to build relationship and share our common concerns. We listened and learned. Doors were opened. Invitations were extended. Ideas were shared. It was a graced time of discovering new ways to go forward together. A full report on this gathering, including the recommendations that came forth from the participants, can be found on our website.
Our fraternal lives are also enriched by our relationships with the Franciscan Third Order Religious Sisters and Brothers, and with our brothers and sisters who follow St. Francis in the Anglican tradition (the Third Order Society of St. Francis), the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, and the Lutheran Franciscan Order. Additionally, our relationship with the Franciscan Federation continues to develop, and we are engaged with them in planning their next annual conference in June 2020. This will be an event to which the entire Franciscan family in the USA will be invited.
The priority of Fraternity extends widely, encompassing a universal kinship. We are brothers and sisters to the world, bringing hope and extending our hands and hearts in peace. This is reflected in our outreach to the poor and marginalized, to those treated unjustly, and by our care for creation. We sing and we live the Canticle of Brother Sun. Praised be you, my Lord!
Next blog post: New Rule, New Unity, New Vision