(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Fall 2020 #101)

NEWS FROM THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL

COVID-19 changes the National Executive Council’s Plans too.

The National Executive Council (NEC) typically meets 2-4 times per year to conduct the business of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States with a few phone calls in between meetings. Due to the pandemic the NEC began to meet only virtually. Most of those meetings were two hours or less once or twice a month. In March, the scheduled four-day meeting at the Chiara Center in Springfield, Illinois was replaced by virtual meeting sessions over the same period of time. As of July 2020, the NEC virtually met 15 times in 2020. See chart of meetings for the NEC:

Some specific actions taken during the spring and summer include:

1. Guidelines for Fraternal Gatherings in Times of Social Distancing were issued in May  2020. https://secularfranciscansusa.org/2020/05/13/guidelines-for-fraternal-life-during-socialdistancing/

The guidelines address what types of events can happen virtually (fraternity gatherings, council meetings, and initial formation sessions). Other events will need to be postponed until it is safe to gather together (visitations, elections, and Rites of Admission and Profession).

2.The International Council of the OFS (CIOFS) sent out a draft of new International Statutes this past spring. The NEC reviewed the statutes and drafted comments with recommendations and questions. The draft will be shared with the Regional Ministers for review and comment prior to returning it to the CIOFS this September.

3.The CIOFS elective chapter has been postponed until 2021. Please continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide all as CIOFS prepares for the chapter.

4. A new CIOFS website, www.ciofs.info, was launched in early July.

5. Our three National Commissions – Formation, Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) and Franciscan Youth and Young Adults (FY/YA) – were undaunted by the Covid-19 limitations and over this past summer enthusiastically hosted virtual workshops. Hundreds of OFS from across the country benefitted from these gatherings, enjoying both formation and fellowship in large and small groups. At the JPIC Visioning II Workshop, held virtually May 8-9, 2020, 36 national leaders came together to continue the conversation that was begun in August 2019. During this workshop, the idea of JPIC Focus Groups came up as a way to educate and communicate about certain social justice issues: Immigration, Care for Creation, and the Spirituality of JPIC. Less than three weeks later, the world was shocked at the brutal killing of another unarmed black man by police. People were able to see the killing unfold on TV and on social media. Seculars all over the country were crying out, “What is ours to do?” As a result, an additional JPIC Focus Group was formed to address the issue of racism and practice mindful dialogue. This past August, the Formation Commission two-day workshop drew nearly 100 attendees. (See related article in this issue.) The FY/YA Commission hosted weekly gatherings over an 11-week period. All these virtual gatherings have received rave reviews.

6. Guidelines for Regional Archives were approved in May 2020 and have been posted on our webiste. For a copy of the guideline, please contact Jane DeRose-Bamman, OFS (ofsusasecretary@gmail.com)

7. Regional Visitations and Elections have been postponed due to the pandemic. NEC members are working closely with the Regional Ministers to see when the events can be rescheduled.

8. The Spanish translation of the OFS Ritual is nearly complete. Many people were involved with this effort. It will be sent for final formatting and printing in the near future. The NEC is looking forward to having this resource become available.