Fratelli Tutti Resources – and more – now on OFS-USA Website!

Dear National OFS Family,

Advent Greetings of hope and peace!

Many of us watched on Oct. 3 as Pope Francis signed Fratelli Tutti at the Tomb of St. Francis.  This wonderful encyclical on fraternity and social friendship has great significance for all people, especially in these troubled times where we are experiencing such division. It also has great significance for all Franciscans.  “Fraternity” is such an important part of our charism, and this encyclical will help us live, and share, this Gospel value.

Good News!

We have just posted Fratelli Tutti on our OFS-USA website, along with an overview, summary, two study guides and a video reflection by Sr. Margaret Carney OSF.  These are all posted on our “Ongoing Formation Resources” page.

And more news!

Another document just posted to our “Ongoing Formation Resource” page is the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2021 General Chapter entitled Instrumentum Laboris 2020  This document has great importance for our worldwide Secular Franciscan Order.

Looking forward

Early in 2021 we will be urging local fraternities to study both Fratelli Tutti and Animate and Guide with Servant Leadership.  We are also considering hosting national Zoom gatherings for discussion of these documents.

What do you do now?

Please share this message– and start planning now to include a study of these documents in your local fraternities early in 2021.

Begin planning now.  More details coming this January!

2020-12-18T10:29:39-05:00December 18th, 2020|Categories: Formation, Fratelli Tutti, Minister’s Message|0 Comments

Regional Diversity Team

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

Shortly after the tragic death of George Floyd this past May, St. Joan of Arc Regional Minister Cherryle Fruge shared that her region had started a diversity team. The following is a report from Cherryle about this effort: 

 The idea of developing a Diversity Team began so we could do a process of elimination to dissect the roots of racism that falls under the umbrella of All Violence. The agenda for the first Zoom gathering was to find out “Who We Are” by each telling our story. “Have you ever been discriminated against or shunned on your Franciscan Journey. Have you experienced discrimination within the Order?”

We needed to first work “within” before we could work outward – ruling out if there were any issues within the Order concerning racism or discrimination of any kind to all people of diverse cultures. If there is a problem within the Family, we have to work on addressing the dysfunction, educate and reconcile our differences so we can begin healing the wounds from the inside out. Once the wholeness of our self returns, only then can we more fully understand how to educate with love and compassion in the world in which we live.

I am happy to say that everyone on the team said that the Order “felt like home” and being in fraternity sustained them. Since there are no issues within the Order in our region, our focus moved to educate ourselves on the Beatitudes of Good Communication amongst all people. I heard a quote that went something like this: “You are the other part of me, I don’t yet understand.” We need to learn from each other. This is why learning and practicing mindful dialogue is so important with all people, because we don’t understand each other and what life is like from the perspective of other cultures. We are now working “outward” to help make this happen.

Cherryle Fruge, OFS, St Joan of Arc Regional Fraternity

Note:     Banner by Deacon Patrick depicts the Mission Statement of the SJA Region Diversity Team: Like Francis’ Mission, Go Rebuild Our Church, We believe as we work inward to rebuild ourselves then we will understand how to work outward to rebuild God’s Church in the world – One Living Stone at a time.


2020-12-12T16:42:59-05:00December 14th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the National Fraternity,

I truly hope you are experiencing the beauty of this Advent season, and that you are doing well.

In this Advent season, in this time of pandemic, in this time of so much uncertainty for so many, and in this time of such unrest in our society, we turn to our Blessed Mother for her help.  Let us turn to her joyfully and in confidence as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today.

Here is a very festive video that makes me so happy!   I invite you to take 3 minutes, and maybe even dance as you watch it… or at least tap your feet!

Our Lady is with us in all that is going on in our lives, and in our world.  Like her, let us believe that what has been spoken to us will be fulfilled!  Because it will be! 

By the way, I have some history with these Capuchin Poor Clares, and it touched my heart to see them. They reside at the Monastery of Our Lady of Light in Denver.  Check out their website and order some of their cookies!  They are great….so yummy!

Their website is http://capuchinpoorclaresdenver.org/

I will also take this opportunity to again thank you for your prayers and support.  I continue, with God’s help, to manage the little side effects of chemo with only minor bumps along the way, and I am so happy to be able to continue many of the things I need, and want, to do.  In other words, I’m rolling with it, and blessedly I find joy in this interesting, though unexpected, new part of my journey.

May you find joy in your journey today as well. God is with us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us!

Peace and love,

P.S. Feel free to share this message…  and share the joy!

Jan Parker OFS

2020-12-12T07:53:53-05:00December 12th, 2020|Categories: Minister’s Message|0 Comments

Race Relations and the Secular Franciscan Order

A Historical View

By William Wicks, OFS, NAFRA Historian 2005 – 2012

 I believe strongly that as Secular Franciscans, we are called to accept all people as equal under God; our Rule testifies to this by stating “in the divine seed in everyone.” (Rule 2:19) And who can prejudge the divine seed? As Franciscans, we are called to be sensitive to the diversity of culture. In 2007, the Quinquennial Congress in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was dedicated to Multiculturalism.

The following is a brief chronology of events related to the Secular Franciscan Order during the early period of race relations in the United State of America. This information can be found in A History of the Secular Franciscan Order, Volumes I and IIB.

1938 National Executive Board Meeting

“The Color Question” was a topic addressed at the National Executive Board Meeting held in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 1938. The dialogue related to how to respond to the situation in which white members complained about the presence of “Negroes” at their fraternity meetings, and how the question of Negroes” at a convention should be addressed; some hotels did not allow them room accommodations. Here are excerpts of the meeting dialogue. Board Chairman Fr. Thomas Grassman, OF. Conv., stated, “We must more aggressively come out for the equality of all in the sight of God and because of the immortal soul.” When the topic of a separate convention was proposed, Secretary Maximus Poppy, OFM, argued, “That amounts to Jim Crow.…” Fr. Max ended the discussion with “…any members who feel that they cannot s u b s c r i b e  t o  t h i s  p o l i c y [ o f  e q u a l accommodations] are free to remain from the convention. Thus, liberty is safeguarded, and the principle, even though we lose their good will.”[1]

1947 Quinquennial Congress

This “Color” dilemma resurfaced in the planning of the 1947 Quinquennial Congress held at the Netherland Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The question relative to our Colored delegates was then raised, since the Netherland Plaza Hotel refused to house them. A Friar [not named] said that he had made arrangements with the Manse Hotel, a colored businessmen’s hotel…. Arrangements were also to be made to reserve a special dining room in the Netherland Plaza Hotel and to designate it as the Convention dining room. The Colored delegates could eat freely here with our white delegates. This was necessitated by the fact that the hotel management declared that the Colored could not eat in the public dining room of the hotel, nor perhaps in any of the adjacent White restaurants.” That is “the way it was.”[2]

1961 Action for Interracial Understanding Apostolate

The Action for Interracial Understanding (AIU) began as an apostolate for the Third Order in 1963, a year before the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was a program designed to educate members on race relations and to encourage them to participate in non-violent demonstrations in support of Civil Rights. “Our apostolate, ‘Action for Interracial Understanding,’ certainly needs paramount attention in all fraternities. Good race relations must be a concern of every tertiary. No tertiary can close his eyes and ears to the tremendous problem. Love of God and love of neighbor demands that you involve yourself in helping Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and other minority groups in obtaining a true recognition of their dignity as sons of God and your brothers in Christ. This is no time to wring your hands. It is a time of action.”[3]  It should be noted that many Tertiaries participated in the famous 1963 Washington march.

1968 1971 Waldeman (Wally) Roebuck,

National Federation Prefect (Nation Minister of the Order on left)

Although the apostolate was motivated by the “African American” Civil Rights movement, all minority groups were included. Robert Fenton was the first Executive Director. Waldemar Roebuck, who later became president of the North American Federation (the national OSF organization at the time), was very much involved in the AIU apostolate.

Five years after Wally presented the St. Francis Peace Award to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. King, 39, was assassinated. When race riots broke out in Harlem, Wally, now a Secular Franciscan for 40 years, hit the streets with a copy of the “peace prayer of St. Francis.” He was a longtime civil rights activist and recipient of the Pierre Toussaint Award from the Archdiocese of New York. He passed away in 1999 on All Saints Day.

2007 Quinquennial Congress

More 400 members of the Order participated in the 17th Quinquennial Congress in Pittsburgh, Penn. The theme of the congress was Many CulturesThrough FrancisIn Christ. This multicultural theme was intended to raise the level of awareness of cultural diversity within the Order.

A Letter to the Secular Franciscan Order from 1963

In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was awarded the St. Francis Peace Medal. The following is a letter of gratitude addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Third Order. These words were written 57 years ago and still resonate today. Our world has changed greatly over the years, yet the insights and aspiration of Dr. King are as important today as they were when this letter was written.

This is a rather belated note again to thank you and the Third Order of St. Francis for honoring me in such a significant way with your St. Francis Peace Medal. It is an honor that I will cherish as long as the cords of memory shall lengthen. In a real sense, your desire to bestow upon me this distinguished award was expressive of two important points. On the one hand, it expressed the new and vital willingness of the Christian church to take a concrete step in the direction of identifying with the struggle for racial justice in our nation. Since I happen to be a Protestant, the awarding of the St. Francis Peace Medal expresses the new ecumenical concern that is now greatly alive in both Protestant and Catholic circles. So, I am convinced that your generous gesture toward me will go a long, long way toward bringing about new levels of fellowship for all Christians, a move so nobly initiated by Pope John, and it will give those of us engaged in this difficult yet challenging struggle for freedom and justice, the consoling awareness of the support of the church.

[1] Wicks, William H., A History of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States, Volume I (1917-1942), Barbo Carlson Printing, Lindsborg, KS, 2007, 247- 249

[2] Minutes of Special Executive Board Meeting, January 1947

[3] Franciscan Herald and Forum, August 1963, 226

2020-12-06T14:53:37-05:00December 7th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Racism – What’s A Secular Franciscan To Do?

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


Mother Cabrini OFS Region Newsletter Submission, August 2020

Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)

The national OFS fraternity has asked us:

  • to identify and eradicate the structures that perpetuate racism…
  • to pray for an end to racism…
  • to identify and confront our own unconscious racial biases.

I hope this article provides some resources for each of these actions that you can use individually or as a fraternity for on-going formation. It is not comprehensive, but rather offers a menu of ideas.

Warning: Expect to be uneasy when you ponder and grapple with issues of race. Racism in the U.S. is an uncomfortable truth, experienced differently by us all. For some, it is a passing thought, brought to mind by occasional news events. For others, it is real each time they walk out the door. Some are blind to how they silently participate or reap its benefits, while others see their role with crystal clarity. When we discuss racism, our very image of ourselves and our participation comes into question, which is not easy. Have hope! As penitents, Secular Franciscans are used to on-going conversion and the discomfort it brings as the Spirit leads us to new places!

First, a Prayer to Overcome Racism

On August 2, 2020, we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula, so it is fitting that we ask the Blessed Mother’s assistance in our journey of confronting racism.[1]

  • “Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sisters and brothers to each other.
  • We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another.
  • We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society.
  • We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.
  • Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us.”

Second – The Rule: A Starting Point for Secular Franciscans

There are many instances of Scripture and Catholic Social Teaching that confront racism, but a shortcut is to look at The Rule. Taking a stand is not only the realm of politics – it is in the realm of faith, too.

  • Rule Article 13b. As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.
  • Rule Article 15. Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

Third – Identifying Systemic Racism Through Definitions and Videos

Each of us can work on our own attitudes and actions to not be racist, but to make real change “in the field of public life” we need to work on the structures of racism and how we unconsciously contribute to or benefit from them.

Definitions: The OFS-USA JPIC Animator Notes – Special Edition – Carolyn Townes, OFS from June 2020 offers some useful definitions. Suggestion: walk with the Spirt a bit if any of these terms make you feel uncomfortable.

  • “Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
  • Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors.
  • White privilege or white-skinned privilege are the inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. It also refers to societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
  • The phrase “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) can refer to the social movement, the organization, or the message. When someone refers to BLM, make sure you know which one they are referring to. Note: Many people agree with the message without belonging to the organization or supporting the movement.
  • The social movement was founded in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in February 2012. The movement became nationally recognized for street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
  • Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
  • The message, represented by the hashtag (#blacklivesmatter), is used at demonstrations, rallies and on social media to reaffirm that Black lives are just as sacred, valued and loved by God.
  • And yes, all lives matter. However, all lives do not matter when Black lives do not matter.

Video: “Let’s Get to the Root of Racial Injustice,” Prof. Megan Ming Francis, TEDx Rainier, (19.5 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aCn72iXO9s (Note: if you can’t access the video links directly, you can search YouTube for the titles.)

Description: This personable explanation from an African American professor uses the Ted Talk format and her own stories to reframe how we think of racism. It moves from thinking of racism as a few “bad apples” to the knowledge of how the “whole tree” is infected and calls for a new approach that goes beyond focusing only on education or policing. Note: I think her language and style will appeal to Franciscans!

Video: Systemic Racism Explained (4.5 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrHIQIO_bdQ

 Description: This short education cartoon explains what is meant by systemic racism, using the example of a white and a black student. It touches on schools, universities, housing, banking, incarceration, jobs, and implicit bias.

Video: “The Unequal Opportunity Race” (4 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX_Vzl-r8NY

 Description: This brief cartoon uses the analogy of a footrace, with some contestants held back by systemic racism while other run more easily and accumulate wealth and prosperity.

Finally – Confronting Our Own Unconscious Racial Bias

I have not met a Franciscan who thinks they are a racist. The very thought of it is threatening. Yet we all carry unconscious biases based on our upbringing, where we get our news, personal experiences, gut-feelings, etc. The graphic below of concentric circles fits nicely with our approach of on-going conversion. What behaviors match our Franciscan approach to life? What circles do you sit in right now? Is your vocation calling you to move to another circle or act on one or more items?

Note: The original of this graphic can be found at: h6ps://www.surgeryredesign.com/ It is by Andrew M. Ibrahim, MD, MSc based on the work of Dr. Ibram Kendi. Permission has been given to use, copy and share.

[1] Source: © 2020 OFS-USA JPIC Animator Notes – Special Edition – Carolyn Townes, OFS

2020-11-29T17:18:42-05:00November 30th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Secular Franciscan Order and YOUFRA to Hold Day of Prayer on the First Sunday of Advent

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the National Fraternity,

Joy to you this day!

This is a reminder that we are asked to unite in prayer tomorrow.  Let us join our worldwide family of some 300,000 OFS members to pray the Rosary of the Seven Joys – the Franciscan Crown Rosary – as our Minister General asks of us.

This special day of prayer tomorrow, November 29, is the Feast of All Franciscan Saints and the start of the beautiful season of Advent.

I invite you to watch this 2 minute video message from Tibor  (click on this link, and when the page opens, scroll down a little for the video).  You can also read Tibor’s  Letter about this day of prayer.

Next, below is a transcript of an interview with Tibor that was conducted by the Hungarian Courier – Catholic News Portal.  It was translated from the Hungarian, and shared with us by our sister Emma Lozowski, Regional Minister of Franciscans of the Prairie.

Lastly, I have included Meditation on Seven Joys.  In this meditation I focus on these seven Franciscan experiences:








I look forward to joining you, and our worldwide fraternity, in prayer tomorrow.

Please share this widely.

Peace, all good, and Happy Advent!

Your sister,

Jan Parker

National Minister

Secular Franciscan Order–USA

Interview with Tibor

The Secular Franciscan Order is organizing a worldwide day of prayer on November 29, 2020. We asked the Minister General, Tibor Kauser, about this initiative.

– What is the message behind choosing the first Sunday of Advent?
This is the first day of the liturgical year, and it is a good opportunity to start our lives again in prayer. We have been living and suffering for eight months in this pandemic. We are badly in need of some renewal and refreshment of our souls. On the other hand, November 29 is the feast of all Fransicasn Saints. We are asking for their intercession for beginning anew.
– The Secular Franciscan Order is a worldwide organization. What do we need to know about the members’ geographic spread?
The OFS are part of the Franciscan Spiritual Family. The first orders are well known, the Order of Friars Minor, the Capuchins, etc. And then there are the second order sisters, who are the Poor Clares, who live a contemplative life and are connected to the Franciscan family in their own special way. This is followed by the third order, and its different branches. One branch is the Third Order Regular, among others here are the religious brothers and sisters who serve the poor and nurse the sick, and also the Secular Fanrsicans, that is made up of people living in the world. Worldwide we are present in 116 countries and have about 300,000 members. The biggest fraternity is in Italy; that’s where the Franciscans originated, but we have many members in Latin America, within that in Brazil and Mexico, and there are quite many in the United States, and there are more than 10,000 members in Korea.
-In Hungary, too, the order is known.
In our homeland, we number about 450. Compared to the size of the country, that’s not too few.
– The minister general is nevertheless is a Hungarian. You have been part of the International Council for 6 years.
That shows that in the Secular Franciscan Order we operate as true brothers and sisters. Not the headcount or economic weight are the deciding factors, but the degree to which one is committed and that one is seen as suitable for the task by the others.
– How will the proclaimed prayer day take place?
Our appeal asks a very simple thing from each and every Secular Franciscan brother and sister: that each pray a crown rosary any time on this day, either individually or in community, or in family, or in parish, asking the intercession of the Franciscan Saints.

The Franciscans have been praying the “crown rosary” or “seraphic rosary” for centuries, or as it is also called the “rosary of the seven joys of Our Lady.” It consists of seven decades, each commemorating one of the seven joys of Our Lady.

2020-11-28T10:31:03-05:00November 28th, 2020|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments


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

By Carolyn D. Townes, OFS, National Animator

“Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony  through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.”
(OFS Rule, Art. 19a)

During these difficult times of political turmoil and racial upheaval, one question keeps coming up over and over again: “What can I do?” I have only one answer: Dialogue with one another. Listen to the stories. Validate the stories. Then you will be able to share your stories.

It doesn’t mean you have to agree with those stories, because after all, they are someone else’s truth–not yours. As Franciscans, we are called to listen, to understand, then to speak from that understanding. Especially when you are engaged in difficult dialogues – about racial tensions or political differences – you want to remain grounded in the Gospel. Jesus had difficult dialogues, but he knew to speak the truth in love, with
empathy, compassion, and peace.

When we attempt to have dialogues, or two parallel monologues, there is a winner and a loser. We go on the attack, we spot a weakness in someone’s argument. We tend to take every comment or opinion that is expressed as a personal affront to our own values and beliefs.

What if we change the way we think about these dialogues? What if, in those heated moments, we choose dialogue over debate? What if we choose to have mindful dialogues? When we engage in mindful dialogues, we flip the script. We replace our ego and desire to win with a sense of curiosity, empathy, and a desire to learn. Instead of coming from a place of judgment, we are genuinely interested in the other person: their experiences, values and concerns. They become other, and not object, to gain the upper hand.

Nazi Concentration Camp survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once wrote: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” We have that space. In our dialogues, how are we filling that space?

We must engage in mindful and meaningful dialogues that move us forward–not backward, or worse, not at all. Something happens when both speaking and listening are reverenced–it creates a sacred and transformational moment. It is the beginning of being in right relationship with one another. We are called to build connections through mindful dialogue–in relationships, communities, and fraternities. It is taking that space and filling it with curiosity and empathy and reverencing the outcome.

Getting to that place of dialogue can be difficult. We tend to get fired up about what we are passionate about–especially when discussing politics or social justice issues. We can let our ego get in the way of truly hearing the other person’s perspective. In the current climate, those heated debates morph into conflicts where people are even willing to walk away from their relationships, friendships, and fraternities.

After having mindful dialogues, you will discover that your assumptions and biases can be wrong or totally off base. If those conversations don’t happen, the parties remain annoyed and frustrated, causing an undercurrent of disrespect in the relationship.

First, be curious about the other person; their ideas, concerns, perspectives. Then, be willing to listen to them, even when you disagree. By putting aside your own ego and preconceived ideas, you become open to limitless learning. Also be curious and ask questions. Questions allow mindful dialogue to get to a place of true understanding. They allow you to disagree agreeably.

In our conversations and dialogues, the goal is not to win or convert the other to your way of thinking and believing. The goal is to be open to learn, to be curious about the other person, allowing them a safe space to be heard and to voice their opinion. The goal is a true speaking and listening experience, offering empathy rooted in friendship.

2020-11-22T14:16:42-05:00November 23rd, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Conversion and Action on the Anniversary of Laudato Si

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

by Joe Makley OFS

Vice-Chair, National JPIC Commission and Vice-Minister,

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Regional Fraternity     

It was Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, who said of Saint Francis: “[He showed us the] inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace.”[1] He was talking about Francis’ whole life and ministry, and he wanted us to understand that these things are connected. To put it in the terms of the moment, it is difficult to stop a pandemic when large segments of the society do not have proper health insurance or clean drinking water. The spirit of Laudato Si is a spirit of justice and peace, integral to life in a clean and healthy Earth.

I was to attend the Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington at the end of April. The theme was environmental justice (on the anniversary of Laudato Si). After it was cancelled, I caught one of the guest speakers online, Joan Brown, Sister of Francis, who directs New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, a group that works on environmental issues with native American and vulnerable populations. Her presentation called for that change of heart described in our Rule, from the temptation to exploit nature, to one of universal kinship. Sister spoke directly to how the pandemic provides an opportunity for a conversion to realize essential elements of the Laudato Si vision, through direct changes to our own lifestyles, and working to correct societal injustices brought to light by its stresses on our institutions. “What is our call now,” she asked, “in this mysterious moment of death and birth?”

I’ve been thinking and praying about that, as I’m sure you have. During these weeks we’ve had a close visit from Sister Death, a unique physical separation from our human families, and a pause in the bustle, under skies clearer and bluer than I can remember seeing in decades. Whole fleets of commercial jets are parked. Even trains and buses have stopped rolling. The human costs of perpetual war, weak institutions and social inequities are placed under a bright light. Surely now we can hear the cries of those who are not in the protective bubble of the “developed” world, or its dominant groups. Surely now we can see how our own habits of consumption are connected to the problem. Surely now, we will hear God speaking to us, and our hearts will be made ready for a truer, deeper, and more complete conversion to Christ, and with our Seraphic Father St. Francis, to see all creatures, animate and inanimate, praising the Most High, to renew our gratitude for them, and to raise our voices in the same chorus.

All our popes since Pope St. John XXIII have called us to this, most recently Pope Francis, but also Pope St John Paul II in his articulate description of “human ecology” in Centesimus Annus. [2]  Our Rule (p. 18) calls us to ecological conversion, universal kinship. Over the past few weeks, we have also been shown (in a new way) that we can’t do it all. So what action will we choose? How will a renewed love, a new, less stony, more natural heart for everyone and all creation, be made manifest in each one of us?

I know we are all helping to reduce suffering, through volunteer work, donations, etc., so we are already taking visible action out of love. We have been asked to work more on “root causes and structures,” so I’ll mention a few practical steps, trying to stick to things I have actually done, or someone I know has:

✤ Monitor legislation at the state, local, or national level. See what is being proposed in each session and follow the OFS Rule to support just laws and oppose unjust laws, to seek the common good, to demonstrate solidarity with the marginalized. This includes contacting the diocesan public policy office and writing to or calling legislators, offering comments to legislative committees. As Kent Ferris, of the Davenport, Iowa, diocese, said at the 2019 JPIC: “If a person prefers to work directly with the poor and doesn’t like politics, that person’s voice may be the most important one the legislators hear on that day.” Like many of us, I am reluctant to trust an email alert; I need to know myself what is going on, so it takes time. In Maine, we do have a diocesan office of Public Policy, and its director, Suzanne Lafrenier, lets us know about things coming up at the state legislature if we get on her email list. Some dioceses have an office of Pro-Life or other title.

✤ Send thank you messages to legislators and others who work on behalf of the marginalized, the poor, and the vulnerable.

✤ Look for authentic dialogue opportunities. Specifically, have a respectful online discussion with, for instance, a vocal Catholic who disagrees with the Church’s activity of refugee placement. Practice that loving dialogue. Ask questions. Seek to understand. “How did you come to be at such odds with Church teaching on this?” Develop a relationship, rather than trying to “win.”

✤ Continue to work to get St Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures out there among Catholics, in print, but especially in recital to music. The Canticle is a picture and an inspiration of ecological conversion. The Transitus service is a great way to feature it at a Parish. Holy Family Fraternity has a service that does this, and we’d be glad to share. ✤ Reduce consumption: It’s a key Franciscan lesson from the pandemic: buying stuff can cause harm. Buying less can be transformational. Look at what we just achieved by not buying air travel! Buying intentionally (avoiding sweatshops and child labor, choosing Fair Trade, avoiding petrochemicals, supporting worker-owned companies and coops, etc.) can make a real difference, too.

✤ Use less food: More rice and beans. More soup. Make things rather than buy. Fewer onetime purchases “for supper,” better planning. Food takes a lot of energy to produce and transport. David Seitz, a board member of the Franciscan Action Network, said recently of the pandemic: “I am eating healthy and spending way less money. I’m going to keep doing this!”

✤ Drive less. I am amazed at the lack of movement our car’s odometer. I’m partial to a road trip, but I can get used to the savings, and the substantial contribution to Mother Earth.

✤ Hold onto that deepened sense of gratitude for what I already have. I think all of us have felt we would come out of this transformed. I pray that our conversion will also be a collective one, where the voice of the OFS is more unified and gains volume and is heard by those who in Pope Francis’ words “are still waiting.”

[1] Laudato Si, P. 10

[2] Centimus Annus, pp. 37-40

2020-11-15T15:56:51-05:00November 16th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Sharing the Vision

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


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.

2020-11-14T09:09:48-05:00November 9th, 2020|Categories: From the Newsletter|0 Comments

Did You Know – Copying Calendars into MS Word

Sometime we don’t have time to get on the internet and sometime it is down!!!

You can put any of the Calendars from this website into a MS Word document and save it to a folder in your Documents on your computer.
If you have Microsoft Word, you can copy the whole calendar and paste it into Word.
Before or after you paste it into the Word Document, change the Orientation from Portrait to Landscape.
 Then you can Insert a Heading — if you want — for the Month & Year.
You can change it into a PDF format by the Save As to PDF.
And you have it.   
The links are carried into both the Word and the PDF documents. 
If your internet is available, you can pull up the info for the event on the calendar right from the document.
By placing your cursor over the entry of the day in your document, the link pops up and tells you to hit the  “ctrl”  key at the same time you press the right click on the mouse…  (most times I have to try it a time or 2 to get the sequence right) 
2020-11-01T14:35:45-05:00November 2nd, 2020|Categories: Did You Know|0 Comments
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