(This article originally from TAU-USA Issue 102 Winter 2021)
By MARY STRONACH, OFS
National Minister Jan Parker, OFS provided historical perspective as she inspired and challenged the 47 regional ministers, delegates and guests during her State of the Order message.
Responding to Signs of Times
“You cannot quarantine the Holy Spirit” she said.
“In spite of the pandemic and all the upheaval, the work of prayer, peacemaking and building up of the Kingdom has continued in a thousand beautiful ways… We are moving forward in new ways, responding in faith to the signs of the times.”
She quoted the General Constitutions (26.1): “…Secular Franciscans affirm their hope and their joy in living. They make a contribution to counter widespread distress and pessimism, preparing a better future.” Then she added, “The pandemic is not squelching our desire for fraternity – it is strengthening it.”
A Course of Renewal
She then took the attendees on an historical perspective of the Order in the United States from the development of the Pauline Rule of 1978 to the recent “season of visioning” when youth, formation and JPIC leaders, and spiritual assistants came together to help take the Order “on a course to renewal.” She exhorted the brothers and sisters: “we must continue to look for the unexpected joy and open our hearts to this holy newness. We cannot stop now, and we won’t. The Holy Spirit impels us.”
“We are beginning to see the fruit from of our ‘season of visioning’.”
In Formation, new initial formation texts are in the process of being written and “wonderful” resources such as “Formation Friday” have been assisting Regional Formation Directors.
In the area of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, there has been a “real awakening.” JPIC focus groups have formed, and there is more involvement by members at large. A “Franciscan-looking JPIC vision” is being developed, one that we need LIVE and SPEAK “justly, courteously, in peace and with charity.”
In the area of Franciscan Youth and Young Adults, “there is new energy and momentum for outreach to youth and young adults.” An animator training on Zoom has provided new tools for outreach to support and establish YouFra fraternities.
She recognized the work of all committees, saying that “we have made great strides, but we have farther to go.”
She said there were projects that she and the council would like to “make a reality.” These included: a Communications Summit to “explore new ways for Public Relations, Website, Social Media, Database and TAU-USA folks to work together”; continued work on the database; “widening our embrace of culture”; updating the National Statutes, National Guidelines and the Spiritual Assistant Handbook; support of the newly formed “Franciscan Family Forum.”
At the international level, the working document for the next General Chapter, called the Instrumentum Laboris, shines a “bright light on the path ahead.” Announcing the theme: “Animate and Guide with Servant Leadership,” she emphasized that “servant leadership and co-responsibility truly is the way to move our Order forward.” She explained that the Instrumentum Laboris is organized “according to the challenges of leadership.”
She challenged the ministers to take the Instrumentum Laboris, review it and respond, considering what it means to animate and guide, to be co-responsible, to be a minister or council member, to lead collegially, to listen, to collaborate. She said that each region would be receiving the complete document with instructions on how to respond.
In closing, she urged, “live a life worthy of your call,” and quoted Francis’ Psalm 7 from the Office of the Passion: “Cast off the weight of sin, and take up the Lord’s holy cross, and follow the Lord’s most holy commands to the very end. So be it. Amen.”
(This article originally appeared in the TAU-USA Winter Issue #102 that is available online. )
By Jan Parker, OFS
As Clare once said to Agnes, “Let us be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy!” It is an exciting time for Franciscans as, one after another, God’s gifts to the Franciscan Order just keep coming! The newest three gifts to our Order arrived several months ago, and several months apart, but here in the light of this new year I call your attention to them. Let us look at these gifts carefully, for they will profoundly affect our Order as we move into 2021.
What are these three gifts? They are the new Instrumentum Laboris from our CIOFS Presidency, Pope Francis’s Fratelli Tutti and the 2020 Christmas letter from our General Ministers. Each of these documents is unique, but for the OFS I see them linked in a single purpose. They are the next set of markers on our journey of renewal. I believe that, by way of these documents placed so directly in our path, God is continuing to chart our course.
For some time now, we have spoken of our journey towards the total renewal of our Order and of the trajectory God has set us on towards its fulfillment. This journey began with the promulgation of our Rule 40 years ago. Here in the United States, it has continued with many notable events marking our progress, most recently the visioning gatherings, which led us to re-examine our approach to our commissions of Youth, Justice and Peace, and Formation. Now the Holy Spirit is speaking again, calling us to move forward.
To me, God’s purpose in sending us these three gifts can be summed up in two words from the Instrumentum Laboris that jumped out at me as I read them: prophetic creativity. As I studied these documents, it became clear that we will not be able to achieve the goal of the total renewal of our Order without prophetic creativity. I believe God is calling us to focus our prayer and energy in this direction.
What is prophetic creativity? It is to see as God sees– to see with spiritual eyes–and then to act, allowing God’s grace to strengthen us to do his will. It is innovative action we take in response to the Holy Spirit working within us. Pope Francis is a master of prophetic creativity; so inspired and innovative are his words and actions that lives are converted. In Fratelli Tutti he calls all of us to be creative in building relationships, using the word “create” no less than 44 times. The General Ministers, in their Christmas letter, remind us that “change (conversion) is impossible without a motivation and a process.” They then call us to a prophetic stance, stating, “Jesus, more than anyone, teaches us how to live a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle.” St. Francis of Assisi, who followed Christ most closely, is an excellent model of prophetic creativity. How many times did he hear the Word of God speaking directly to him and immediately put it into practice?
In the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) the term “prophetic creativity” is applied directly to the OFS. Here the focus is on servant leadership, always accompanied in our legislation by two verbs “animate and guide.” This function of servant leaders, to animate and guide, is not limited to administration or bureaucracy but, most importantly, applies to the heart of our call– the full realization of the Secular Franciscan life, both as individuals and as Fraternity. This “full realization” is the renewal we long for. It is the goal given to us by the Church and emphasized repeatedly by our Popes. The IL states emphatically that to achieve this goal “prophetic creativity is required.”
As servant leaders, we need to implement prophetic creativity and plan for the future. This goes beyond the “day to day” running of the fraternity. The IL states, “We should always seek new ways that help the development of the Fraternities and the spiritual life of the sisters and brothers, being open to and responding to the signs of the times.” So we must ask ourselves, what will move our fraternities, and our Order forward, so we become what the Church expects of us?
A good question at this point might be, does this requirement of prophetic creativity in the IL apply only to servant leaders? Certainly, the focus is on leaders, but the IL equally stresses the concept of “co- responsibility,” which applies to every member. Our General Constitutions states, “The brothers and sisters are co-responsible for the life of the fraternity to which they belong and for the OFS as the organic union of all fraternities throughout the world.” (GC 31.1) Think about this. We are responsible not only for the life of our own local fraternity, but for the entire Order. The IL stresses this point as well, addressing all of us and stating that “in order to achieve our goals, we must deepen our sense of co-responsibility.” All members must be attentive to the call to prophetic creativity. We must ask ourselves⎯what is my part?
Let us all respond to the Holy Spirit’s call⎯a call to a season of prophetic creativity. Imagine the result of this. We would grow closer to God and to each other. We would engage more deeply in our vocation. Our lives and our fraternities would be more alive with enthusiasm, joy, and hope. We would experience a more intense commitment with unconditional participation. Our Order would become stronger in its witness. We would reach out in the world to build relationships and share the joy of fraternity with all we meet. We would live up to our potential, individually and as an Order.
I believe these three documents give us tools to accomplish this, so let us study and unpack them in the months ahead. Please make them part of your ongoing formation in your local fraternities. My hope is that we might have some teleconferences, perhaps on both a regional and national level, to share and discuss what we discover in these three gifts. God is calling us more strongly than ever to live a life worthy of our call, and as always, he is providing us with all we need.
I will close with a story. Five years ago, I was captivated by a photo and a quote from Pope Francis that appeared in a “Year of Mercy” calendar. I cut it out, and it has hung on the wall next to the doorway of my office ever since. This photo of Pope Francis encourages me every time I walk through the door.
His “thumbs up” makes me smile; his words spur me on:
“It is true that our God is the God of surprises. Each day carries another surprise! …We will never move forward if we do not have the courage to break the mold, for our God impels us to do the following: to be creative about the future.”1
Pretty prophetic, right?
May this image, and these words, cheer us on as we enter this season of prophetic creativity.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
“What are the servants of God if not His minstrels, who must lift people’s hearts and move them up to spiritual joy?”
The Assisi Compilation from Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, pg. 186
It seems every article I have read lately begins with the phrase, “In these unprecedented times….” So true. We have seen too much sickness and death. Too much injustice. Too much division. We hear voices of righteous anger, and cries for help. Many on the front lines are stretched beyond their abilities as the stress of this pandemic takes its toll, not to mention the social unrest and the political strife that surrounds us. Many are weary, many are frightened, and many are in need of hope.
I am among the weary, but far from losing hope. One reason for that is you, my Franciscan brothers and sisters. Throughout the long and challenging months of this past summer, my spirits have been uplifted by your words and witness.
A few weeks ago, our General Minister, Tibor K a u s e r, s e n t u s a v i d e o m e s s a g e o f encouragement. I hope you all had a chance to view it. Tibor shared a quote from our 1 Constitutions which is so applicable at this time: “ F o l l o w i n g t h e G o s p e l , S e c u l a r Franciscans affirm their hope and their joy in living. They make a contribution to c o u n t e r w i d e s p re a d d i s t re s s a n d pessimism, preparing a better future.” (GC 26.1)
I have seen this lived out by you in a great variety of ways these past months, and I have never felt more confident in the vitality of the Order. The pandemic is not squelching our desire for fraternity⎯it is strengthening it. We are moving forward in new ways, responding in faith to the signs of the times. As Donna Hollis recently said, “Just as Clare lived in an historic time and made a way for women to follow their calling; we are making a way to live through this pandemic, which is also a very historic time.”
In this issue of the TAU-USA are contributions from OFS members across the country. These words and stories give witness to the many ways Franciscans are living the Gospel, making visible the living and active presence of Christ, witnessing to the good yet to come, and calling all to believe in the transforming power of love and pardon. We journey together in love and compassion. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
I will share a little story with you. It was the end of a long day. I was tired and stressed. All I could think of were all the things I had hoped to do that day but had not yet accomplished. I turned on my computer to answer some emails and clicked on one from LaVerna Region. It was the latest edition of La Verna Vision. I took some time and scrolled through the pages of this newsletter, noticing all the news and happenings. I suddenly stopped when, right in the middle of my screen appeared a photo of Regional Minister Jeff Gumz holding out a slice of homemade cherry pie. Right there, in the mix of all the news, announcements and formation articles was an invitation to enjoy some cherry pie!
It’s hard to describe what happened at that moment. It was as if St. Francis himself had come into my room carrying a steaming bowl of porridge and, with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, he was holding it out for me to take and enjoy. All I know is that a big smile came to my face, and my worries just disappeared.
The words to a song come to mind as I think of it: “In the love come from God, I now entreat you, put away all your cares, and be free from every possession, coming freely to love, and to serve and to honor the Lord.” I had been visited by Sister Simplicity. Perfect joy filled my heart. It just goes to show how simple pleasures and the joy of good food are such a part of our charism⎯and how in the midst of all we are called to do we must sometimes just stop, put aside our to-do lists, pick up our fiddle sticks, dance a bit, and then enjoy some cherry pie!
Yes, in many ways our world has been turned upside-down, and the struggles are real, but so is the grace we have been given to live our Franciscan vocation. May the stories in these pages be a source of inspiration and fraternal encouragement, and may spiritual joy fill your hearts!
Each of us, as we follow God’s path for us, find ourselves in places we never dreamed we would be, doing things we never thought we would do. I was thinking about this as I returned from Guam earlier this year. On this long flight, I sat in a state of wonder. I had traveled half-way around the world over the vast Pacific Ocean to this tiny island. Never in my life did I think I would go to Guam even once, let alone twice. Yet this is where God led me.
Now, three months after my return from Guam, the world is dealing with a corona virus pandemic. Life has dramatically changed for all of us. We find ourselves in uncharted waters dealing with unbelievable physical and emotional challenges. Who would have imagined anything like this ever happening? Life is certainly a mystery, with all its twists and turns. We trust that we are being guided but find ourselves questioning. Where is it all leading? What is the meaning of it all?
Years ago, at a workshop on Christian initiation, I was introduced to a rainbow shaped diagram like the one pictured below. At the bottom were the words “My Story.” On the half circle band above it were the words, “Our Story”; and at the top, in an overarching band, were the words “The Story”. Kathy, our facilitator, explained the diagram this way: “We each have our own unique story – let’s call it My Story. My Story, as important as it is, is part of something bigger. Let’s call this Our Story. Our Story is the story we share with our families and friends in our homes and workplaces. It’s the story of our faith community and the wider Church, and it is even more. Our Story is the story of all people, the story of our world and all creation. But above all that, there is something even greater. Let’s call it The Story. What is The Story? It’s a story written by and known only to God.” This simple diagram gave me a way to see how it all fits together.
Each of us has a unique story, and a unique experience of God. At some point, whether suddenly or gradually, we recognize God calling us to himself. This realization of God’s presence in our lives is deep, real, and personal. It profoundly impacts our lives and set us on a particular path.
This is “My Story,” and it continues to unfold in our lives. My Story is no small thing to me, or to God. Nevertheless, it is part of something bigger.
My Story is part of Our Story. We are intricately connected with each other and our world. God leads each of us to play our part in Our Story, to care for each other and for all creation. What we do, or what we refuse to do, makes a difference in our worldwide community and to our planet. Old or young, believer or non-believer, liberal or conservative, we are all in the same boat. Ignoring others in the boat and leaning our own way will cause the boat to tilt and eventually sink. We cannot make it on our own. We live our best lives when we lean on each other, work together, and learn from each other.
As people of faith, we know we are also part of “The Story,” the story written by and known only to God. We will not know the fullness of The Story until we reach heaven, but faith tells us that God is ordering all things to bring The Story to fulfillment. In our daily lives, as we walk in that faith, we play our part in The Story.
Bishop Robert Barron talks about faith, stating, “We have an adventurous God, and faith is the proper response to such a God…. Faith is an attitude of trust in the God who is always holding out new possibilities to us.” Those possibilities may seem impossible to us, but they are not impossible to God. He may call us to something we are not sure we can do or ask us to accept a situation we would rather change. God’s ways simply do not always make sense to us. This is where our faith in God, and our belief in a greater story, comes in. God is with us and is guiding us. His guidance may be unseen, but it is not unfelt.
Empowered by grace, we can follow God’s call and play our part in The Story. We trust in divine providence, for “God’s love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory and made it one with his own in heaven.”
When we look at the events of our lives through the eyes of faith, we understand that My Story and Our Story ultimately only have meaning within The Story. God has called each of us for a time and a purpose. When it comes to the big questions in life, all we need do is look up in faith. “[God] has revealed himself and given himself to man. He has thus provided the definitive, super-abundant answer to the questions man asks himself about the meaning and purpose of his life.” Our belief that God is using us to write The Story gives our lives great meaning, beyond what we can know. This faith bolsters our determination to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead, even into the unknown. This faith gives meaning, especially to our suffering. No matter how difficult, no matter the missteps along the way, God’s providence is there for us. We get up again, turn to God, and keep going. All this because “God, who is rich in mercy,…made us alive together with Christ…” Alive together, yes, for The Story is ultimately the story of Resurrection, a story of hope and joy as we celebrate and live within the Paschal Mystery.
Does looking at all this have an impact on us as Franciscans? For sure, it does. My own Story started long before I became a Franciscan. My Story is rooted in Christ, and my Franciscan vocation stems from that initial encounter. I am not in the Order only to learn about Francis and be enamored by his life, but to live the Gospel. Francis himself said, “I have done what was mine to do, may Christ teach you what is yours.” Those around me may well see Francis or Clare reflected in my life, but ultimately it must be Christ that I proclaim as I live the Gospel.
When it comes to Our Story, that’s easy. For Franciscans, it’s all about fraternity and universal kinship. We are keenly aware of a story beyond ourselves. We are called to identify with the lowly and lift them up to their true dignity. We care for all of creation. Within the Order, the bonds of fraternity help us live our professions, conform our lives to Christ, and pour ourselves out as Christ did upon the Cross. When we stumble and fall, we know sisters and brothers understand and are there to help. Our fraternities depend on each of us to be active members of the Order at every level – local, regional, national and international. We cannot sit still. We need to keep moving forward, striving for ongoing daily conversion. Only in this way do we contribute to Our Story.
Finally, we look to “Our Franciscan Story” as part of The Story. It was God who inspired Francis, and God led others to follow him. God continues to guide and help us as an Order. Grace comes when we most need it, at times unbidden and unexpected, giving us the impetus to move forward as an Order. Whether Franciscans are journeying halfway around the world or standing together (six feet apart) facing the challenges of a pandemic, we know our witness is part of The Story —something greater and far beyond us, embracing all. St. Francis encourages us to “follow the Lord’s most holy commands to the very end” as we look towards the Son of Man’s coming in glory. In that moment, we will know the fullness of The Story, as we hear Christ saying to all who “acknowledged, adored and served him in sincere repentance: ‘Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.’”
With your help, the Q Committee has created a special tee-shirt blanket for the 2021 Quinquennial Congress (the “Q”.) When I first laid eyes on it, I was filled with delight! How amazing to think that each donated tee shirt was worn by a fellow Franciscan somewhere across our country, or perhaps by someone beyond our borders. Look at “us”, all stitched together. Truly this is “fraternity in a blanket” – a great image of “Our Story.” The eventual winner of this blanket is known only to God, but what a gift it will be! Details about the 2021 Q, and how to win this blanket, will be posted on our OFS-USA website (secularfranciscansusa.org) starting in August 2021. (By the way, my shirt is the yellow one, bottom row, in the center.)
Peace and all good!
This article appears in the Spring 2020 edition of the Tau.
The National Priority of Fraternity Life has never been more important than at this time of social distancing. Some of you have asked how to maintain fraternity activities during this time.
The following events can be held using video conferencing or conference call:
Fraternity Council meetings
Initial formation sessions
Some fraternity events require personal presence:
Rite of Admission
Rite of Profession
These must be postponed until we can meet safely in person, however, initial formation should continue in the manner described below.
Please see the following sections for detailed guidelines on all the above.
We encourage fraternities at both local and regional levels to maintain fraternal bonds as much as you can. Be creative. Make phone calls, send cards or letters. Use technology to meet as a group (conference calls or teleconferencing, etc.) if possible. On a video conference some members will not have the ability to be “on screen,” but they can join by phone. Do your best to incorporate prayer and ongoing formation.
Fraternity Council Business
Fraternity Councils and Regional Executive Councils can conduct business by phone or teleconference. Decisions can be made by consensus or voice vote. (Note: A secret ballot is only required for elections or for approval of a Candidate for Profession.)
Fraternity Council Elections
Fraternity members, the appointed Presider and Ecclesial Witness must be physically present for an election. Elections involve voting by secret ballot, and this cannot happen by teleconference, phone or email. Mail in ballots are not acceptable for the following reasons: the reading of ballots must be overseen by the Presider and Ecclesial Witness, and there are multiple elections and a changing slate. Elections that cannot be held safely must be postponed.
What if postponement of an election is not a good option?
If a Council member is not able to continue to fulfill their duties during a term that has been extended due to the pandemic, then that person may resign. In this case the Council fills the vacancy in the usual manner.
Official Fraternity Visitations
Fraternity members and the Visitor(s) must be physically present for an official Visitation. An official Visitation cannot take place by teleconference. Visitations that cannot be held safely must be postponed.
Initial Formation should continue during social distancing. However, every effort should be made to maintain the same standards followed for an in-person formation session.
Material can be sent out by email or surface mail but discussion is still key.
Engage everyone in discussion as it would normally take place at a formation gathering.
This can be done by phone, conference call, Face Time, Zoom, Google Classroom—whatever is the most comfortable for the formation director and those in initial formation.
Please resist the urge to combine classes. Orientation, Inquiry, and Candidacy sessions should be held at separate times as you would usually do.
For those in initial formation, it is even more crucial at this time to have contact with their sponsors or a prayer partner.
Formation team involvement is very important at this time.
For those fraternities currently meeting virtually, (by teleconference or video conferences)
Question: We have new members whom we want to welcome into the fraternity even though we are not meeting in person. Can we do this?
Answer: Ceremony of Introduction and Welcoming (p. 9 of the Ritual)
The Ceremony of Introduction and Welcoming can be celebrated by conference call OR video conference if the following conditions have been met:
The individuals had been attending in-person fraternity meetings before the quarantine. (At least 2-3 meetings)
They have been participating in the fraternity Zoom or conference call sessions. (At least two or three regular virtual fraternity gatherings)
The fraternity council and the fraternity itself have had the opportunity to get to know them. (Either prior to social distancing or by talking to them on the phone and exchanging emails during social distancing.)
The initial interview and faith summary have taken place. (This might have already been done prior to social distancing or it can be handled by phone or video conference [preferred, if possible].)
Orientation lessons have been completed. (Not less than three months) This can be handled by phone, email or videoconference. Full sessions should be held, just as if you were meeting in person.
Ensure that they have access to a short biography of St. Francis.
If all of this has been completed, the Ceremony of Introduction and Welcoming (p. 9 in the Ritual) lends itself to taking place during a videoconference (ex: Zoom, Go To Meeting). The Ritual says that it is to be kept as simple as possible; it is not a liturgical rite and should take place during the regular virtual fraternity gathering at the time of ongoing formation and socializing.
Question: We have Inquirers who are arriving at the time for the Rite of Admission. Can we celebrate the Rite during social distancing?
Answer: Rite of Admission (p. 11 of the Ritual)
It is not recommended that the Rite of Admission be carried out virtually. The Rite of Admission takes place within a liturgical celebration (not Mass). The fraternity really should be gathered in person for this to take place. (Depending on the social distancing guidelines of particular dioceses, it might be possible to have the Rite of Admission with a small group representing the fraternity. [See Ritual pp. 4 and 5 section 3.2 description of those to be present.])
However, determine if the following has taken place:
Inquirers should have completed at least 6 months of focused discernment-(Inquiry classes—of the same length and nature that would have taken place before social distancing began. Once again, material can be emailed or surface mailed, but sufficient time should be taken for explanation and discussion.)
Prior to the interviews, all sacramental certificates, and letters of recommendation should be received and reviewed by the Council.
Two interviews (one by the Spiritual Assistant) to assess the readiness of the Inquirers to become candidates. (These can take place on the phone or via video conference.)
A letter written to the Council by each Inquirer requesting admission to Candidacy. These can be emailed to the Formation Director who will share with the rest of the Council.
Discussion and collegial decision of the Fraternity Council (GC 39.3)
The Inquirers should be made aware of the seriousness of the Rite of Admission and why it is being delayed until the community can gather.
Once all of the above has been completed, Candidacy classes can begin via video conference or conference call. Again, these should be of the same length and nature as prior to social distancing.
When social distancing has ended, the Rite of Admission can take place in person. It should be noted in the fraternity register that the Rite of Admission was delayed due to social distancing and that Candidacy classes began on ___ date.
The Rite of Professionwill also need to be delayed until the fraternity can gather. This is necessary for two reasons:
The Council needs decide by secret ballot on admission to profession of each candidate. (GC 41.1)
The Fraternity needs to be present to witness the profession
Even when social distancing ends and the Rite of Admission takes place (if it has not been possible beforehand), an appropriate interval (below) should elapse between the Rite of Admission and Profession. (As long as Candidacy does not extend beyond three years.)
Explanation of appropriate interval:
The Rites of Admission and Profession offer separate and distinct opportunities for celebration, reflection, and the action of the Holy Spirit. Under the pandemic guidelines, someone could proceed through candidate formation for many months before participating in the Rite of Admission. Care should be taken to maintain an appropriate interval (at least six months) between the two rites to preserve the dignity and efficacy of each and to allow grace to act in the life of the candidate.
The National Executive Council thanks the National Formation Commission for their work on these guidelines.
We have just received a letter from our Minister General regarding the Coronavirus (attached, in both English and Spanish). Please read it and distribute widely. We will also share this letter via our website. I am thankful for Tibor’s approach which calls us to both prayer and action, and sets the proper tone for us as Secular Franciscans facing these unusual times.
At the national level we have received questions about whether to cancel or postpone Regional gatherings. We have no set policy at the national level but beg all to be properly informed and make wise decisions as a Council. Check local health directives and look at what the CDC says, and evaluate from there. None of us want to cancel things we have planned, but we need to carefully consider if we are putting folks at risk, or contributing to the spread of this virus.
Are we safe if it is a smaller gathering? Or if everyone commits to exercising the recommended disciplines? I don’t have the answer to these, or to other questions. We might need to consider the facility where we might be meeting, and consider who has traveled somewhere recently who might be a carrier. We should not be driven by fear, but we do need good common sense and caution, given the current environment. There are alternatives such as rescheduling, or meeting by webinar or conference call.
The National Executive Council joins you in prayer during this time. Let us remember who we are, and be guided by the Holy Spirit in our prayers and actions. Living our theme for this year, let us continue to journey together in love and compassion.
Peace and all good,
Jan Parker OFS
Secular Franciscan Order – USA
Journey Together in Love and Compassion
2019-2020 OFS-USA Theme
Letter from Tibor Kauser, Minister General
In English, followed by Spanish
Prot. n. 3233 Rome, March 12, 2020
Dear sisters and brothers all over the world,
May the Lord give you his peace!
We are living extraordinary days, weeks, that needs extraordinary decisions and extraordinary attitude.
We do not know so far, what is in God’s plans that we can use from this grave situation, but I am sure that God is preparing a great surprise for us.
We hear the news from all the corners of the world about the coronavirus epidemic that is spreading very quickly. In some parts of the world the situation is really grave and makes us concern, while other parts are still free of it or less affected.
Being Secular Franciscans, living in the world, we have to faithfully fulfil the duties to our various circumstances of life (Cf. OFS Rule 10). This is more demanding today, as we have to leave many of our comfortable habits and attentively adopt to new circumstances. Solidarity and fraternal life becomes a new meaning.
First of all I invite you all to join my prayers for those who are affected by the epidemic, particularly for the people of Italy, China, South Korea, which are the most impacted country for now, but this is changing day by day and others are affected seriously. Let us pray for those, who suffer from this illness, for those who are caring for those being sick, and for all to have the wisdom and patience to behave properly, both physically and spiritually, and to be able to bear this material and mental burden.
Living in the world calls us to be attentive to all those who have more difficulties in this situation, or are facing more risks. There are many elderly sisters and brothers in our fraternities, who need more fraternal care and more attention. I ask you to pay special attention to those in need. We have to be more disciplined as each one of us has an even greater personal responsibility for our brothers, for our neighbours. I am sure that God gives us an opportunity to strengthen fraternal life, even if sometimes there are less of the personal encounters.
The measures of the official authorities declare the situation day by day more critical. Some of the measures and calls from both secular and ecclesiastic authorities may surprise us, or can even be shocking. However, we have to believe that all these are for the common good, and since there is no authority except from God (Rm. 13:1), we shall respect them also if sometimes it is not so simple to understand them. God is always providing for our spiritual and material good.
Let us open our hearts to hear what does the Lord intend to tell us with letting this situation happen. May God help us all to know what is our duty also today.
Your minister and your minor brother,
Prot. n. 3233 Roma, 12 marzo 2020
Queridos hermanos y hermanas de todo el mundo:
¡El Señor os dé su Paz!
Estamos viviendo unos días y unas semanas insólitas, que requieren decisiones insólitas y una actitud insólita. No sabemos todavía qué planes tiene Dios que podamos utilizar en esta situación tan grave. Sin embargo, estoy seguro de que Dios está preparando una gran sorpresa para nosotros.
Recibimos las noticias de todas partes del mundo sobre la epidemia de coronavirus que se está extendiendo rápidamente. En algunas partes del mundo, es especialmente grave y nos preocupa, mientras que otras partes están libres (del virus) o poco afectadas.
Como Franciscanos Seglares, viviendo en el mundo, tenemos que cumplir fielmente los deberes de nuestras diversas circunstancias en la vida (Cf. OFS Regla 10). Hoy, esto es todavía más exigente, ya que tenemos que dejar nuestros cómodos hábitos y adaptarnos atentamente a las nuevas circunstancias. La solidaridad y la vida fraternal obtienen un nuevo significado.
Primero de todo, os invito a que os unáis a mis oraciones por todos los que se están viendo afectados por la epidemia, particularmente por la gente de Italia, China y Corea del Sur, que son los países más afectados por el momento, pero esto está cambiando día a día y otros también están siendo afectados seriamente. Oremos por aquellos que sufren la enfermedad, por aquellos que cuidan de los enfermos y por todos para que tengamos la sabiduría y la paciencia para comportarnos adecuadamente, tanto física como espiritualmente, y para que seamos capaces de superar esta carga mental y material.
El vivir en el mundo nos llama a que seamos más atentos a aquellos que tienen más dificultades en esta situación o que están afrontando más riesgos. Hay muchos hermanos y hermanas mayores en nuestras fraternidades que necesitan más atención y cuidado fraternal. Os pido que prestéis especial atención a aquellos en situación de necesidad. Tenemos que ser más disciplinados ya que cada uno de nosotros tiene una mayor responsabilidad personal por nuestros hermanos, por nuestros vecinos. Estoy seguro que Dios nos está dando una oportunidad para fortalecer nuestra vida fraternal, incluso si hay menos encuentros personales.
Las medidas de las autoridades declaran la situación más crítica día a día. Algunas de las medidas tomadas y lo que nos piden tanto las autoridades seglares como las eclesiásticas nos pueden sorprender o incluso chocar. Sin embargo, tenemos que creer que son para el bien común y, como no hay otra autoridad más que Dios (Rm. 13,1), tenemos que respetarlas, aunque a veces nos cueste entenderlas. Dios siempre nos está proveyendo de bienes materiales y espirituales.
Abramos nuestros corazones para oír lo que el Señor nos está diciendo dejando que esta situación ocurra. Que el Señor nos ayude a saber cuál es nuestro deber hoy también.
May grace and peace be yours in this season of repentance..
The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert. Let us simply ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, too, during this Lenten season. I know God will give each of us a very personal answer.
I hope you saw our sister Carolyn’s wonderful Lenten message. Along with her reminder about our H2O project, I’d like to add two more suggestions for almsgiving: (1) donations to NAFRA’s Charitable Giving fund, and (2) donations to the Good Friday Collection for the Holy Land.
What is NAFRA’s Charitable Giving Fund? Each year, prior to our annual Chapter, we ask everyone to submit names of charities that they would like to see our National OFS Family support. Donations are then made to the particular charities chosen by the National Fraternity Council, oftentimes we are able to send nice donations to 8-10 charitable organizations. The money for these donations comes from our Charitable Giving fund, and the donation is sent on behalf of the National Secular Franciscan Order.. In 2019, we were not able to make any donations as the fund had been depleted. Donations for NAFRA’s Charitable Giving fund can be sent to our National Treasurer (see address below.) Thank you for any contribution you are able to send.
Secondly, I encourage donations for the Franciscans’ ministry in the Holy Land. The name of this collection is the “Pontifical Good Friday Collection” and contributions can be placed in the collection baskets on Good Friday at your local parish. For more information, see https://myfranciscan.org/good-friday/
Please share this invitation with your local fraternities.
I am thankful to be with you on this Lenten journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Your sister and minister,
Please make checks payable to “NAFRA”, noting “For Charitable Giving”, and mail to:
Claudia Kauzlarich OFS
2007 Maverick Trail
Harrisonville, MO 64701-1545
“May the fraternal bonds of community always be our help, so that we may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.”
— from the Secular Franciscan Rite of Profession to the Gospel Life
“How big is love?” I asked my family. My reflective 14-year-old granddaughter, Miranda, replied, “As big as you want it to be!”
“Do you know why we give gifts?” “Because God gave us the gift of Jesus!” said Joshua, 12. His thoughtful brother Caleb, 13, added, “To build relationships.”
“What will you name your new elf?” I asked 8-year-old Levi. “I will name him Emmanuel because he is little, like Jesus.”
What joy and wonder are ours in the gift of Jesus, God-with-us, who came to us as a child! I am so thankful for the gift of family, and that certainly includes the gift of our wonderful Franciscan family. A blessed Christmas to you! Thank you all for your greetings, and for the love and joy that shines in each of your hearts.
May your Christmas be bright with the light, love and joy of Christ!