From our National Minister

News from the National Executive Council

National Priority for 2019-2021

 

At the 2018 Chapter, the National Fraternity Council (NAFRA) discussed the question of national priorities for 2019-2021.  Many suggestions were presented, and several were mentioned multiple times, but no one priority stood out clearly.  It was the consensus of the body that the incoming National Executive Council (NEC) decide our national priorities for the upcoming three years.  The NEC is happy to announce that this was accomplished at our December 13-16, 2018 meeting in St. Louis, MO.   During this meeting we prayerfully considered the needs of the national family, as well as the feedback from the NAFRA Geo Groups at Chapter, and the decision became clear to us.   While in past years NAFRA has set as many as six priorities, this year we chose to narrow our focus to one---Fraternity Life.  Note that concentrating on fostering vibrant fraternity life does not imply that previous priorities will be ignored or neglected.  Formation, JPIC, Communications, and Spiritual Assistance will all play an important role in strengthening our local fraternities.

 

The decision to choose Fraternity Life was confirmed for us in a wonderful way!  A few weeks after we chose this priority, we received a Christmas letter from our General Minister.  In this letter Tibor Kauser encouraged us to repeat our “yes” unconditionally – saying yes to God, yes to our vocation and yes to our neighbor.  He then repeated three times “…this will give new life to our fraternities, too!  (See our General Minister’s Christmas Letter:  https://secularfranciscansusa.org/2018/12/25/christmas-messages-from-our-national-and-international-minister )

 

To help all of us achieve this priority we decided to highlight three aspects of fraternity life:

 

National Priority 2019-2021

Fraternity Life

1. Deepening our Franciscan Vocation

2. Growing in Fraternal Communion

3. Cultivating Universal Kinship

 

Our relationships with God, with our OFS brothers and sisters, and with all people made in the image and likeness of God will be the subject of future reflections, as will some of the means (commitment, conversion, communication) we must use to enable our fraternities to grow in holiness.

 

Meanwhile, let us begin by reflecting on the spiritual reality and purpose of our fraternities.  We’re so used to participating in various groups, both within and outside the Church, that it’s easy to treat our fraternity as just another group, rather than an integral part of our vocation.  Let’s look at our foundational documents.  How do they portray fraternity?

Our General Constitutions state:

 

Art. 28.1.   The fraternity of the OFS finds its origin in the inspiration of Saint Francis of Assisi to whom the Most High revealed the essential gospel quality of life in fraternal communion (See Constitutions 3.3 (below); Testament 14).

 

Art.  3.3.   The vocation to the OFS is a vocation to live the Gospel in fraternal communion.  For this purpose, the members of the OFS gather in ecclesial communities which are called fraternities.

 

Art.  100.3.   Fidelity to their own charism, Franciscan and secular, and the witness of building fraternity sincerely and openly are their principal services to the Church, which is the community of love.  They should be recognized in it by their "being", from which their mission springs.

 

Points to ponder: 

  • The fraternity is not an afterthought.  It originated with St. Francis, and its essential gospel quality was revealed to Francis by God Himself.
  • We don’t just “live the Gospel.”  We live it “in fraternal communion.”  Fraternal communion is thus defined as a constitutive element of our vocation.  We have a specific way of being in the world, and a specific way of being together…in fraternal communion.
  • The Constitutions tie building fraternity to our Franciscan mission of ‘rebuilding’ the Church.  In fact, they term it one of the principal services we as an Order do for the Church.  Recall that during our profession we promised to spend our efforts doing this very thing.  

 

        “The local fraternity is a visible sign of the Church, a community of faith and love.  Together with all   the members you now pledge yourselves to spend your efforts to make the fraternity a genuine ecclesial assembly and a living Franciscan community.  Rite of Profession, Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order].

      

       If we fail to take this seriously, if we work half-heartedly, if we rarely show up at fraternity        gatherings, we are failing our brothers and sisters, we are failing to live our profession, and we are failing the Church. 

 

  • Thomas of Celano tells us that Francis and his brothers rejoiced when others were added to their company.

“Immediately four other good and sound men were added to them as followers of the holy man of God. …At that time Saint Francis and his brothers felt great gladness and unique joy whenever one of the faithful, led by the Spirit of God, came and accepted the habit of holy religion whoever the person might be: rich or poor, noble or insignificant, wise or simple, cleric or illiterate, a layman of the Christian people.  This was a great wonder to those of the world and an example of humility, challenging them to the way of a more reformed life and to penance for sins.” (1 Celano 31)

              Ask yourself: do people today feel that “great wonder” when they visit our fraternities? 

              What sort of example do they see?

 

  • “Come to [Jesus], a living stone, rejected by men yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house….”  1 Peter 2:4-5a

 

And finally, look to the next issue of the TAU-USA and to our national website secularfranciscansusa.com for additional reflections on this year’s focus.

Received 1/15/2019 /fss

Message from: Jan Parker OFS, National Minister, Secular Franciscan Order - USA
Date: Sun, Dec 30, 2018 at 9:28 AM
Subject: [NAFRA-L] Happy Feast of the Holy Family!
 

 

Beloved National Family,
On this Feast of the Holy Family, I rejoice and give thanks for our beautiful Secular Franciscan family!   I am so thankful for all the goodness that I see in this family!  What a joy it is to be part of this family!
 
Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, has made us members of God's family in a holy covenant of love and flesh.  He takes on our flesh,  joins our human family and raises our heads to see our true dignity.  Let us indeed raise our heads and not doubt our dignity before God.  Let us not doubt God's love, or what God has called us to.  And if you, like me, have stumbled, then do not delay to rouse yourself.  Let us run to the manger, be strengthened by the powerful grace of mercy and love, and run to the world singing our joyful song, "The Lord has come!"
 
Let us also immediately, in this holy tide of Christmas, turn to each other and ask forgiveness for hurts we have caused.  Let us look into each others eyes with love and compassion, and as best we can, let each other know that "it's ok."  In Christ all hurts are healed, so that even if it is impossible for us to physically give, or receive, that healing hug, we can trust Christ's healing grace which covers us all.  God knows our hearts.
Hail! the heaven-born Prince of peace!  Hail! the Son of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings!
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die: 
Born to raise the son of earth, born to give them second birth. 
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new-born King !"
 
God bless our entire Franciscan Family, and every family!
 
"Have a rejoicing heart, try to grow holy, help one another, keep united, live in peace. 
Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts.  
Whatever you do, put your whole self into it, as if for the Lord and not for men. 
Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts!"
(Reponsory, Office of Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family.)
 
I look forward to a blessed year ahead, with joyful expectation of how God will work in our lives!
 
Joy to the World! 
And to each of you, peace and all good!
Love and prayers,
Jan

 

 
Jan Parker OFS
National Minister
Secular Franciscan Order - USA
 
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Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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