St. Francis blessing other Franciscan Saints

Leadership in the SFO

A group of people in a large city was trying to win over greater support to influence the mayor and the city council. So they rented a hall and brought in a well-known, dynamic speaker. The day came and because of the speaker's reputation the hall was filled with people. His talk was motivating and powerful. So powerful that he came down into the audience and said " We are going to march right out of here to City Hall and get the job done." As he walked down the aisle the whole group followed him to the back of the auditorium where he flung open the double doors and to his embarrassment led everyone into the men's restroom.

Lesson for leaders: know where you are going.

One definition of a leader is: a leader knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.

When I think of the people I admire as leaders. It is not the people who are the most gifted, or best educated. They all have one quality that makes them good leaders. They have a passion and fire about what they are doing. They make sacrifices for what they believe in. People want to follow that kind of leader.

The term servant leadership is familiar and we are aware of what it means. Our model is Christ who said, "I have not come to be served but to serve." Matt. 20:28. He startles us. Washing feet? The lowest task given to the servants. Instead of the kind of leadership that is about power, prestige, or status, Christ asks us to wait on one another. Instead of dictating, dominating, Christ asks us to anticipate the needs of others. Francis in imitation of Christ said: Those who are put in charge of others shall be no prouder of their office than if they were asked to wash the feet of their confreres" 4th Admonition.

Our rule says fraternities are guided and animated by an elected council and minister. The role of councilors and minister according to the GC is one of encouragement, inspiration, suggestions, and collaboration. Nowhere does it say that the leadership of the SFO has any authority to command or issues edicts to be obeyed. That's why leadership in our councils is different from government, civic organizations, in that the councilors represent the mind of Christ. With Christ's perspective we will look for remedies and solutions instead of assigning blame. With the mind of Christ we will separate problems or issues from people. We will know that it is not who is right but what is right. The decisions we make will be based on how that decision affects our mission.

And what is our mission?

Rule, Art. 6 And 14

The fraternity exists first and foremost not for its own survival but for the mission of Christ and His church.

Francis' way of proclaiming Christ and the gospel was not primarily sending people out to preach, but rather by building fraternities- communities of 5-6 brothers and placing them in various locals to be a leaven of the gospel of Christ.

What's leaven?

To be leaven means that we raise up the level of the society around us. Leadership requires that we guide and animate the fraternity to that awareness.

Councilors ought to be open to each other with regard to mutual correction and challenge. To do that requires trust and respect for each of the brothers and sisters of the fraternity. If trust

and respect are not present, if we are not spirit-filled Franciscans, then we find anger, hatred, desire to crush, and dominate If the spirit of God is present then we find love, humility, and a desire to serve.: There is no true fraternity without humility. Humility protects the fraternity from manipulation for power."

This does not mean that fraternities will be without tension. Tensions are really healthy and a sign of life.

What is the state of your fraternity (local, regional, national?)

If we are honest we will agree with Fr. Bob Stewart when he wrote: "While some fraternities of the SFO have experienced growth and renewal, in general, the SFO appears not to have gained a "new impetus." Let's admit that we do not always treat one another like family; that many do not give the SFO the priority it deserves; that only a few want to help in the work of being a fraternity. Some fraternities will die out. New ones will take their place. Why do they die out?

The people are hungry.

People need real nourishment; nourishment that will be food for the heart, for the mind and for the spirit. Without that kind of food, hope will waste away. Instead they want to stay comfortable and settle for the status quo or even worse, a legalistic bureaucratic approach. We are nourished by everything that stirs us up and validates our vocations and make us even more conscious of the gift it is.

How can you and I as leaders, work to provide that nourishment to the people we serve?

Challenges of SFO leadership today!

Be open to change The only people who really like change are wet babies. Fr. Carroll Stuhlmuller wrote "No human institution, even when sanctioned by God and functioning within a religious system is immune to failure and sin. It must be reformed, reinvigorated, and even at times changed. "

It takes courage to change our way of thinking and acting. When we are afraid of the unknown we cling to what's familiar. The future SFO depends on whether or not our servant leaders can take the risk to change; to be unpopular.

Now is the time for the SFO to be counter-cultural. It is our heritage to be counter-cultural. Look at the early fraternities. The way that brothers and sisters of penance lived helped to defeat the feudal system. Their rule of life helped to put an end to the wars going on from city to city. Even the friars of the time were distancing themselves from us because the brothers and sisters were not politically correct.

For today's Secular Franciscan to be counter-cultural means we need to stand up to the decaying culture in our world that says it's okay to kill unborn children. The culture that thinks that war will solve problems, that every kind of foul language is permissible as long as it's entertainment, that the important people are those who have the most money, that if people are poor it's their own fault. We need to resist a culture of racism and consumerism. We ought to oppose the big companies that make money on the kind of television and movies considered acceptable.

In November of this year when our sisters and brothers of the International fraternity met with the Holy Father, he called upon the SFO to be courageous witnesses to Christian and Franciscan Life. He said that our first priority is our families. He tells us to take seriously the Franciscan desire to be instruments of evangelization and peace making.

Leadership will demand the kind of dedication and commitment that will motivate Secular Franciscans to go against the grain of culture to be leaven in our families, at our work, in the continual striving for peace and justice and in caring for God's creation.

Francis was such an example and motivator that he gathered people from all walks of life to work with him. If we as individuals are alone, isolated in our giant, very materialistic culture, the culture will win. We need each other. Our Church and our rule urge us to evangelize the culture. Question, are we doing the evangelizing or is the culture evangelizing us?

Today when the Church has come under such great criticism, we leaders need to remember what someone said about St. Francis. "He did not pick up stones to throw at the Church; he worked to rebuild it."

Fr. Bob Stewart says: "It's not that the Secular Franciscans find the perfect fraternity but that they take up the challenge." I will adapt that for servant servant leadership. It's not that we are perfect leaders but that we take up the challenge.

Tools for the challenge.

Prayer: That will help us to come to decisions that change our lives

Conversion: That continuing call of Franciscans to rid their lives of all that is not leading them to God.

Community: That will support one another to live in prophetic contradiction to what is going on in the world.

Rudolph Guliani in his book on leadership says: " Be prepared, read, get the background, stand up to bullies."

When we are faced with great challenges we can trust our loving Father.

Story of Native American

Lord help us to remember that your power will enable us to do what you expect of us.

We pray with Francis, make us instruments. Use our fraternities.