National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order-USA
Deacon Juan F. Lezcano, sfo
1216 SW 353rd Street
Federal Way, WA 98023
Youth/Young Adult 12
EXECUTIVE COUNCIL: The election of the newly elected Executive Council took place on November 1, 2003 in Santa Barbara, California.
Holy Name Province-May Bonfils Grant was requested and received for $50,000 for the All Commissions' Conference "Turning Up The Flame" that took place at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, June 17-20, 2004.
Posting Marie Amore's address on the NAFRA website has resulted in an increase of
e-mail requests for information on becoming a Secular Franciscan. These requests outnumber the phone calls. She receives at least three or four a day. They are answered immediately and the name and phone number of a local contact person is given to the inquirer. Marie is getting as many as 28 phone calls a week. The requests warrant written responses to the inquirer and to the contact person. Over 1000 inquiries by phone and e-mail are answered each year. That brings the total count since 1995 to 9,856. By October 2004 the total amount of inquiries will be 1000 for this year.
SPIRITUAL ASSISTANCE: Kevin Queally, TOR, succeeded Patrick Seelman, TOR, as National Spiritual Assistant.
Formation: International Formation Request for Information and Materials - (January 2004)Response prepared and submitted to inquiry of Benedetto Lino, OFS regarding the status of the formation process in the United States. In addition, resources and texts were sent to the International Fraternity for review. Teresa Baker and Anne Mulqueen met with Mr. Lino while in Assisi to confer on formation related issues.
Youth and Young Adult: On May 18, 2004 Queen of Peace Region appointed the first USA Regional YYA Commission Chair who is a young adult, Elizabeth Taormina, SFO, who is 23 years of age. "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" written by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops was researched, read and discussed. The commission has decided to take a pro-active stance and is in the process of drafting an informational document for all who work with Franciscan Youth. The National Commission has had their Criminal Background Checks completed. Franciscan World Youth Days 2005 will be held during the International World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in the summer of 2005 from August 12-15, 2005. The proposal for sending the USA's four delegates was discussed and approved during the EC meeting in June in Denver. A Guide for Franciscan Youth/Young Adult Ministry (2004 revision) a comprehensive guide to youth ministry is completed. The Youth and Young Adult Web Page is located at www.franciscanyouthusa.com. It is constantly updated and has proven to be an indispensable tool for the YYA to disburse information and foster enthusiasm.
Ecology: The Ecology Commission prepared and distributed a brochure on Environmental Stewardship - which challenges its readers to consider the call to become an environmental steward, to repent of our environmental sins, and to pursue simple living, universal kinship, and environmental peacemaking. The brochure is available on the NAFRA website (http://www.nafra-sfo.org/ecology_brochure.pdf). To assist with the conversion process, the Ecology Commission prepared several Eco Penance exercises. These activity-based exercises may be viewed at: http://www.nafra-sfo.org/ecology.html.
Family: In preparation for the All Commissions' Conference in June 2004, held in Denver, Colorado the National Family Commission Co-chairs with the chairmen of all the Commissions made an educational tour of Assisi to visit the significant places in Francis' life. In this visit to Assisi the hometown of St. Francis, we sensed the presence of the Bernardone family in Francis' paternal home. We felt the tomb of St. Francis and kissed the wall of the Porzuincula. We also saw the remains of St. Clare and we had the chance to smell the roses in the garden of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. We were able to touch the rocks in La Verna where Francis received the stigmata. At the Greccio we were able to relive the nativity scene with Francis holding the infant Jesus and we actually saw the Byzantine crucifix that spoke to Francis. Our hearts were a flame and so inspired to take care of the registration of the more than 200 Franciscans who attended the ACC. The members of the Family Commission gave a workshop on the current issues of the family and how Secular Franciscans can help improve the family situation based on the statistics presented about the threats that abound in the family today. A Family Packet was distributed to each participant (who are the regional family commission chairmen). Each packet includes Helpful Hints in Doing Family Ministry, Mission and goals of the Commission, Resources for Family, Qualities to Look For in a Family Commission Chair and others.
The selection of the Family of the Year continues. A Family of the Year was selected for 2004 and was honored at their Region's gathering. A plaque was presented to the Family of the Year. It signifies another light that will be seen by all as a model of true Franciscans. The National Family Calendar 2004 was again created and distributed to all Secular Franciscans who ordered them. The calendar has been another means for ongoing formation since it includes daily acts of kindness and getting to know Franciscan saints in each day of the year.
The mailing list for the Living By Faith continues to increase. This spiritual letter is published monthly to reach out to the homebound members of the SFO who are ill, elderly, and handicapped and can not attend the meetings and activities of their fraternities.
The creation of the National Family Commission web page has been recently completed. Its address is www.sfofamilycomm.org.
Peace and Justice: The National Peace and Justice Commission of the SFO/USA asked all Franciscans to dedicate the Feast of Our Lady of Angels (August 2, 2004) as a Day of Prayer and Advocacy for the Sudanese people. We invited the National Secular Franciscan Order of Canada to join us in this day of prayer, and they did so. The SFO fraternities in England, Scotland, and Wales also responded to our invitation to join.
The following information was sent out to the SFO social justice coordinators in all three countries:
a brief background piece on the current conflict in Sudan;
a sample letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, to United Nations Ambassador John Danforth, and to Congressional Representatives
a sample letter to the President of Chad via the Embassy of Chad, Washington, DC asking for compassionate treatment of the Sudanese refugees now at the Chad/Sudan border
sample prayers for group and private reflection
Legislative Advocacy: The National Peace and Justice Commission has an active program of legislative advocacy. Secular Franciscans were asked to write, fax, and phone their Congressional Representatives and other government officials on a variety of issues. The issues included nuclear disarmament; cancellation of the debt for poor countries; trade agreements that will hurt farmers in poor countries; protections for persons sentenced to the death penalty; aid for poor persons in this country by not cutting entitlement programs and by not requiring persons receiving temporary aid to needy families to work longer hours; and that persons on Medicare be allowed to buy discounted drugs.
Secular Franciscans Working Together: The Peace and Justice actions of 15 regions have been posted on the NAFRA web page so that regions and fraternities can contact one another and work together on issues of mutual concern.
Work: The Chair coordinated logistics for the ACC. The other members made presentations at the ACC. The Work Commission Resource Manual was revised to more currently reflect the needs of regional and fraternal Secular Franciscans who may wish to use it.
Ecumenical: The September 2003 Ecumenical Committee meeting culminated in the formation of the Joint Committee on Franciscan Unity making this new committee separate and independent of the Ecumenical Committee. A follow up meeting of the Ecumenical Committee was held in May 2004 in Cleveland, Ohio. There the committee formulated a three year plan focused on the committee's mission as stated in the Ecumenical Guide. Out of this statement seven major components were analyzed and plans to implement these were developed.
Five Franciscan Martyrs: Four Days of Recollection: Port Charlotte, Deltona (Advent-Isaiah; Formation Process); Southwest Area (Day of Christian Unity); Palm Harbor (Studying and Praying the Psalms).
Special Celebration: Feast of St. Clare, hosted by Naples for the Southwest Area, including Mass with the Poor Clare Sisters at San Damiano Monastery in Fort Myers Beach.
Mother Cabrini: Regional Gathering for the Feast of the Portiuncula - St. Mary of the Angels. A large number of brothers and sisters from across the Region gathered for our annual summer gathering. Celebrant and guest homilist was Fr. Jonathan Foster, OFM, Spiritual Assistant to the SFO for the Friar Province of the Sacred Heart. Following a leisurely luncheon, the play "Me and Francis" was presented by the original Professional cast of the Chicago production. Transitus and Feast Day celebrations for Holy Father Francis were held throughout the Region in the various fraternity clusters. Clusters are groups of Fraternities within our Region who are geographically near each other. They gather periodically for study, celebration and fellowship.
Brothers and Sisters of St. Francis: Most of our fraternities and groups are focusing on Four Pillars of our Franciscan Way of Life - Spirituality, Formation, Fraternity and Apostolate - which the region is promoting. The recognition and incorporation of the Four Pillars in the formation phases, during the Fraternal and Pastoral Visitations, and in the decision to establish a new fraternity is necessary before proceeding to the next stage of growth. Our formation director has produced a Formation Manual, which will include Regional, National and International formation information. It is in a three-ring binder to which new materials can be added.
Los Tres Compañeros: Paz y Bien regional newsletter increased bilingual articles (Spanish & English) in each issue (2003-2004). Prayerful Praise Partners is to begin this year as a special prayer apostolate for our ill/homebound SFO members (2004).
St. Clare: The Regional Council with the 11 Fraternity Ministers or their representative meets 6 times a year. They ask each Fraternity to bring a statement of what their Fraternities are doing and the outcome, so that they may learn what each other is doing and get ideas. They celebrated the Feast of St. Clare with the Poor Clares of St. Louis this year and it was a huge success. The Poor Clares would like to have them back next year. They also celebrated the Feast of St. Francis at St. Anthony of Padua and the whole Friar Community was present, followed by a social with OFM and OFM Cap. Friars. On July 17, 2004, they had an All Commissions' Workshop for the Region. All the Chairpersons for the Commissions gave a 20 minute talk on what they had learned in Denver, Colorado. Copies of handouts from the All Commissions' Workshop were given out. This information will be disseminated to the local Fraternities.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary: The Regional Formation Team, with Fr. Stephen Gross, OFM Conv. and Pat Brandwein-Ball, SFO presented a formation weekend for the local fraternity formation teams. The emphasis was on the Guidelines of Formation and the Elements of Formation texts. How to use the texts as a tool for understanding the formation process was dynamically presented. It is hoped they will become living documents for the local formation teams. Plans are underway for continuing of the spirit of the weekend on a district level and meeting in smaller gatherings to pray, study, and discuss/dialogue the texts. District Councilors and District Formation Team members are collaborating on plans for frequent contact with the fraternities.
St. Maximilian Kolbe: Twenty fraternity ministers met for the annual regional meeting and Chapter of Elections at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio in May. Over 125 attended the Region Celebration of the Transitus.
Our Lady of Guadalupe-Empress of the Americas: Clear Day is a program that was implemented in our Region. We completed an Orientation Notebook and implemented this program which provides orientation to newly elected local members at election time. Our experience is that there is a lack of information given to newly elected council members on how to perform their duties and responsibilities. Time frame includes two hours and presented by the RegionalCouncil/Area Representatives.
Turning Up The Flame: The National Commission Chairs and members gathered with Regional Ministers and Regional Commission Chairs for an All Commissions Conference in Denver, Colorado from June 17-20, 2004, funded in large part by the Holy Name Province (May Bonfils Grant). The theme was "Turning Up the Flame." Three keynotes reminded participants of the roots of Franciscan Spirituality and the SFO Rule and then challenged them to apply the SFO Rule each day in great and small ways. National Commissions facilitated break out sessions on commission topics for Regional Commission Chairs or delegates to inspire and to learn about approaches to implementing that commission on the Regional and local levels. Regional Ministers participated in a session on Servant Leadership. Participants received a binder called "How to Develop and Sustain Commissions within a Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order." The inspiration of the Holy Spirit, exchanges of ideas, visiting with brothers and sisters, and communally celebrating the Eucharist fueled the participants so that they would carry their brilliant flames to Secular Franciscans in their Regions.
Peace and all good,
Carol Gentile, SFO
Report submitted by: Deacon Juan F. Lezcano, sfo
International Councilor for the United States