Growth seen in Secular Franciscans

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — There is one day in the year when you don’t have to guess what a Franciscan is doing.

That day is Oct. 3, when the life and death of St. Francis of Assisi are celebrated with a short liturgy called the Transitus. Although the feast day of
St. Francis is Oct. 4, he actually died the evening of Oct. 3, 1226, in the small infirmary next to his beloved Porziuncola (“little portion of land”) chapel.

This year, more Franciscans were celebrating the Transitus than ever. Last year, 26 laypeople professed vows to enter the local Our Lady of Sorrows Secular Franciscan Order, and 16 more professed in July at the chapel of the Franciscans of the Holy Eucharist in Independence, Mo.

“The Secular Franciscan Order was founded by St. Francis of Assisi while he was still alive,” said Jeanette Harriman, SFO, minister of the Our Lady of Sorrows Fraternity. “He felt that lay people should be more actively involved within the church.”

Men and women, married and single, would come to St. Francis and ask for a way to live the Gospel outside of the usual monastic structure of that time. In response, St. Francis drew up a letter. Much later, a rule — or basic regulations — was developed, which Secular Franciscans still follow today.

Formerly known as “the third order” of the Franciscans, the Secular Franciscans today are laypersons who carry the spirituality of St. Francis and St. Clare into their families, jobs, and other activities.

On the local level, the Secular Franciscans are organized into fraternities, and then into larger regions. Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area are all part of the Juan de Padilla Region. Frank Carpinelli, SFO, a professor of English at Benedictine College in Atchison, has been minister of the Juan de Padilla Region since 2005.

Fraternities in the archdiocese are: Our Lady of Sorrows in Olathe (including Kansas City, Mo.); Sacred Heart in Emporia; St. Maximilian Kolbe in Atchison; and St. Elizabeth in Kansas City, Kan. Our Lady of Sorrows is sponsoring an emerging (or newly forming) fraternity in Independence, Mo.

“[The Franciscans] have several segments,” said Harriman. “There are the friars, the Sisters, and the Secular Franciscans — which includes married and single members. To join the order, you have to go through formation for two years. And then, you vow to join the order and live according to the rule. Once professed, you will always be Franciscan until you die.”

Currently, the Our Lady of Sorrows Fraternity has 50 professed members and approximately 30 people in formation. Some of those will join the emerging fraternity.

“A new fraternity has to have five professed members,” said Harriman. “They have to be sponsored by an existing fraternity, or the region, if none is available. After three years, they can ask to be canonically established and then they are on their own.”

Prospects are good for a growing Franciscan presence in and near the archdiocese. The emerging fraternity — the Secular Franciscans of the Holy Eucharist — will be based in Independence, Mo. Harriman estimates they will have 40 members by the time they are canonically established.

Another emerging fraternity, sponsored by the St. Elizabeth Fraternity, will be located in Lawrence.

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