What is the Secular Franciscan Order?

From the earliest days of St. Francis’ ministry, secular people wishing to live a deeper life of Faith were drawn by his message of conversion and penance.

Francis formed these secular penitents into the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, later called the Third Order of St. Francis.  In 1978, its name was changed to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO).  Secular Franciscans, as their name implies, live ordinary lives in the world rather than in religious communities.  Members of the Order  may be single or married, women or men, through all walks of life.

Members of the Order after a period of discernment and formal  formation, publically profess to live the Gospel as consecrated laity according to The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order  (approved and promulgated by the Vatican).  Profession as a Secular Franciscan is a lifelong commitment.  Formation and profession takes place within a local community known as a Fraternity.  Life in fraternity is an essential aspect of the Secular Franciscan vocation.  The fraternity is a community of love, the privileged place for the sisters and brothers to develop and reinforce their sense of Church and the Franciscan call.

Although, The Secular Franciscan Order is a self-governing Order, each fraternity receives guidance in spiritual matters from a spiritual assistant, normally a friar of one of the other ordained Franciscan Orders (Friars Minor, Capuchin, Conventuals, who fully share the Franciscan penitential tradition.

What does it mean to be a Secular Franciscan?

The Secular Franciscans commit themselves to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in their secular condition.  The Secular Franciscan studies Gospel and Scripture to foster love, and help the brothers and sisters to know and understand it as it is proclaimed by the Church with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Secular Franciscans strive to live in a spirit of continual conversion.  The attempt to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in a special way, the spirit of poverty.  Evangelical poverty demonstrates confidence in the Father, increases interior freedom, and promotes a more just distribution of wealth.  Secular Franciscans must provide for their own families and serve society by means of their work, material possessions, while maintaining a appropriate level of evangelical poverty.  Secular Franciscans pledge themselves to reduce their own personal needs so as to be better able to share spiritual and material goods with their brothers and sisters in need.  They give thanks to God for the goods they have received, and use them not as owners; but as, good stewards.  They stand against excess consumerism and ideologies/practices which prefer riches over human and religious values and exploitation of people.

How is the Secular Franciscan Order structured?

The Secular Franciscan Order is a public association in the Roman Catholic Church.  It is divided into fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international.  The SFO is governed by: the universal law of the Church, The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, and its Constitutions, Statutes, and Ritual.   The interpretation of the Rule and of the Constitutions belongs to the Holy See.  The practical interpretation of the Constitutions, with the purpose of harmonizing its overall application, belongs to the General Chapter of the SFO.  The fraternities at different levels are animated and guided by a elected minister/president and an Executive Council.

The International Fraternity is constituted by the organic union of all the Catholic Secular Franciscan fraternities in the world.  It is identical to the SFO.  It has its own juridical personality within the Church.  It is organized and it functions in conformity with the Constitutions and its own Statutes.  The International Fraternity is guided and animated by the Minister or President with the International Council (CIOFS), that has its seat in Rome, Italy.

Do Secular Franciscans make religious vows?

Although Secular Franciscans make a public profession, they are not bound by public vows as are religious orders living in community.  The Third Order Regular (TOR), which grew out of the Third Order Secular, do make religious vows and live in community.

Who may join the Secular Franciscan Order?

The Order is made up of the laity (men and women) over the age of 18 and also secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops).  Conditions for admission are: to profess the Catholic faith, live in communion with the Church, to be of good moral standing, and to show clear signs of a vocation.

Membership in the Order is attained through a time of initiation, a time of formation, and the public Profession of the Rule.  The journey of formation, which should develop throughout life, begins with entrance into the fraternity. Mindful that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of formation and always attentive to collaboration with Him, those responsible for formation are: the candidate, the entire fraternity, the minister with the council, the master of formation, and the assistant as spiritual guide.  Profession is the solemn ecclesial act by which the candidate, remembering the call received from Christ, renews his/her baptismal promises and publicly affirms his or her commitment to live the Gospel in the world according to the example of St. Francis and following the Rule of the SFO.

How do I join the Secular Franciscan Order?

Contact a member of the Channel of Peace Fraternity to attend a Fratrnity meeting and meet with the Fraternity Minister for a brief interview/discussion.

The process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan is a journey that involves three separate stages and culminates in a lifelong commitment (Public Profession) to live the Gospel following the example of St. Francis of Assisi.  This formation process unfolds in regularly scheduled formation sessions during which home study material is thoroughly discussed.

The first stage, Orientation, is informal and provides time for dialogue and developing relationships in fraternity.  During Orientation you will be introduced to the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare and share in Franciscan prayer life.  You will be given general information about the Secular Franciscan Order and begin to discern if the Holy Spirit is calling you to the Secular Franciscan life.  The period of Orientation is a normally three months.

The second stage, Inquiry, is the first formal period of initiation. It is a time of in-depth study of the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare. During Inquiry you will learn about the Franciscan charism and Franciscan history.  You will deepen your understanding of what it means to be secular and Franciscan, and you will continue to discern if the Spirit is calling you to the Secular Franciscan way of life.  The period of Inquiry is normally about six months.  If a vocation is discerned, the Inquirer will be received into the Order and begin the Candidacy stage.

The third stage, Candidacy, is the final formal period of initiation.  It is preparation for permanent commitment by full immersion into  Franciscan Spirituality and fraternity life.  The period of Candidacy is a minimum of eighteen months and culminates in permanent commitment to the gospel life.

After profession of the Rule and permanent commitment to the gospel way of life, the newly professed member joins the rest of the fraternity in ongoing formation, which is conducted as an integral part of monthly Fraternity gatherings.

How often does the Chanel of Peace Fraternity meet?

The Fraternity currently gathers once a month at St. Jude’s Catholic Church, Hixon, TN.  Gatherings are held on the 2nd Sunday of the month from 2pm – 5pm.

For more information please contact:  wprojectpro@aol.com.  For directions to St. Jude’s Catholic Church click here.