OFS General Constitutions
Remaining faithful to their own identity, the fraternities will take care to make the most of each occasion for prayer, formation, and active collaboration with other ecclesial groups. They should welcome with pleasure those who, without belonging to the SFO, wish to share its experiences and activities. (Art. 103.1) The fraternities will promote wherever possible, fraternal relations with non-Roman Catholic associations inspired by Francis. (Art. 103.2)
The 30th Anniversary Celebration Convocation & Chapter Order of Ecumenical Franciscans convened on July 18, 2013, and we would be together at the Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, Michigan until the 21st. It was a time of excitement for me! After arriving, when all our brothers and sisters were present and before the start of any business, the community gathered in the chapel and entered into silent prayer and meditation.
On the following day, introductions were made, and I was honored to extend fraternal greetings (in the absence of Tom Bello OFS, National Minister, Anne Mulqueen, OFS, Interfaith/Ecumenical chairperson for NAFRA, and James Howard, OFS, Divine Mercy Region Regional Minister) to the brothers and sisters of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF).
The gathering was a delight to attend. It was a celebration of 30 years of shared history, business, the election and installation of two servant leadership positions, and prayer (of course a fair share of Franciscan foolishness). Ed Shirley, OFS was remembered throughout our time together in fun and prayerful ways—he is surely missed!
The final day was highlighted by a wonderful presentation by Patrick Carolan of the Franciscan Action Network (F.A.N.). The evening Communion Service included a “Service of Profession and Renewal of Vows”, followed by celebration, conversation, laughter and Franciscan partying that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
The following day, as all were getting ready to depart, I offered to our brother Craig Robert Miller, OEF Minister General, our support and our love. I requested that the OEF consider to allow the brothers and sisters of the OFS of Divine Mercy Region’s neighboring fraternities to serve them at next year’s gathering (e.g. possibly handling transportation).
Our similarities (OEF and OFS) are many. As you know, the OFS’ guiding document is the Rule; the OEF follow the Principles. I offer to you the following excerpts from each others’ essential writings. After you consider these writings, read Pope John Paul II writing “Ut Unum Sint” also given to you here.
Principles of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans
Principle 1. We covenant together, as the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.
Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Article 4. The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.
Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly. Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.
Ut Unum Sint
Encyclical of Pope John Paul II
…Thus it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian unity, is not just some sort of “appendix” which is added to the Church’s traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work. And consequently must pervade all that she is and does; 20.1
…What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Pope John XXIII; 20.2
It is very difficult to describe this joyful encounter. We all were welcomed completely—brothers and sisters giving of themselves! OEF brothers and sisters were pilgrims, traveling by bus, train and some by airplane—mostly absorbing the cost of their travel and spending up to 20 hours coming to the meeting and 20 hours going back home.
They inspire me through their love and dedication.