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.
As I push on out of the Parish Office and onto Washington Blvd, the sun is brightly shining. The grass on the boulevard is freshly cut. The trees are wonderfully green and fragrant. There is not a soul to be seen. I can’t help but smile as I think about the activity about to be unleashed in the neighborhood. Surveying the street I notice a pickup and cars pulling up in front of the now boarded up community center. People emerge and start unloading and setting up tables. A gas grill is fired up and the smell of roasting hotdogs and hamburgers begins to fill the air.
“Good mornings” are exchanged as more volunteers arrive. Laughter bounces off the walls of the tall buildings that surround us. A homeless man wanders over to see what is going on. He reads the sign being hung off the main table and exclaims “I have heard of “Flash Mob’s” but a Flash Picnic? That’s a new one for me.” He burst out laughing as he headed down the table filling a plate, a hot dog, potato salad and all the fixins. Soon word spreads and the street and sidewalk come alive with people. A couple people come down from the chancery building. A construction crew walks over from the new scaffold work going up. Seniors with grandchildren come down out of nearby apartments. Two young men with guitars hanging off their backs grab seconds. “Who is doing this?” one of them asks. I respond, “St. Aloysius Church.” “Where on earth is St. Aloysius?” Somebody next to me points to the building not 100 feet away. “I’ve lived here 10 years and I never new that church was there.” “10 years”, I replied? “Welcome to the neighborhood! Welcome to St. Al’s.”
In the last week of November, I brought one of my potted plants into the house for the winter. It was very green and had no evidence of any budding flowers. So I decided to put it in a warm, well-lighted area, with plans of maintaining it until spring. But guess what? When I went to water it, a tiny bud greeted me! And now after two weeks, I have a beautiful daisy-like flower all dressed in orange.
But for this plant to survive and thrive, it needed to be relocated.
In the past two months, the St. Aloysius Community Center too had to be “relocated.” Years of relationships built on care, nourishment, and love, now benefits the St. Al’s Community Center as it has become a Ministry without walls. We are meeting people where they are: in the streets, in their apartments and homes, and in their hearts—addressing the needs of mind, body, and spirit! Our relationships are surviving and most importantly thriving.
As we relocated, we needed a way to store donations. Through initial storage space at Our Lady of La Salette Parish in Berkley and the work of dedicated volunteers, the newly formed St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services has been able to store and prepare donations used in our ministries.
In a few short months, we have been given another promising opportunity. Our sister parish, St. Josaphat in Detroit, has wonderfully asked to become an active companion in ministry to our brothers and sisters in Detroit. St. Josaphat is an advertisement icon for the City of Detroit. With its beautiful cross spires, St. Josaphat boldly stands along southbound I-75 on Canfield (ten minutes from St. Aloysius) as a welcoming gateway to Downtown Detroit. Fr. Darrel Roman has graciously offered the parish hall for much-needed dinner/party space for St. Aloysius’ Parish and the Senior Program. But also, the basement and second floor area of the parish hall can be utilized for storage of donated groceries and clothing. And a bonus for our volunteers is safe and abundant parking space—free of Downtown Detroit meter maids!
An orange daisy is a joyful gift of nature, unexpected yet so welcome especially in the darker days of winter. We are so grateful for all the volunteers and parishes who have given so much to the St. Aloysius ministries. We welcome St. Josaphat as our new companion. May we all be God’s instrument of peace and joy as we serve our brothers and sisters in downtown Detroit.
It’s 6 a.m. on a cool damp September morning. Volunteers are slowly arriving. Our first 12 gallons of coffee are brewing, and my cup is full as I am standing outside in front of the old double wood doors that are the main entry into the Community Center.
To my right and just across the street is the newly remodeled Westin Hotel. The building is wonderfully lit up and is already a buzz of activity; people are laughing and milling along the street. In front of the hotel, Eli the doorman is calling for a taxi from among the line of taxi cabs that wait along Washington Blvd. and serve the hotel patrons. The long line of taxis slowly moves forward.
To my left the buildings are all closed down; there has been no life in them for years. There is only darkness. Within the shadows you can sense quiet slow movement, as people are working their way to the bus station. About 10 feet away sitting on the steel pipe guardrail that protects the flower bed, I notice a shivering man with his hands buried in his face. He is wearing rags and beside him on the sidewalk is a torn plastic bag holding what I would guess all of his possessions. There is movement at the man’s feet; several rats are scurrying around him and over his torn shoes investigating the plastic bag. One of the rats, sitting on its tail in front of him looks to be trying to get his attention. We are immersed in silence. I take a couple steps toward the man, the rats scurry away. I wish them good morning. I hand the gentleman my coffee. He gives me his blessing. Another day begins at St. Al’s.