A Call Within A Call

A Call Within A Call
By Kathleen Carsten, OFS

“I have called you by your name.
‘You are mine because you are precious in my eyes,
you are honored and I love you’.”
Isaiah 43: 1b, 4

Just maybe, you are already professed, maybe for decades, but then again, maybe for just a year. Perhaps you are seemingly satisfied in your call as a Secular Franciscan, yet maybe your spirit is a little restless. Is it possible that God’s voice has gone absent—or, thankfully, is the Holy Spirit quietly, gently, yet persistently nudging you to consider to go deeper? Perhaps the inspiration came at a fraternity gathering, or maybe reading an article in the Tau magazine, or something a person said to you. Perhaps you really can’t describe to others the “bump”, the “knowing”, or the Grace that the Holy Spirit is giving you, or once again calling you.

I was professed in August of 2015—just the beginnings of my life as an official Franciscan (but between you and me, it started a long, long time ago). There was and still is so much for me to learn about our Franciscan Charism! It wasn’t long after my profession that I was asked if I would consider the position as Formation Minister for my fraternity. I said, “yes.” The fraternity voted, and I was in! I was a bit overwhelmed, but I fortunately had, and still do, two great mentors on the formation team.

There is nothing, for me, like teaching, especially in my new life as a Franciscan to enrich my knowledge about Francis, Clare, and our professed life; and that’s exactly what is happening for me as Formation Minister. I love it! But something happened along the way. I attended a Regional gathering and in that time, there came a presentation followed by an invitation.

It wasn’t an invitation written to me with my name on it; nobody came to me personally and said, “this is for you.” Oh no, this was different. You see, our Region needs Spiritual Assistants, and there was a presentation depicting the importance of Spiritual Assistants and their life in the Franciscan movement. Up to this moment, I thought that this was a role only for the First Order and TOR. I thought wrong. I was delighted with possibility; however, six months went by.

October was here in no time, and we came together for the Regional Formation gathering. What a great occasion to see my Franciscan brothers and sisters. We have opportunity to build relationships and Franciscan understanding, but also learn what is needed in the Order. Once again, I heard the need for Spiritual Assistants in our Region. I received the silent yet stirring invitation to submit my name to the roster of interested Franciscans.

I submitted my application for the Spiritual Assistant program. I was accepted and given the study/reading assignments and timetable of our meetings. March 2017 came, and we met in Saginaw for a weekend for what I will say would be the next most moving venture for me as a Franciscan.

As we shared our reasons for being present, I had to tell my brothers and sisters that I love my work as a Formation Minister. However, I knew that I would and I wanted to learn so much more about our Franciscan charism; yet, there was a deeper purpose for my presence. I fell in love with my brothers and sisters who were present. Do you know what I mean when I say there was a connection between all of us? We shared our experiences, even when difficult and we asked lots of questions. It was fraternity at a very deep level, and we had just met!

What do I say to you? I invite you to consider the “Call within a Call.” St. Teresa of Calcutta, on a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling, received what she named the “call within a call,” which founded the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, and Co-Workers. Our life as Franciscans is a dynamic life; never ending in the pursuit of perfect joy and unswerving call to action.

You are invited. You are called.

So Long 2016

Farewell 2016!

Winter has arrived and 2017 is just days away. It has been an amazing year. Most importantly, we have welcomed Cindy and Kim back into active fraternal life. We are blessed beyond measure to have them both back.

Our efforts engaging with youth and young adults are going better than ever envisioned, and we are developing relationships with Directors of Religious Education in the area. We are gathering with young people, teaching them about Sts. Francis and Clare and our Franciscan charism, and guiding them into a radical Franciscan vision of love and hospitality with the poor and disenfranchised. To date, we have held two Detroit Young Franciscans (YouFra) events downtown with more events being scheduled for every other month.

Our work serving the poor through Franciscan Ministries is also something that is taking on importance in our fraternity. This work is giving us the opportunity not only to serve but also to meet with and engage with young adults as they search for ways to serve.

This year our Fraternity has served a meal at St. Charles, and through Franciscan Ministries, given away groceries, clothing, winter coats, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, handwarmers, household supplies, televisions, sleeping bags, and the list goes on and on. That covers the stuff; but more importantly, are the opportunities of encounter and engagement as we foster relationships with people of all ages, faiths and nationalities, to sit and talk and be sister and brother one to another.

This Christmas we held our first annual Christmas Eve Lunch at the Canticle Café in Detroit.  Franciscan Ministries through Gary Goers, OFS has purchased a new trailer that will allow us to move out into areas that are served by no one; this is both scary and exciting.

Let us make no mistake about any of this, as we continue to move out of our comfort zones, we are reimagining and experiencing what it means to be a professed secular Franciscan. We take our vision of Fraternity beyond our local Fraternity gatherings, bringing our charism to life in service to the poor, the church, our families, our local community, and each other–bringing the Gospel to life.

Peace

Mike

Troubadours Winter 2016-17 Newsletter

YouFra (Franciscan Youth) in Detroit, Documenting the Journey

 

Peace be with you as we continue to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis,

Sisters and brothers I want to keep you informed of our efforts to create a YouFra group in Detroit.

In the past months, the Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity has been in dialogue with the Pastor of Nativity of our Lord Parish and St. Charles Borromeo Parish Brother Ray Stadmeyer, OFM Cap, as well as Nativity of our Lord Parish DRE Joni Scott regarding the feasibility of engaging the parish youth/young adults in Franciscanism, if there is such a word. We have had several meetings that have born much fruit. This past weekend in celebration of the Feast of St. Francis I spoke to the parish about the possibility of creating a youth group. It was well received.

Some important details that determined our point of beginning.

  • The parish is in an impoverished neighborhood.
  • The parish is led by a Franciscan Friar that supports the effort.
  • The parish DRE also supports the effort.
  • We have a Fraternity member (Jerry Alderman OFS) that is active in the parish. Jerry did all the up front leg work with the pastor and DRE.

Method of introduction

  • Dialogue with the Pastor (for many months – almost a year)
  • Dialogue with the DRE (for many months)
  • Joint meeting with all parties involved to develop a plan of action.

o   Step 1 – Introduction to community

  • I spoke at the Liturgy  that highlighted the Feast of St. Francis, extending an invitation to the parish.
  • I spoke to those interested after that same mass (at a dinner reception) to explain our intentions and YouFra.
  • The DRE and Franciscan Member of parish talked to young people 14 – 18
  • They signed up 5 young people wanting to participate.

o   Step 2 – Our Plan

  • Supplement the Parish DRE teaching element with an action plan for the youth.
  • Bi monthly we (Troubadours) will gather with the DRE and young people.
  • After their normal religious instruction, we will engage the young people in an activity.
  • October 30 – the Youfra group will host a flash picnic for the community surrounding their parish, grilling hotdogs and serving those in need.
  • December – The Youfra group will travel to downtown Detroit and work with Kathleen Carsten, OFS, St. Aloysius Outreach, delivering groceries to the impoverished seniors.
  • February – The Youfra group will visit St. Bonaventure’s clothing warehouse and work sorting clothing for distribution to the poor.
  • Other activities involving targeted Franciscan efforts to serve the poor will be scheduled for the remainder of the year.
  • After each activity we will gather together for 15 minutes and discuss what we did, what was experienced, and how it relates to our Franciscan charism.

o   Step 3 – The Future

  • It is our hope that over the next year we will attract more young people
  • In one year we will expand this program from Nativity of our Lord Parish to St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
  • We will not work to create a second group but join the youth from the two parishes into a single entity.
  • Over the next 3 to 4 years work to create an active self-led Youfra group modeled on the NAFRA YouFra model.
  • Develop OFS Spiritual Assistance to walk with them and the Parish DRE’s

 

This winter we have been invited to speak to the DRE’s belonging to the Archdiocese of Detroit – Renaissance Vicariate at one of their major gatherings about the Secular Franciscan Order & Franciscan Ministries Inc. It is the wish of the DRE’s to work with The Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity and Franciscan Ministries Inc.  to create a model of ministry for young adults 18 – 34 that they can own (YouFra) that will reach across parish boundaries, that will engage young adults in ministry with the poor.

Wonderful Possibilities await us as we move forward together.

Wishing you Peace,

Mike

“Creating an opportunity of encounter”

This past Sunday, the Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity spent the day in service to the poor, serving a meal at St. Charles Borromeo Parish on Detroit’s east side. It is always an interesting adventure. The Parish volunteers flow in and out of the kitchen as the meal is being prepared. The kitchen, by the way, is a transformed classroom with old blackboards still hanging in place behind the freezers.  The lasagna is placed in the oven, salads are tossed and refrigerated, and dessert cakes are cut and made ready.

IMG_2164

After mass, the good people come down to the basement and are seated waiting for grace to be said prior to the meal.

As the people filter into the seating area there is a loud voice shouting to any and all that might break the rules “TAKE OFF YOUR HAT”. It is extremely disruptive to hear and not very welcoming. It reminds me of an experience I had at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi a short time ago. As I wandered in amazement looking at the frescoes on the ceilings and walls, there was a friar seated in a place of authority using a microphone within the sacred space saying, “SILENCIO-SILENCIO”. I guess he wanted silence in the Basilica and yet he was making much more noise keeping everybody quiet than the pilgrims were making as they wandered the basilica in awe of Giotto’s work! The friar had a job to do and by heaven he was going to do it. The same could be said for the help at St. Charles–yelling across the room for the one or two people that wandered in out of the cold rain to take off their hats–that was their job. They had the authority and by golly they were going to use it. I, however, found the events in both locations disconcerting. unwelcoming, and an obstacle to intimacy and relationship.

All the while,  everyone was being seated and grace was quickly said. A line was formed and the people were fed. For our part, we did what we were asked to do, exactly how we were asked to do it;  yet there was something missing for me. The long serving table created a dividing point, a barrier. We were on one side of the table and they (the guests) were on the other.  There was no opportunity for dialogue and relationship–not much time even for a smile to be shared.  We were not able to be brother and sister one to another. In fact, when we were done serving, we (the fraternity) took our food into the kitchen and sat and ate together. Again we were separated from the people, within a walled space. All in all, it was a very sanitized experience. These were for the most part our sisters and brothers that had just left the Table of the Lord having received his body and blood. We could have gone out and sat with those we were serving, but it did not happen. In this regard, we as a fraternity have some work to do. Yes we served/fed the hungry. But we failed to step through our own isolation, failed to step through the walls that were created to maintain order and break bread. We did not celebrate; we were not Eucharist with the people that were present.

Did we actually  fail at anything?  No not really!

It was a wonderful and enjoyable experience. We as a fraternity are continuing to step out of our comfort zones. Trying to give life and action to our  vocation. With a bit more experience and a little more help, we will be able to go out to the people and “break bread” with them, quoting Pope Francis, “Creating an opportunity of encounter”.

From our Rule of Life

Article 13

AS the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

Article 19

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.

Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others…..

With great joy we will struggle to do this alone and this ministry  most certainly cannot be accomplished in fraternal  isolation, behind any kind of barrier (table) that separates us. Putting a serving of lasagna on a plate is a good  beginning. But it is only a first step in a journey of  admitting and overcoming our own  fear, distrust, and prejudice. To be truly alive,  truly loving and caring, we must continue to step out into the unknown as we seek  “To encounter the living and active person of Christ in our brothers and sisters….” (Article 5, Rule of Life).  This is our call to conversion and a continuing challenge, becoming people joyfully recognizing and encountering our God in each other and in our sisters and brothers.

 

G.C. Article 55 and I didn’t sign up for this!

From the OFS Constitution

Article 55

If a brother or sister, for any reasonable cause, desires transfer to another fraternity, he or she first informs the council of the fraternity to which he or she belongs and then makes the request, including the reasons for the transfer, to the minister of the fraternity to which he or she wishes to belong. The council makes its decision after having received the necessary information in writing from the fraternity of origin.

I experienced a sad yet interesting coincidence this past week at our OFS Fraternity Council meeting. We have a member officially requesting to transfer to another Fraternity. The reason “officially” given for the request to leave our OFS Fraternity?

“I cannot accept the ‘Alternate Theology’ that this fraternity embraces.”

I can guarantee you that this person did not see my last blog post. The individual is struggling and the only solution is to leave. There is no openness to dialogue.  Franciscan Theology and Spirituality was not a part of the bargain upon entrance to the Fraternity. All this is coming about after the past year and a half of ongoing formation where the F.U.N. (For Up to Now) Manual was used and our Theology and Spirituality studied.

A period of time was so tense that at the end of our studies from the F.U.N. Manual on Theology and Spirituality, our friar Spiritual Assistant recommended to the fratenrity that we only have ongoing formation once or twice a year rather than it be a part of every gathering.

My first thoughts?  The teaching of our Theology and Spirituality taken directly from the F.U.N Manual that was created for inquirers and candidates, those people who are thinking of entering the Order, is perceived as an act of violence and betrayal to our Catholic faith and the magisterim of the Church to some of our professed members.

Where will this individual go to find a Fraternity to walk with in the future?

In our Region, there are plenty of Fraternities whose foundation is not set on the bedrock of our theology and spirituality. In the past, the only focus was on a quite literal interpretation of our Rule and Constitutions and within the Rule and Constitutions no where is our theology and spirituality giving anything more than a passing mention. In fact our Rule and Constitutions are quite generic when read (if they are read) without a good understanding of the Charism, Rule, and Constitutions. With just a couple word changes, our Rule and Constitutions could quite easily fit any public association of the faithful or any third order.

What is the “personality” of a  fraternity that is not grounded in our theology and spirituality? What takes its place? The power of the dominant personality which might be a friar or secular Spiritual Assistant; or it might be the elected Minister; or it might even be a Regional or National Minister. There are a few other possibilities; yet, in almost every case  the strongest personalities in the fraternity at any level and their personal view of Catholisim and  Franciscanism will often dictate and dominate what it means to be Franciscan. Usually it is anything but that.

From the OFS Rule

CHAPTER THREE: LIFE IN FRATERNITY

Article 20.

The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into
fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national,
and international. Each one has its own moral
personality in the Church. These various fraternities
are coordinated and united according to the norm of
this rule and of the constitutions.

 

From the OFS Constitution’s

Article 33

1. In the guidance and co-ordination of the fraternities and of the Order, the personality and capacity of the individual brothers and sisters and of the individual fraternities should be promoted. The plurality of expressions of the Franciscan ideal and cultural variety must be respected.

Implied in these two quotes is an understanding that both the “moral personality” and the “plurality of expressions” of a fraternity at any level are built upon Franciscan thought, theology, and spirituality. It is not the thought, theology, or spirituality of the supposed authority figure whether that person be a Priest, Deacon, Spiritual Assistant, Minister, or Formation Director at any level of Fratenity.

As brothers and sisters of penance, we are going to have to come to terms with this. Creating the F.U.N. Manual  was a beginning. Its creation was a good start. Yet, its usage is optional. It was created for inquiry and candidacy without any mandate that it be studied and understood by the Professed.  There has been little if any follow up.  As stated in my last blog post,” People will ‘pick and choose’  and ‘from these pickings and choosings’  will construct his or her own deviant opinion” that will make them comfortable, and will vilify  anyone or anything that  makes them uncomfortable or sets outside of their belief system. If we as an Order don’t come to terms with this, all the good intention in the world will not help.  The movement will pass on into history.

 

 

Picking and Choosing

 

“The English word ‘heresy’ comes from the Greek verb hairein, which means ‘to choose’.  A hairesis originally meant, quite simply, the taking of a choice.” However in the context of religious authority and tradition, a “heretic” is someone who denies this authority  and instead “picks and chooses” from the content of that tradition, and again, according to Berger “from these pickings and choosings” constructs his or her own deviant opinion.

Today, however, deviance is the rule-there is no common standard from which one would deviate.

The point is that, in the modern context, far from being an anomaly, heresy becomes the norm- a necessity, even, as “modernity creates a new situation in which picking and choosing becomes an imperative.” [Ecumenical Trends Magazine – January 2015]

What I quoted from the Ecumenical Trends Magazine  was not written about the OFS (Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis). In fact it has nothing to do directly with the OFS.  It did get me thinking.  In many ways it describes my own personal journey and experience serving on the local, regional, and national levels of fraternity within the OFS. First thoughts? We are a people that like to “pick and choose.” In fact,  for some of us, the very process of becoming a Franciscan is an act of discernment, of “picking and choosing”.

Within Catholicism, there are two main theologies that have been passed onto us from the middle ages:

The primary Theology adopted by the Church (i.e. The Work of the Dominican School) and the Alternate Theology in the Church, (i.e. The Franciscan School)

I am not speaking here of Spiritualities, of which there are many fine paths that can lead us to experience God. I am speaking only of the  foundations in theology that give rise to the many varied and equally excellent approaches to God (spiritualities).  [OFS For Up to Now Manual (FUN); Understanding Franciscan Theology Tradition and Spirituality pg 3]

For decades now, I have  personally experienced  brokenness within the order both locally, regionally, and internationally. We are in need of healing.  One of the areas of brokenness that we need to heal is our lack of a cohesive and consistent understanding of who we are as a people and what our Franciscan charism is.  There seems still to be a rejection of our theology or at least a major lack of understanding across a wide spectrum of  individuals that make up the OFS. Not only are we not yet able to share a “common standard” of understanding about what it means to be a secular Franciscan in the world today, we seem to struggle to recognize a “common standard” of understanding of what it means to be Catholic. The tension this creates within fraternal life keeps us from truly being brother and sister, one to another.  All of this is exacerbated by our individual participation in the political culture wars that permeate our religious experience and the seeming tribal effect of our participation in digital/social media.

Recently I had the honor and privilege serving NAFRA (OFS-National Fraternity-USA) on a couple of committees. It was a great joy for me, yet there was often present a dynamic of tension. How can we as a people possibly support and become active participants in the OFS, let alone any of the Committees  (i.e. ‘Ecumenical and Interfaith’ and the ‘Joint Committee for Franciscan Unity’) if even a little part of what I have experienced is true? I can see why many would not even believe these committees are necessary given the lack of a “common standard” of understanding of our faith and our Franciscan charism?

Yes, I just might be a “heretic”. Yes, in the “picking and choosing” involved in the process of discerning my vocation, I have realized and intentionally chosen the Franciscan path. However, rather than “constructing my own deviant opinion” as a Professed Franciscan, I accept and live my life following an “Alternate Theology” within Catholicism.  Because of my choices and especially as I navigate my own brokenness as well as the brokenness of my sisters and brothers,  I  experience a certain tension and lack of acceptance sometimes outright rejection within my  OFS family.

The only solution before me is love.  I  do recognize my own brokenness as part of the problem and as I reflect, I take upon myself the thoughts and words of Benedetto Lino, OFS, who authored a study on Secular Franciscan Formation titled “What is Christian Formation and in particular Formation For Us Secular Franciscans.” (Benedetto served for years as the CIOFS [Council International of the Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis]  International Formation Minister)

I must “Start Afresh From Christ”

I must “open my soul to Christ”

I must “encounter the living person of Jesus Christ”

I must enter into “a true conversion-transformation towards a Christ-shaped existence”

I must seek out and enter into “a true personal relationship with Jesus Christ”

I must be “transformed into a new creature”

I must “Experience the ‘vibrant excitement’ and the ’emotion’ to stand before the mystery of such a wonderful condescendence’, to the point of giving myself up and to adhere totally to the Lord.”…..

“The first element in the vocational process of Saint Francis ……is the PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST, a relationship which is characterized by radicality, totality and permanence. …..”

“The flame and this warmth can be received only by those who want them and render themselves open to the action of the Spirit and to the living transmission of authentic and credible witnesses….”

“Francis, like a new Christ, inflamed his companions, his fellow-citizens, the people of his time and he continues to set the world on fire, just like Jesus’ first disciples.”

“We, too, must “set the world on fire”, dear brothers and sisters, and to do so we need ‘true faith, certain hope, perfect love, deep humility, sense and knowledge, that we may carry out the Lord’s holy and true command’,  exactly as Francis asked the Crucifix, after He had revealed to him his mission.”

“We must multiply and, by living contact, we must transmit, form, and inflame.”

 

 

United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance,” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls  “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily……  [Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order; article VII]

 

Let me begin again for up to now I have done nothing.

And you?

Pax et bonum

Mike

 

 

 

Fraternity Election Results

 

Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity Election Results

Peace be with you,

On October 20, 2015, our Fraternity held its Chapter of Elections.

The Offices of the Fraternity Council were filled as follows:

  • Councilor – Barbra Jur OFS
  • Formation Minister – Kathleen Carsten OFS
  • Treasurer – Jerry Alderman OFS
  • Secretary – Mary Anne Novak OFS
  • Vice – Minister – Marie Amore OFS
  • Minister – Mike Carsten OFS

It has been many years now since my last term of service as “Minister” of a fraternity; many years since I last participated as a member of the Divine Mercy Region, Regional Fraternity. In the years that have passed, many things have changed in the world, the Church, and in the Franciscan movement; and yet so many things have stayed the same.

I look forward to following in the footsteps of those that have so ably guided the Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity, and I want to thank those that have willingly said yes to serve on the council along side of me at this moment.

On behalf of a grateful fraternity, I offer a special thank you to our sister Joan for her faithful service as Minister the past 3 years.

I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead of us.

We look joyfully to our January 2016 fraternity gathering as we will celebrate the presence of 4 individuals joining us as they discern a possible vocation in the OFS.

Kathy will begin leading us with The Holy Year of Mercy, a Faith-Sharing Guide, With Reflections by Pope Francis.

We also will experiment with a new format for the fraternity gathering where what was once described as our social time, will be incorporated into and throughout the entire meeting.

Possible future adventures? How about –

A 3-day retreat/Chapter at the Capuchin Retreat Center in August; or

A few times a year holding Fraternity Gatherings at members’ homes; or

How about resurrecting the Fraternity Sunday Corporate Communion and breakfast? Every now and then those that are able would gather at a member’s parish for mass and then go out to breakfast together; or

An OFS “day at the ballpark” enjoying a Tiger game in the spring or early summer; or

How about an OFS day at the Detroit Zoo; or

A picnic/fraternity gathering on Bell Isle?

What does it mean to “Gather as Fraternity”? To be sister and brother one to another? How many of these possible events could we invite the Region to?

Let us fearlessly re-imagine our vocation and time spent together.

Pax et Bonum

Mike