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

Forsaken

As we enter into Holy Week my thoughts turn to Good Friday and the words of Jesus as he was dying on the cross.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mt. 27: 46

What does it mean to be “Forsaken”? Can we even imagine how this feels?

In the time of Francis one group of “Forsaken”  were the lepers. A group of people whose very identity was officially erased. They were the “disappeared” of their day. The very act to remove them from society was an official act of the Church with a proper Ritual.

The Mass of Separation

The mass, spoken by a priest, was performed at the site of the leper’s hut. The whole parish accompanied a newly identified leper to his/her new home [outside the city walls] as the priest performed the mass.

I forbid you to ever enter a church, a monastery, a fair, a mill, a market or an     assembly of people.

I forbid you to leave your house unless dressed in your recognizable garb and also shod.

I forbid you to wash your hands or to launder anything or to drink at any stream or fountain, unless using your own barrel or dipper.

I forbid you to touch anything you buy or barter for, until it becomes your own.

I forbid you to enter any tavern; and if you wish for wine, whether you buy it or it is given to you,  have it funneled into your keg.

I forbid you to share house with any woman but your wife.

I command you, if accosted by anyone while travelling on a road, to set yourself down-wind of them before you answer.

I forbid you to enter any narrow passage, lest a passerby bump into you.

I forbid you, wherever you go, to touch the rim or the rope of a well without donning our gloves.

I forbid you to touch any child or give them anything.

I forbid you to drink or eat from any vessel but your own.

Martene’s DeAntiquis Ecclesiae Ritibus, “Ordo I” , quoted. in Martinus cawley, “The Life of Alice the Leper and the Silver Age of Villers,” Cistercian Scholars Quarterly

It was from this lived experience of the removal of society of the “forsaken” that we read from the Testament of Francis:

The Lord gave me, brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed excessively bitter to me to see lepers.  And the Lord himself led me among them and I did mercy with them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me had been changed into sweetness of spirit and the body; and afterward I lingered a little and left the world. [of Assisi]

Who are the “Forsaken” of today? Who do we not want to look at or not want to see? Who are we keeping outside of the walls of our communities? How are we as Secular (Lay) Franciscans  responding?

An invitation to look anew at the Office of Minister

 

In October we will be participating in the Fraternity’s “Chapter of Elections”.  It is a time of Joy and Grace for the sisters and brothers of the Troubadours of “St. Clare Fraternity” and for the entire Order as well.

During the Election process there are two specific types of office within the one Council that nominations are received and persons are elected too.

  1. The office of Minister
  2. The office of Councilor

The specific tasks that are filled such as Secretary, Treasurer and even in our Fraternity’s case Formation Master/Minister all are given their expression through the office of Councilor.

The “Office of Minister” is a unique position that is distinct in its character.  Within the “Office of Minister” there are two positions that members are elected to.

  1. The Office of Minister
  2. The Office of Vice-Minister

For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on these two unique and distinct offices Minister and Vice –  Ministerwithin the council at all levels.

There is no position that holds more misunderstanding within the OFS than the office of Minister.

It is seen by most (at all levels) to be a position of power and authority.  The Office of Vice-Minister is used today (at all levels) as a somewhat ceremonial position where the person elected is viewed as less than the Minister and as someone behind the scenes waiting for delegation of responsibility’s from, or the absence of the (true) Minister. In other words to fill in when needed. Nothing could be further from the truth or the intention of our Rule and Constitutions.

To quote our Minister General, Tibor Kauser In a presentation to the assembled gathering in Assisi during the OFS General Chapter, November 2014.

5. SOME CONCRETE PROBLEMS

  1. Lack of collegiality and misunderstanding of the role of ministers.

This is the most frequent problem in the order. The problem exists not only because there are ministers who think they are entitled to have absolute powers but also because there are counselors who are convinced that the minister is responsible and empowered to do everything, or who simply have no intention to get involved to serve.

The solution of this problem entirely resides on the full compliance with our Rule and General Constitutions.

Particular misunderstanding can be experienced regarding the role of the vice-ministers. They are very often considered to be ‘substitute ministers’, saying that they do not have anything to do until the minister is in charge.  I strongly recommend to read the General Constitutions for this:

   The vice minister has the following duties: (G.C. 52.1)

  • To collaborate in a fraternal spirit and to support the minister in carrying out his or her specific duties;
  • To exercise the functions entrusted by the council and/or by the assembly or chapter;
  • To take the place of the minister in both duties and responsibilities in case of absence or temporary impediment;
  • To assume the functions of the minister when the office remains vacant.

These duties – particularly the first two – are way fare more than to wait until the minister ‘disappears’. This needs a new understanding from both the ministers and the vice-ministers”. End quote.

Sisters and brothers, we are being asked by our Minister General, to rethink and recreate, our understanding and experience of the “Office of Minister”.  To expect from those elected to this office, both Minister and Vice-Minister at all levels of Fraternal life, a true understanding of the collegiality and shared ministry expressed and expected as a result of our intentional desire to live out our Rule and General Constitutions.

Our brother Tibor’s comments are meant for the entire order. The task for our specific Fraternity and Region is to look at who we are. How we operate and respond in concrete ways to this moment of fraternal correction we are being offered.

Tibor’s entire presentation can be seen and downloaded from the NAFRA web site. It is well worth the time and effort.

Peace

Mike