On July 2, 2016, the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, seven friars in all, were established as a Public Association of the Faithful in the Diocese of Phoenix in a ceremony at St. Francis Mission on the Ak-Chin Indiana Reservation. Their primary mission is to serve the Native Americans in the diocese from their base at the Gila River Indian Community at St John the Baptist Mission. But they also provide campus ministry support at Grand Canyon University and other schools in the diocese as well as evangelization initiatives through prayers groups, missions and conferences.
“This truly is a momentous occasion. Just over a year ago a group of men felt called by God to form a new Franciscan charismatic community in the Diocese of Phoenix,” said Fr. David Sanfilippo, vicar for priests. “After prayerful discernment, the Church officially recognizes and affirms their decision as an authentic call from God.”
The friars were given an abandoned convent on the Gila River reservation where in the old mission a remnant of the faithful were praying that the Franciscan fathers would one day return. “Once we began offering the Holy Mass in the Mission Church that autumn,” they said, “the people came in crowds, smiling and applauding because, ‘the padres have returned!’ We were similarly greeted at the other nine mission churches that are entrusted by Bishop Olmsted to our care.”
The friars felt called by the Spirit to leave their prior community to begin a Franciscan missionary initiative in the desert. The priests and brothers follow the Rule and tradition of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis of Penance. Not surprisingly, they are growing and attracting new members.
“My dear Friar Brothers — and my sons who have become very dear to my heart in the last 14 months — your religious vows today and your fidelity to them each day hereafter draws you into something revolutionary, something that Jesus uses to transform your lives and society.”
“Preach the Gospel as you go for the streets!” ―Poor Friars Motto
There is a new community in the diocese of Houma/Thibodaux in Louisiana whose members can be seen hitchhiking around the highways and byways of the diocese.
The Little Friars and Little Nuns of Jesus and Mary, also known as the Poor Friars, were founded in Italy and recognized as a Public Association in 2014. They have the Franciscan spirit of poverty and evangelization, and the Carmelite spirit of contemplation and prayer in their cloisters, but have their own unique Rule of Life.
There are many in the world today who do not give serious thought to the Church because of a perceived worldliness in its members and clergy. Where is the poverty of Christ? There are many shining examples among bishops, priests, religious and the laity. But in our day, when people do not notice simple signs of sanctity and heroism, a sometimes more dramatic image must be revealed. This is what the Poor Friars are: a sign of contradiction in our self-absorbed and self-centered culture; the embodiment of true dependence on God for the basic needs in life, as given freely through strangers and neighbors in encounters that change lives forever.
They personally cannot accept money at all. They also do not own cars so they hitchhike everywhere. “This is where our Apostolate shines,” says Fr. Antonio Maria Speedy, American Provincial, “as while in the vehicle with the people, we invite them to the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion.”
Women and men make up the community though they live separately. They minister in four Italian dioceses. In 2010, they were invited by the local ordinary to begin the process of establishing a community in Louisiana. Father Antonio Maria is the chaplain to the Diocesan Office of Evangelization and the Administrator of two parishes.
Here is a description from their website for their reason for being (raison d’être), all the more penetrating because of the charm of the language translated from the Italian!
Today all the world or many, many people in effect have the need to see real poor of the Lord in the Church, because they no longer understand the Benign Mystery of its Glorious Richness; instead of esteeming it they accuse it!, and not only, they also accuse unjustly its Ministers that represent it.. , . instead of becoming nearer they go further ! For this was immediately born the urgency to make ourselves truly poor, so the confused people, in regards to the so called wealth of the Church, no longer having the possibility to point the finger at us, given that they see us extremely poor, they stop, and finally listen to the demonstrated Truth and the simple answer as to why Jesus was poor while now the Church is (rightly ) Rich, and etc.. etc.. ; and like this in fact many, begin to take up again the esteem for their Mother Church and for her Ministers, returning like this to the Holy Confession and to the Holy Communion, and therefore concretely: be on the way towards the Blessed Eternal Life. Amen !
Two Sisters from the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles came from opposite coasts for a recent Come & See weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Sr. Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., and Sr. Catherine Marie, O.C.D., live in Alhambra, CA, and Miami, FL, respectively, but have their roots in Minnesota. God’s call is not limited to state boundaries and each sister discerned that God was asking them to leave their home and kinfolk to find their fulfillment as spouses of Christ in the Carmelite community in Alhambra, California. (See article)
Sr. Elizabeth Therese is the vocation directress and slowly realized her vocation from interactions with a campus ministry, a third order Carmelite group, Adoration and monthly discernment dinners. She also was engaged to be married. Though, “it’s not until you have a personal relationship with the Lord, whether you’re called to religious life or marriage,” she said. “that you’re going to be able to know what your vocation is.”
Sr. Catherine Marie felt her call through the Eucharist and Adoration. A teacher, she immediate felt that she had come home once she visited the Carmelites in Alhambra. “It was as if Jesus was saying to me, ‘Welcome home, I have been waiting for you.’”, she said, “Inside my heart I felt myself responding, ‘Finally, I am home.’”
A stumbling block for Sr. Catherine Marie was her educational debt. But thanks to The Labouré Society, located in Eagan, MN, she was able to raise the money to pay off the balance. Sister advises: “Do not be afraid to say, ‘yes’ to Christ,” she said. “He takes nothing away and gives you everything your heart could desire.”
If you live in the California area, please consider becoming part of Handmaidens, a faith formation group for single women between the ages of 18 and 35, dedicated to cultivating a deeper relationship with the Lord, as well as a greater understanding and appreciation of the dignity of their vocation as women. Formation and living holiness in the world is supported and nurtured through adoration, prayer and conferences given by the Carmelite Sisters and chosen laity.
“Religious profession so orders our whole life to God and neighbor that it is a sign the unity of the Trinity reflected in our unity and our outpouring love for God, our sisters and all mankind. It is this loving kenosis which produces perfect human fulfillment.”
—Constitutions for Poor Clare nuns (Article 5, number 3)
St. Thomas Aquinas asserted that happiness is union with the One who is Goodness itself, namely God. Our country’s forefathers saw the human desire for happiness as not just a goal but a fundamental right, the “right to the pursuit of happiness.” However, pleasure and happiness are not the same and the “right to the pursuit of happiness” presupposes the moral obligation to live according to the laws of God. Indeed, the Catholic Church proclaims that we were created to know, love and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in the next.
This happiness or blessedness is ultimately holiness. Therefore, we can say we have been endowed by our Creator with the “right to pursuit of holiness.” This pursuit of holiness, or striving for perfection, is the life’s work and obligation of those who make profession of the evangelical counsels. We do this by daily offering our lives at the service of God’s plan in the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, emptying ourselves in order to be filled with Christ and bring him to others. “It is this loving kenosis which produces perfect human fulfillment.”
Obedience is an act of the will, a free choice, not an act of fear or compulsion. “The love of Christ impels us,” St. Paul says, and it is through this love that any fear is transformed into the free surrender of our will and the great desire to do what God is asking of me at this moment. In his conferences on the evangelical counsels, Archbishop Charles Schleck, C.S.C. asserts that “obedience perfects the will instead of suppressing it. To love God is not merely to surrender or give up something of our own will. It is to adhere positively and firmly to the will of the one we love. And to love God means to do what He desires; it is obey. Obedience is universal in character and belongs to the very life of the Church. It brings to completion our baptismal faith … (it) perfects the consecration proper to baptism.”
In her biography of Saint Colette, Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., describes the young Colette, with the vow of perpetual virginity fresh upon her soul, as a woman no longer alone in the world. She is espoused to Christ now. Yet this reality is hidden from the eyes of men and is part of the great paradox of Christian life where the one who loses her life finds it and the grain of wheat that dies brings forth much fruit. It is our radical renunciation of all things, even the great good of earthly marriage, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven which is the source of our union with Christ. And it is our union with Christ which allows us to enter into His love for all mankind.
In a radical kenosis the second person of the Blessed Trinity became man to save us by His death and resurrection. In the words of St. Paul “… He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but emptied Himself.” Our form of life is to live the holy Gospel, and we do this by striving to imitate the self-emptying of Christ in every aspect of our life. “According to the thinking of St. Clare, evangelical poverty goes far beyond the renunciation of earthly possessions, extending to the whole of life. For in the Franciscan concept, the surrender of temporal goods is intimately bound up with the profession of obedience and chastity and also with enclosure and communion in the spirit” (Art. 11 #1).
“Enclosed nuns are called to give clear witness that man belongs entirely to God, and so to keep green among the human family the desire for a heavenly home” (Art. 20 #2). We strive for that union in this life and are a sign for the world of each soul’s destiny.
For those who are called and who respond to its totality of grace, ours is a life of profound joy in the pursuit of holiness through the total surrender of all we are and all that is, for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. “Amen, amen, without ever turning back” (Testament of our Holy Mother St. Colette)
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a clerical society of apostolic life of pontifical right (a community of Roman Catholic priests who do not take religious vows, but who work together for a common mission in the world) has been invited to take on a new apostolate in Archdiocese of Baltimore.
They have been entrusted with St. Alphonsus Church, their first entree in the Baltimore/Washington, DC, area. And what an historic church it is! St. John Neumann served as pastor from 1848-1849, and Bl. Francis Seelos, C.Ss.R., was pastor from 1854-1857. It is also the National Shrine of St. Alphonsus Ligouri.
The particular charism and mission of the Fraternity is to offer the Sacred Liturgy, including the Holy Mass and the Divine Office, as well as the sacraments, in all of their traditional solemnity, according to the Latin liturgical books of 1962.
The Fraternity is excited to be in this new mission field “for the promotion of our liturgical heritage for the glory of God and the sanctification of souls.”
We have just celebrated the Feast Day of St. Jane Frances de Chantal on Saturday, so it is wonderful to learn of the recent election results from the Assembly of the First Federation of the Order of the Visitation held on July 26-28, 2017.
Meeting at the Visitation Monastery in Rockville, Virginia, the Assembly participants elected a new Federation President and Council. Sister Sharon Elizabeth (Toledo, OH) was elected Federation President. She will be assisted by her Council comprised of Mother Rose Marie (Mobile, AL), Mother Marie de Sales (Toledo, OH), Sr. Mary Emmanuel (Tyringham, MA) and Sr. Frances Marie (Rockville, VA). Mother Miriam Rose (Tyringham, MA) and Mother Teresa Maria (Snellvile, GA) were elected as alternate councilors.
St. Jane Frances was the co-foundress of the Order of the Visitation along with St. Francis de Sales. Founded in 1610, in Annecy, Savoy (France), their desire was “to give to God daughters of prayer, and souls so interior that they may be found worthy to serve His infinite majesty and to adore Him in spirit and in truth.”
The Visitation Order was founded for women who could not handle the austerities of the traditional cloistered life but who truly had a call from God to give themselves entirely to God as a spouse of Christ. They also traditionally accept belated vocations (check each community for the information).
It is sometimes forgotten that St. Thérèse of Lisieux had a fifth sister, Léonie, who was not a Carmelite. Léonie was a difficult child and a poor student who nevertheless desired to enter religious life. Her mother once wrote that unless a miracle was worked, “my Léonie will never enter a religious community.” St. Thérèse predicted that after her death, Léonie would enter the Visitation Order and take her name and that of St. Francis de Sales. Indeed it came to pass. Léonie’s name in religion was Sr. Françoise-Thérèse and her cause for canonization was opened in Caen, France on July 2, 2016, the anniversary of her profession (1900).