January 2004

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we have done for a few years now, we are beginning the year with a broad theme that we would like to reflect in all or most of our meetings throughout 2004. We are a little earlier in the planning and reflection process this year due to focusing on the fraternity election in late 2003; this article is intended to share with you the thoughts of the council on our 2004 plans and help prepare you for our January fraternity meeting, where we will make more detailed plans for the coming year.

The comments from our Regional Minister at our Chapter of Elections about becoming more visible were no surprise to anyone; we have been discussing having an information session since I first joined our fraternity. Patrick's remarks reinforced the concerns that several of you have expressed about the need to address our dwindling numbers. We continue to get a few candidates (and very good ones!) but we need to do more. The feedback from the questionnaire that Mary provided in December (still available from me if others would like to complete it) showed a consensus about the importance of addressing this area.

At our December council meeting, we began discussing possible themes for 2004, with recruitment foremost in our minds. We realized that our discussion was moving in the direction of a theme for 2004: Vocations. An actual vocation promotion meeting would be situated relatively late in the year (September is looking like the best choice right now), giving us time to work on areas that would prepare us to talk to others about our OWN vocations.  Topics to be covered in our meetings (which could extend into 2005) include:

  1. What does it mean to have a vocation? What are aspects of a Franciscan vocation?
  2. How did we get here?  Have various people tell their stories of how they came to the SFO.  By sharing our stories, we each may come to understand our own vocation better - and when we understand ourselves better, we will be better able to articulate what is important about being a Secular Franciscan when we talk to other people.
  3. How do we live out our Franciscan vocation in our daily lives?  This could be a months-long topic, involving personal witness, what the Rule and Constitutions have to say, the apostolic commissions, etc.
  4. Going out and doing something together that expresses our vocation. We have discussed a corporate apostolate for almost as long as we've been talking about an information/vocations promotion session; whether it's a once-a-year event or something more, we need to take a fresh look at this area and see what we can do. A corporate apostolate or ministry would make the fraternity more visible as well as giving us more of a shared sense of identity.
  5. Things we need to be able to explain to others - "frequently asked questions" such as, "How is being a Secular Franciscan different from being an associate of a religious community?" and "What does a Secular Franciscan do?" Perhaps most importantly, we need to be able to answer a question that usually isn't asked explicitly: "What's the benefit of being a Secular Franciscan?"

We would like to spend time at our January meeting (at the Crane Rd. church, January 24, 9AM) putting more detail into some of these areas and then discerning who will prepare and present each one. A council member will be part of each planning/presentation team. Prior to the meeting, I would ask each of you to do the following:

We also want to have a better description of our theme for the year. "Vocations" is too broad; "Living Our Vocation" is better but doesn't really cover all of what we have in mind for the year. As we flesh out the details of our plan, I expect that the overarching idea will become clear; a theme that captures the excitement of recognizing and living God's call in our lives would be ideal.

I am excited about the opportunity we have before us - it is a great challenge, but one that gives all of us an opportunity to grow in our Franciscan vocation by sharing it with others. See you on the 24th.

Peace and all good, Vickie