July 2004

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the All-Commissions Conference in Denver, CO last month. In the sessions for regional formation directors, I experienced studying the Rule through the "lens" of St. Bonaventure's writings. Sometimes I think we just need ways to slow ourselves down to pay attention to what the Rule really says - I certainly had a couple of "aha" experiences in the few hours we spent in our sessions. For me, this points out that no matter how long we have been Secular Franciscans, the Rule always has more to teach us, if we use the tools at our disposal to take a fresh look at that familiar, short document. We just need to combine Scripture, Franciscan writings, the Rule, and the Constitutions with own life experiences as we try to understand what God is calling us to do and to be…and then act on it.

As for the conference, there is a lot more to attending any Franciscan event than the formal sessions! I was searching for people who shared my desire to follow Christ more closely when I found the SFO. Not surprisingly, community, a sense of belonging, and a sense of being known and welcomed are all very important to me. We expect to see most of the same faces at our fraternity meetings each month. At a regional or national event, on the other hand, we see people that we may see once a year or less, making it easier to remember that we should rejoice in being together. It isn't surprising that these larger events turn into family reunions!

I encourage as many of you as are able to take the time to experience being part of the larger Secular Franciscan Order by attending one or more of our upcoming regional events. The annual Franciscan Gathering at Mayslake Village will be on Saturday, August 7. Fr. Paul Pare, OFM, vocation director of Sacred Heart Province, will be the guest homilist and speaker, and in the afternoon we will be entertained by the music of Fr. Robert Hutmacher, OFM. The day begins with registration at 8:30AM and Mass at 9:00, and will end by about 4:00PM. If you want to partake of the catered lunch, the cost is $10. Please let me know at or before our July fraternity meeting if you plan to attend.

The next regional event I'd like you to consider is our annual Regional Retreat on September 17-19. Our retreats are always special opportunities to be together and grow in our faith as a family. As you've seen in other sources, Fr. Jonathan and Mary Jo Valenziano will be leading our retreat on "Francis: A Saint for Troubled Times." Please consider attending, and register with Chris.

Finally, our last regional event for 2004 will be the Mother Cabrini Celebration on Sunday, November 14, hosted by St. Francis Fraternity - Crystal Lake. Fr. Lester Bach, OFM Cap., will be the homilist for this special occasion, which marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of our regional fraternity. We should turn out en masse for this event at our neighbor fraternity!

I mentioned earlier that we expect to see the same familiar faces each month at our meetings. I missed you all last month when I attended the funeral of Mary Ellen Skulski, wife of our regional treasurer. Please know that each and every one of you is important to the life of the fraternity and that your presence and your unique contributions are missed when you aren't able to be with us. Family life begins at home, and our Franciscan home is our monthly fraternity meeting. I hope to see you in July when we reflect on Article 9 of the Rule.

Peace and good…Vickie