Dear brothers and sisters,
During our discussion of directions for the fraternity at our last meeting, Fr. Jonathan encouraged us to make our monthly meetings into events that make people want to be there. I want to turn this into a reflection for each of us.
- What motivates you to attend the monthly fraternity meeting, given a host of other possibilities and a never-ending list of other responsibilities? For those of you who are unable to attend due to health or schedule conflicts, please consider what makes you wish you could attend fraternity meetings.
- If your answer to #1 rarely impels you to choose to come to the fraternity meeting, what would make the fraternity meeting more appealing? (Let me suggest right now that getting involved to improve the meetings will benefit both them and you...)
- Has your reason for coming to fraternity meetings changed over time? Has your understanding of what it means to be fraternity changed along with it?
- We may get people to come once with an excellent speaker or intriguing topic, but getting them to spend one Saturday morning with us every month requires more than that. How do we make our fraternity gatherings so attractive that people will keep coming?
Iíve written before about the fact that our lives change and our priorities necessarily change with them. Keeping faithful to a lifetime commitment is not easy, especially in our world today. This is part of why it is vitally important that we keep in contact with all our brothers and sisters, including, by our prayers, those who have gone before us For those of us who are able, the Rule underscores the importance of gathering monthly (at a minimum) to share life in fraternity. Article 24 of the Rule points out that the purpose of our fraternity meetings is to "foster communion among members," which is clearly necessary if our fraternity is to be a "privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members" and "a visible sign of the Church, the community of love." (Article 22)
Not surprisingly, I view the key reason to be at a fraternity meeting to be with my brothers and sisters. On the one hand, thatís obvious for me, since my reason for joining the SFO was to be with people who, like me, wanted to grow in their faith. However, as Iíve shared before, I havenít always felt that way; there was a time when I didnít have much sense of community, and it didnít matter to me (nor, I suspect, to anyone else) whether I showed up or not. I am grateful that our fraternity was the right place for me to learn what was important, at least for me!
I hope you will consider sharing your reflections on these questions with the new council, so they will be able to consider how best to serve the fraternity with meetings which truly foster communion among all our members. Each election gives us an opportunity to start anew, and Iím really excited about this one in particular, as I expect to see new faces and fresh enthusiasm from the new council. For myself, I have decided that two consecutive terms in any position is enough for me, and I will be taking a "sabbatical" from elective office. I look forward to exploring different opportunities in the next three years, including, of course, opportunities to serve in shorter-term roles within the fraternity.
Please make the remaining meetings this year a priority. Our October 21st meeting is an important time for discerning and calling forth those who would be good leaders for the next three years. The election, on November 18, is not only a time to choose our new council, but also one of our two opportunities every three years to meet with our regional leadership (minister and spiritual assistant, or their delegates). Finally, we will close our year on December 2nd with an early-Advent morning of reflection at the Crane Road church. These meetings provide very different "experiences," but they are all important components of our life as a fraternity. Please be there if you can, and pray for us no matter what!
Peace and good, Vickie