Dear brothers and sisters,
Iíd like to use this opportunity to expand on one aspect of life in fraternity: the challenge to all of us of ensuring that those brothers and sisters who are excused from participation in "regular" fraternity life due to age, work, illness, etc., still are included in fraternal life. As is the case with so much of what we talk about with life in fraternity, there is a "communal" responsibility for the fraternity, led by the council, to maintain connections with excused members, but ultimately that communal responsibility comes down to each of us as individuals acting both on the direction provided by the council and taking action on our own.
Our regional fraternityís Ministry of Prayer and Praise has set an example being emulated elsewhere. You probably already know that this program is directed primarily at those who cannot attend meetings due to illness or age. Those who are enrolled get a booklet of prayers put together by the region, and monthly prayer intentions are provided - not directly to each individual but via a contact in the local fraternity. This reinforces the connection with the fraternity, rather than just being a mailing from the region. In my own fraternity, we have participants who can occasionally attend fraternity meetings who very much wanted to become part of this ministry - so, of course, they are. Prayer is something that many/most of our shut-in and otherwise excused members can do, and we should ask for their prayers.
It goes without saying that we need to pray for all those in need in our fraternities. This is especially true for those who cannot attend meetings, who are "out of sight" and so may be "out of mind" unless we make a special effort. One possibility is a spiritual "buddy system" where active and excused members pray for each other individually.
Newsletters - the Littlest Tau, the SFO News, TAU-USA - all are important to keeping all members aware of whatís going on in the fraternity. The more communication we have like this, the better! However, I think the bigger challenge is personal contact. Phone calls, visits, personal notes, rides to meetings - all of these are more personal.
When one of our members was in formation, he decided that he would try to do something for someone in the fraternity every week. I was impressed - and humbled by the fact that this had never occurred to me. (Iíve learned a lot from our candidates over the years!)
One of the CIOFS letters on care for members who are isolated from their fraternities (http://www.ciofs.org/per/2004/lca4en17.htm) suggests that if we have members who canít come to the fraternity, we bring the fraternity to them. That can work particularly if you have more than one member in the same retirement or nursing home. It can be a wonderful experience for all!
As was the case with much of what I said at the fraternity meeting, I expect Iím preaching to the choir here! I know that, for me, it is important to be reminded that I should be praying for and reaching out to the members of my fraternity who are temporarily or permanently unable to attend meetings. So, please take these thoughts in that spirit.
Peace and all good,