franciscan - January 1996
© The Society of Saint Francis, 1995
Discerning the future
In the last issue, Brother Damian, the Minister Provincial of the Brothers, wrote of the external review team’s recommendation that SSF needed to reconsider the scale of its commitments and that this might mean closing some houses. The meeting of Life Professed brothers in June left the task of making choices to the Provincial Chapter which met at Francistide.
It was decided, after much prayer and discussion, that the two houses from which SSF will withdraw are Belfast and Plaistow. At present, no precise dates have been fixed. This will cause sadness to many, especially for our friends in the neighbourhood of Deerpark Road and Balaam Street, who have given us so much over the years. However, we hope the difficult decisions can be seen as not just an end but also as an opportunity for the call to new challenges elsewhere. Our time in both Northern Ireland and East London has been richly blessed and we hope to include appreciations of both these houses in future issues of franciscan.
Visions and dreams
The second Sisters’ Meeting of 1995, in September, agreed a Vision Statement for the European Province of CSF, and in the light of that vision dreamed how we might be in 10 years, 5 years and 1 year. A great richness of possibilities emerged, and much hope and energy for the future, along with a recognition of the need for some changes. The Francistide Chapter carried that work forward, agreeing to consider especially Compton Durville and the best ways of carrying forward in the future the work currently undertaken there. They hope to be in a position to come to a decision at Candlemas. The Chapter also with great sadness agreed to close CSF’s Birmingham house, and this will take place in the first quarter of 1996.
Minister General CSF
Readers of Cecilia’s Minister’s Letter in the last franciscan will be aware of her illness. Sadly a further operation in August found inoperable cancer, and she has now resigned as Minister General on the grounds of ill- health. Please continue to hold Sister Cecilia in your prayers, and remember CSF as they elect her successor.
On 4 October, Michael celebrated fifty years in Profession at Hilfield, where he celebrated the St Francis Day mass in the same chapel in which he had taken his vows in 1945. A large congregation were there to greet him, as on the following Saturday, when he similarly presided at the Francistide festival at St Bene’t’s Church in Cambridge. A special lunch was provided, enjoyed by a happy gathering of his friends, members of the Third Order and Companions.
Brother Harold has discussed his future with the Society of Saint Francis, the Trustees of the Shepherds Law Hermitage, the Bishop of Newcastle and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. He has explained to them that he feels called to join the Roman Catholic Church. He hopes to continue at Shepherds Law his work of ecumenical reconciliation between Christian people of divided allegiance and he expects to do this in association with the Society of Saint Francis, which will remain responsible for the work of the Hermitage.
Advice and Counsel
Damian’s election to the Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities is a
further, but important, addition to his crowded programme. It meets twice a year and is one of the few formal links
between Communities and the structures of our Church. The Council was inaugurated in 1935 to:
Tristam has been elected to serve as a representative for the Religious Communities in the Canterbury Province in the House of Laity on the General Synod for the next five years. He has sat as a member for one year already, having been elected at a by-election. Also representing the Communities will be, in the House of Clergy, Father Aidan Mayoss CR and Sister Teresa CSA and in the House of Laity, Sister Hilary CSMV and Sister Margaret Shirley OHP. Tristam also identified nine Tertiaries, eight elected to represent their dioceses, and one bishop!
Patricia Clare writes:
Summoned to Windsor
An unexpected phone call took Peter to Windsor Castle for four days to discuss ‘Leadership, Britain and the next ten years’ with about thirty others from all walks of life, including the armed forces, police, trades’ unions, local and central government, the City, business and banking world, and the European Commission.
An unlikely group in which to find a friar, but the Windsor Leadership Trust and its sponsors (British Telecom, Shell and Cable and Wireless) are keen to maintain diversity and incorporate a spiritual aspect. The group discovered an enthusiasm for Britain and its role in the world, and it is hoped that the findings of the group will be published. As Peter says, although he found himself out of his depth in areas of finance, he was pleased to be there to remind people of the demands of the gospel.
A Street named ...
The name of the street where the CSF sisters live in San Francisco has been changed from Army to Cesar Chavez, to honour a dedicated Mexican-American labour leader from California, who toiled non-violently to stop the exploitation of farm workers. The city took a vote on it and apparently it was a close-run thing: but the sisters are very pleased with the result!
Holy Trinity House Paddington sees a rich diversity of functions and in September it drew together a good crowd
in the name of the Dutch Resistance Movement during the War. Tertiary Elsa Caspers was launching her new
book To Save A Life *, and spoke about her service in that movement which engaged her from the age of eighteen.
General Hackett, who has written a foreword for the book, was present to tell of Elsa’s life-saving activities.
She also described how she assisted his escape after Arnhem, along with many others.
The “Brixton Extension” mentioned in September’s franciscan is now in use by Fay and Beverley, increasing the household to six. All are very grateful to local Third Order members, and other friends of the house, whose generosity made furnishing and equipping the flat much easier than expected.
Back to school
Take 1200 secondary school students, add a Franciscan brother, leave to mingle together for two or three months and see what happens. In this way Desmond Alban was invited to stimulate reflection at school about the moral and spiritual aspects of life. The main task was to meet informally with the ‘secondary modern’ students for whom Tonbridge’s Hugh Christie College caters. In responding to their agenda, the conversations touched on issues ranging from celibacy to drug abuse. ‘Brother Des’ was also invited to talk to classes about Franciscan life, and met levels of attentiveness that were rare in his former career as a physics teacher. That background was a help with lessons on science and faith, but there were opportunities to contribute in all sorts of subjects. For the students, a habited figure in the playground was an enjoyable novelty. From another perspective, it was an unusual opportunity to experiment with a new form of mission.
Elizabeth writes: Compton is always busy in the summer with a full guest house and sisters away
for holidays, camps and other events. Last year, ‘unpredictables’ and emergencies made for a fraught situation;
and the half-sized skeleton staff remaining were very hard-pressed indeed. My physical handicaps and senior citizenship
combined to cause me symptoms of exhaustion and stress; so the Minister Provincial has agreed to my moving from
Compton. After four and a half years as Guardian, a happy time, it seems right for someone younger to take it on;
and I am joining the small group of sisters at Hythe. I am glad to report that I am already almost totally restored
to normal health and out of the doctor’s hands.
Rose at work
After some time as a volunteer, Rose is now paid to work in a residential rehabilitation centre in Brixton for people recovering from alcoholism. Most of the residents are homeless prior to admission and she finds it very encouraging to see people who have been marginalised regain their self-respect and dignity. The house is run by Christians - most of whom are from various religious orders - and together with the residents they aim to form a loving and accepting community in which respect for the individual is of primary importance. Rose is responsible for secretarial duties and also ensures she is available when residents need to talk. She greatly values being part of this project and feels privileged to be alongside people who are striving to reclaim their self worth.
Kentigern John made his first profession in Edinburgh on 30 November and Peter Christian was also
professed in first vows in Auckland, New Zealand on 2 December.
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