franciscan - May 1996
© The Society of Saint Francis, 1996
Sister Teresa was elected Minister General of the Community of St Francis on 7 February. Teresa joined CSF in 1965, was professed in 1967 and life professed in 1970. In former incarnations, she has been Novice Guardian and Provincial Secretary. She lived for some years in Belfast and was part of the group which started the house in New Zealand, where she served as Minister Provincial. She is currently Guardian of the house in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and will continue to live there.
No - not what our novices do, but one of the tasks on a conference on Gospel & Culture held at Hilfield in January. Under the able guidance of Mildred Neville, a group of brothers and sisters sought to analyse from their own experience the key features of our contemporary culture, tried to discern what in the Gospel might speak to today’s world, and then brain-stormed about SSF’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats - a SWOT analysis.
A renewed sense of what we do have to offer, as well as a greater appreciation of the difficulties faced by anyone preaching the Gospel in a culture often so far from its values, were two of the many benefits of this time spent together.
Over the years, the Old Parsonage at Freeland has come to be a home to many of its regular visitors. As the guest house of the Community of Saint Clare, it has been a sanctuary for the tired and hurt, as well as hosting Third and First Order Chapters, clergy cell groups, and the relatives and friends of the community. Guest sisters and friar chaplains have consistently maintained an ambience of quiet, unobtrusive welcome.
In 1995, it was decided to refurbish the house. Plumbers, electricians, builders and decorators spent three months transforming the interior, including creating a ground-floor bedroom (for those unable to manage the stairs) and a new conference room. The new look was (almost!) ready for the First Order Provincial Chapter on 25 January. Now it awaits visitors, old and new, to enjoy the quiet hospitality there afresh.
Beverley is delighted to have returned to St Christopher’s Hospice, Sydenham, as a volunteer chaplaincy ward visitor. The hospice cares for patients in the later stages of terminal illness. As part of the chaplaincy team, her work consists of assessing new patients, building relationships and waiting to see what develops. She is constantly amazed at the openness and trust of people. Spiritual questions come in many guises: “Why me, why now?” “Is death the end?” “What is heaven like?” Questions to hear and sometimes respond to, but sometimes to sit together and share the pain and puzzlement ... to offer, too, the love that Jesus freely gives. Beverley feels that St Francis would have approved of the holistic care of patient and family ... that death can be welcomed as a friend ... in the light of the risen Christ.
During 1995, a small group of brothers, from both SSF and one of the Roman Catholic Franciscan communities (OFM), met regularly to explore and deepen their common understanding. A context of prayer and hospitality was provided by the friaries at Forest Gate, Plaistow and Chilworth and at Freeland.
The last in the series, on the topic of prayer, led to a suggestion that in 1996 each SSF house might link with an OFM friary. We are encouraged to pray for each other and address areas of shared concern. In addition, an Ecumenical Pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, at which it is hoped to draw together all the constituent parts of the Franciscan family in Britain, has been proposed for Saturday 12 April 1997.
A gift of touch
For some time I have given friends and family back massages of my own invention. For the past twelve weeks, I have attended a beginners’ course at the London College of Massage, to see if it is worth me pursuing healing touch through massage. We are taught, in a professional, clinical setting, what to offer in a massage and what not to offer. The end result is a full body massage which can be given to friends or family without harming them or myself. How am I doing? Well, ask around. I’ve practised on a few sisters, and am now doing more study. Giving someone a massage can be very prayerful, helping them to connect with their physical bodies in a busy, stressful world; nurturing and loving oneself.
To encourage the professed brothers in their studies and to coordinate resources, Brother Angelo has been appointed Guardian of On-going Formation. The appointment has been welcomed by the brothers, as Angelo’s knowledge and understanding of the Franciscan tradition make him well-placed to guide and stimulate them to pursue ‘Study’, which is one of the three works of the Society.
Over ten years ago, SSF created and housed the registered charity Helping Hands. With only two brothers based at the Friary now (Donald and Julian), the charity has been able to make fuller use of the Balaam Street premises, for over a hundred years the focus of Franciscan ministry in Plaistow. Consideration of how best to develop the property and continue the charity’s work under Julian’s guidance is now proceeding.
SSF in Belfast
Amidst the uncertainty caused by the breakdown of the peace process in Northern Ireland, Brothers David Jardine and Edmund are hoping to remain in Belfast to continue the Franciscan presence there. The brothers will be attached to another UK Friary but will continue to work in ecumenical and pastoral spheres in the city and in the Province of Ulster.
Christopher John writes from Inchon, a city almost within the city of Seoul, capital of South Korea, where he has been living and working, at the request of the Anglican Church in Korea:
Franciscan life was never meant to seem large or successful (in the world’s terms anyway). At least this is the reassurance I have as with a handful of Korean Anglican men we take on the challenge of forming a new community. Our history is a series of experiments. There is neither map nor guide other than Jesus Christ. We move about in darkness much of the time and pray that it is the darkness of true faith.
As I write these words in mid-February our prayer is deeply concerned with Lawrence, one of our aspirants, who suffered serious head and neck injuries in an army training exercise. Slowly he has been coming out of a coma and we thank God that he seems to have much normal brain function and bodily movement, although he has not been able to talk other than to breathe a few syllables. He faces much pain. However his faith is strong and he with his family are very deeply committed Christians. These days our life is centred around visiting Lawrence in the critical care unit of the hospital and in keeping extra prayer watches in our chapel during the night.
We live on the outskirts of Seoul in Inchon, a busy port famous for General Macarthur’s Korean War landing. Inchon is also where the Anglican church began in 1890 with the arrival of the first missionaries. In our house at present are two members of the Korean Franciscan Brotherhood. Our novice, Paul, will soon be spending some time at the Hermitage, Stroud, Australia. Our postulant, Stephen, will be joined by one other in July. We pray for Lawrence also to be able to be with us.
At that time the brothers will have a long retreat and special study time to try to discern God’s particular purpose for them. Out of that will come some expression of the community vision and then some specific goals for community life, ministry, growth and study.
Please pray with us for an understanding of God’s purpose in our life and for suitable vocations.
Sweet the name
For a week in March, the brothers at Hilfield had the honour and pleasure of welcoming Canon John Sweet to lead their study week on the subject of Apocalyptic Literature. John wrote what many now consider to be the definitive work on the Book of Revelation and, for the past ten years, has served on the Liturgical Commission. Until his retirement, he was Dean of Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Mark Francis RIP
Brother Mark Francis, of the American Province, died on 25 February. Mark had suffered for many years with respiratory problems and was nursed at home at Little Portion Friary by his brothers until the last few weeks, when he had to go into hospital. He was in his sixty-fifth year and in the twenty-ninth year of his profession.
Chris and Judith Ann made their life professions on 7 February at Compton Durville ... Robert
Coombes was life professed on 16 April at Hilfield.
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