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franciscan - May 1998

© Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 1998

Community Routes

Prayer for Peace

David Jardine writes:

After twenty-four years’ of faithful service in Ireland, the Society of Saint Francis had to close its Belfast house just before Christmas last year. It is good to know that brothers and sisters who lived and worked here during that period are remembered with great affection. Moreover, as the only First Order brother left in Ireland, I am privileged to be able to continue our work of prayer, especially through Prayer for our Land, a daily inter-denominational event, which we started seven years ago, in St Anne’s Cathedral in the centre of Belfast. Probably our major achievement was the Week of Prayer at the beginning of July last year, at a time of great crisis in Northern Ireland. More than three thousand people attended throughout that week, and a thousand came to the closing service. Many believe that this was the catalyst which encouraged many other prayer initiatives, and that it was God’s response, at the last possible moment on 10 July, that saved the country from catastrophe. Having taken this step, we wished to maintain the momentum and so – under God’s guidance – at the end of September we initiated seven hours of prayer for our land in the Cathedral each day. This will continue until 12 July, led by Churches and groups right across the community. We believe that, in a divided society, our Christian witness is strengthened when we come together in a spirit of unity.

Diamond Jubilee

Brother Francis, now ninety-four and living in the Australian Province, will celebrate his Diamond Jubilee (sixty years) in profession on 9 July. He will be in Britain for the anniversary, as he will be travelling to the UK in May and is to stay for three months.
Francis is the last survivor of the group of brothers who created the Society of Saint Francis. His first visit to Hilfield, when he was an undergraduate at Oxford, was in 1923, soon after Brother Douglas had arrived to take over the work with wayfarers there. After studying for ordination and serving a curacy, Francis became a postulant in Father Algy’s group of Franciscans at St Ives. Originally anticipating that he would go out to serve in India with the Christa Seva Sangha, plans changed when the St Ives brothers linked with those at Hilfield to create the united Society of Saint Francis in the late 1930s. Francis was a participant in the long negotiations which led to the union.

Francis’s work as a Franciscan brother has been varied and pioneering. He served in Peckham through the war as Vicar of St Chrysostom’s, and from 1946 to 1961 he was Novice Master, being one of the instigators of SSF’s decision to take over the monastery at Glasshampton as a contemplative house within the community and as one of the elements in training novices. He then began SSF’s work in Africa, founding the Friary at Fiwila, and then moved on in 1974 to work in the Pacific. His contribution to SSF’s growth and vitality over seventy years has been of great significance.

His brothers and many friends wish him a very happy anniversary, to be celebrated with him at Hilfield on Thursday 9 July. Do get in touch if you would like to be present.

Bosnian Brother

Br Thomas Anthony has been working in Sarajevo as part of Oci u Oci (Face to Face), an interfaith project partly funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After many difficulties, the project was able finally to move into its own space at Christmas 1997, in part of a building shared with other organisations. It has begun to run its own events, including a carol service for English-speaking residents of the city and a weekly Anglican Eucharist.

Tom is living with the local Roman Catholic Franciscans (OFM) and has been invited by Lambeth Palace to return for a second year. He is learning Bosnian. Tom writes that he has seen many positive signs of reintegration, with refugees returning to their homes, but in general the situation remains tense. There is no longer war, but there is no real peace either. Oci u Oci serves as one sign that the rest of the world cares about what happens to the people of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Those who wish to support the work of reconciliation may send donations to Br Damian at Gladstone Park, with a note that it is for the Sarajevo work. Cheques should be made out to the Society of St Francis.

Care at Walsingham

For the past few years, the Marist fathers, who are in charge of the Roman Catholic shrine in Walsingham, have sponsored a project at Falcon House, run by an ecumenical lay Christian community. It sprang from a desire to express the faith in practical ways, particularly Mary’s compassion for the suffering and rejected. Amongst other concerns, such as ecology and refugees, the community provides short breaks for people with AIDS and HIV and those who care for them. One of the members is Br Jude, who has been able to use his previous experience in working with AIDS patients in London.

The house can accommodate four visitors at any one time. A support group provides general help, including counselling and organising days out. The service provided is ‘small and hidden’. It does not advertise but works through agencies and ‘word of mouth’. Jude expresses the common purpose of the project as ‘to incarnate the Incarnation’.

‘Rebuild my Church’

Many readers have asked to be kept up to date on the progress of repairing the damage caused by the earthquake in Assisi last year:

At the basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, the destroyed Giotto and Cimabue frescoes from the ceiling will initially be reconstructed by computer. A programmer will scan some 50,000 fragments and do a ‘virtual re-assembly’ on screen, which will act as a guide for the painstaking manual work. Meanwhile the upper church, whose entire structure and bell tower are damaged, remains closed to the public. Planning for the reconstruction should be finished this spring and the target date for completion of the actual work is a couple of months before the year 2000.

Father Nicola Giandomenico of the Conventual friars says the tremors have had a lasting effect on the religious community: the number of pilgrims and visitors is only ten per cent of what it used to be, and the number of basilica friars is down from eighty to twenty-two.

Staff from The Assisi Experience/ Franciscan Pilgrimage Programmes examined the conditions in preparation for their programmes. They noted that the Portiuncula of Saint Mary of the Angels is open and that all significant parts of that basilica can now be visited. San Damiano, the Carceri and Santo Stefano are also open. Saint Mary Major, San Rufino, the Chiesa Nova and the basilica of Saint Clare suffered more damage and there is no firm projection for reopening: the tomb of Clare is intact; however, the basilica needs repairs, and only a small group of sisters remains, housed temporarily behind the church.
Brother Damian spent a brief forty-eight hours in Assisi in March, at the invitation of Max Mizzi OFM Conv. He writes:
‘Part of my commission was to advise on the funds that have been raised by SSF tertiaries, as well as to carry personally the concern of our three Orders to our brothers and sisters struck by the earthquake. Three days before I arrived, further tremors were felt in the city. However, the most frustrating message I heard was that work had simply not begun in restoring many of the places where visitors and pilgrims stay, due to delays in clarifying public funding, while at the same time losing any opportunity to receive guests this summer because their accommodation remains closed. However, the atmosphere in Assisi remains one of joyful hope and a ready greeting in the name of peace and goodwill. In other words, courage abounds everywhere, and God’s grace is being shown forth from the city of peace.’

Franciscans in Canterbury

A team of Religious have been invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be part of the chaplaincy team at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, which will meet at the University of Kent campus in Canterbury from 18 July to 9 August. The members of the team have been drawn from all parts of the Anglican Communion and will include several SSF brothers: Samuel, the Guardian of Hilfield friary, from Britain; Alfred Boonkong, a Malaysian brother; and Anthony Michael, who is from the Caribbean and a member of the SSF American Province.

During the conference, the Religious will say the Daily Office and conduct a Bible study each morning, joined by people from the Canterbury area. There will be a Quiet Room for silent prayer before the Blessèd Sacrament. The chaplaincy team’s plans also include an overnight vigil and fast, and several candle-lit pilgrimages. The underlying rôle of the group will be the threefold task of hospitality, attentiveness to people and events, and being a worshipping community.

All ten Bishops Protector of the Society of Saint Francis throughout the world will also be attending the Lambeth Conference, so they are taking this rare opportunity to meet together and discuss matters of common concern.

Education in Mission

Br Desmond Alban writes: ‘Twenty members of the Third and First Orders met for a conference at Compton Durville in January to look at the heart of the message of our gospel. We were particularly fortunate to have Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS to join us. He has prepared Credo, a short course ‘for the curious’ for use in parishes, and we were also able to view and discuss together some of the videos from this course. We found we were a varied group, with diverse experiences of the mission of the Church and with much to learn from each other.’

Third Order Review

The Third Order of the Society is implementing a fundamental review of its structures and systems during 1998, particularly in light of membership of the Third Order growing from some 1300 to 1800 since the last review ten years ago. The review is being carried out by two external consultants: Ven. Malcolm Grundy, Archdeacon of Craven, and Sr Joyce CSF. Following full consultation with Third Order members during the course of the review, the preliminary findings will be discussed by Provincial Chapter in October 1998. The Minister Provincial of the Third Order, Carolin Clapperton writes: ‘The overall purpose is to achieve an organisation structure that sits lightly, so as to free tertiaries to follow their Franciscan vocation in a way that is both supportive and enabling.’

New Year Book

The first ever Year Book of Anglican Religious communities is to be published this summer. The idea, first mooted several years ago, is a joint initiative of the Leaders’ Conference and the Communities Consultative Council. Br Tristam is one of the editorial team producing what is hoped will be the first of a regular publication. It will contain news items and articles as well as a directory of communities in the UK, including addresses, lists of members and information on guest accommodation, all illustrated by photographs and drawings. The Archbishop of Canterbury has written a Foreword. It should prove a valuable book of reference for all friends of communities.

Round Up

The two postulants at Hilfield, David Beater and Alan Turney, were made novices there on 1 February, taking the names David Alban and Francis Alan respectively ...

Beverley has been elected by the CSF Chapter to profession in first vows and expects to make her profession on 18th April at Compton Durville ... after election by the SSF Chapter, Robbie Asaph expects to make his profession in life vows on 4th April at St Kentigern’s Episcopal Church, Dennistoun, Glasgow ... Simeon Christopher returned to the UK from the Pacific in January and Paul expects to return to the UK this summer, having worked for four years in Papua New Guinea ... Bruce Paul returns to Australia in August, after spending sixteen months in the Province ...

Jonathan has moved from Alnmouth to Glasshampton ... David Francis is moving from Edinburgh to Alnmouth in August, as he becomes Guardian of the First Professed ... Helen Julian will be spending three months with the Ashaniketan Community in Delhi, India, from May to July ... Jason, working at the Holy Redeemer Clerkenwell, expects to move to Gladstone Park at the end of May ... Benedict returns from Penhalonga at the end of July ... James Anthony hopes to be spending the summer term at the United College of the Ascension, Birmingham, before commencing another tour of service in Masasi Diocese, Tanzania ... Harry celebrates his twenty-fifth anniversary of profession on 27 June ... Silas and Peter have been secularised. §

 

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