franciscan - January 2003
© The Society of Saint Francis, 2002
First Order Chapters
Helen Julian writes:
The Testament of Saint Francis read by male and female voices from Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, America, Jamaica, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Zealand; the closing act of the First Order Chapters brought home to me how much we are an international community, and how universal is the appeal of Francis.
The Ministers General, Ministers Provincial, and chapter delegates from each province had come together at the Mercy Center, Burlingame, just south of San Francisco, in September, along with two observers from the Third Order. We heard about the common threads and the contrasts in our lives - everywhere prayer, community life, hospitality; but in the Solomon Islands there is a waiting list of 50 to join the brothers, while in the European Province vocations are lower than for many years. The Rule of Life was in need of revision to reflect varying cultures and church backgrounds; we came away with an agreed set of headings, and work to do in our provinces to flesh out how we live these basic principles of our life.
It wasn't all work, and we had time to see something both of San Francisco itself and of the beautiful countryside and sea nearby, to worship in city churches, and to take part in a Franciscan Festival organised by the American Province.
The Testament was nearly the end of the meeting - but it was followed by a spirited rendering of a new song by Cecilia - a Canticle of the Instruments. We were all issued with instruments (mostly of the banging or rattling variety - no special skill needed!) and joined in with gusto when our instrument was mentioned. The Franciscan tradition of being fools for Christ was alive and well in San Francisco. May it still be going strong in three years time, when we meet in Canterbury for the next First Order Chapter.
CSF has made its first covenant with an emerging Franciscan community. At the First Order Sisters' Chapter in San Francisco in September they agreed a six year commitment to mutual support in prayer, information sharing, and visits with the Korean Franciscan Sisterhood. Frances and Jemma, the first two members of KFS, made their first profession in November 2001, having by then been living together for two years. They had both previously been members of another Korean religious community. Their ministry is mainly hospital based, organising volunteer visitors and taking sick communion to wards and to homes. Pamela Clare, from the American Province, was in Korea for their profession, and it is hoped that she will be able to make an annual visit.
An Ecumenical Franciscan Handbook
Brother Damian has been one of an ecumenical team from the Franciscan Association of Great Britain who have produced a reference guide to Franciscan spirituality. Called, ‘Joy in All Things’, its contents include short biographies of Clare and Francis, prayers of Francis, a guide to living as a Franciscan today, Franciscan places of pilgrimage to visit, and potted histories of all the Franciscan houses in the U.K. Brother Samuel has contributed an article on Contemporary Attitudes and other SSF contributors include Austin, Tristam and Guire.
The school summer holidays once again saw the brothers in Birmingham involved in a range of activities for young people in their area, including 5-a-side football, ‘Laser Quest’, a day at an outdoor pursuits centre (archery, canoeing, assault course), a DJ Workshop and a trip to Drayton Manor Theme Park. The year-round thrice-weekly youth club sessions at St Clare’s House continued as usual, but these extra summer activities, run by SSF and their partners in the Merritts Youth Project, brought together 84 young people from three estates, along with a significant number of parents and other local adults. In the autumn half term holiday, the brothers were joined by two sixth-formers from Oundle public school who stayed at St Clare’s House for three nights and were involved with extra activities with the young people who normally come to club.
The health of the Birmingham brothers has been given a boost, and spending on bus fares reduced, by the generous gift of a brand new Dawes hand-made bicycle. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has maintained his passion for bicycles and cycle mechanics despite being no longer able to ride himself, and a number of organisations and individuals in Birmingham have benefited from his gifts in the past. The brothers now have the use of two bicycles.
Franciscans in Clerkenwell
Brother Jason writes:
Holy Redeemer parish had a close connection with SSF and the Religious Life well before my arrival! A former curate, Father John Hawes had a great devotion to Saint Francis and left London to become a RC Franciscan Hermit in the Caribbean – ‘the hermit of Cat Island’, about whom Peter Anson wrote a book. Whilst he was ministering in Clerkenwell Sister Rosina of the Sisters of Bethany (whose mother house was in the parish) was inspired by his Franciscan charism and she left SSB and founded the Community of Saint Francis. Later, in 1943 Holy Redeemer was the setting for a mission led by Father Algy.
Since these early days, many Friars have preached in the parish. I am fortunate to continue this tradition, as well as being warmly welcomed into the lives of the locals. My week is made up not only of parish administration, but taking part in the daily liturgy, assisting with a weekly Mass at School as well as in the local day centre, helping in the preparations for First Communion and Confirmation, finding funding for a Youth Worker, alongside helping and supporting the Parish Priest and the members of the congregation.
This unusual Italianate styled Church has a unique and central part to play in the life of the community in which it is set. It is a privilege to be a part of this and to continue the Franciscan link with this parish.
Kentigern John has just returned from two years in the stunningly beautiful country of New Zealand. He writes:
When I arrived in NZ for my exchange in July 2000 the brothers were running the Auckland diocesan retreat centre at Long Bay on the North Shore of Auckland. The wonderful centre was purpose built and consisted of substantial cedar clad chalets set on a hillside overlooking the ocean. The brothers had done a superb job in setting up this new venture for the diocese and, when it seemed right for us to move on, passed back to the church a thriving business. The centre was a partnership between the Diocese of Auckland and the Te Phihopatanga ki te Tai Tokerau, the Anglican Maori church in the north of the North Island, and the limited experience I had of Maori culture has left an abiding impression on me. It seemed to be a culture in transition from a very close knit rural stability to the different pressures of urban fractured living. Maori are blessed in this period in that, they have words, concepts, images that can knowingly articulate the need for community and connectedness, and they possess a deliberate will to keep alive the bonds that unite people rather than seeking what separates and divides. They seemed less conscious of class, education, wealth or indeed race than we in Britain. I know that I had little direct contact with the other side of the story, of Maori families and communities trapped in poverty and abusive relationships with alcohol and/or each other, where family ties become restrictive bonds. But I did get the sense of a much clearer owning of the broken side of their culture and, again, a will to bring people back on board.
The brothers moved from Long Bay and left the diocese of Auckland towards the end of my stay with them and are currently establishing themselves in an ecumenical social services village in Hamilton in Waikato diocese. It is a venture that seems both ambitious and full of promise.
Third Order Appointments
Carolin Clapperton, Minister Provincial, and John Fox, Communications Co-ordinator, have both come to the end of their 6-year terms in 2002. The new Minister Provincial from January 1, 2003 is Richard (Dick) Bird, formerly Archdeacon of Lambeth, now living in Suffolk. The Communications Co-ordinator is Alan Williams, a priest in South Wales; the new Provincial Treasurer is Derrick Gierth, a Lay Reader in Nottingham; the Provincial Novice Guardian is Stuart Ballard, a training and development specialist from Skipton and the Chapter Secretary is Susan Holmes, a Diocesan Registrar living in Carlisle.
Anselm, Austin, Christine James and Martin (sadly without Tristam who was prevented by illness from being with us as a speaker) attended Anglican Religious Together (ART) at Swanwick from 2nd to 5th September. On offer were the knowledge and enthusiasm of Professor Paul Bradbury and George Guiver CR, as teachers of liturgy, the shared questions and thoughts of the 30+ Anglican religious in attendance, the delights of Southwell Minster and the Midlands Railway Centre. No wonder we decided unanimously to go ahead with plans for ART 2003 at Ditchingham.
Brother James Edward of the American Province died in New York on September 4. He recently spent three years in the European Province where he made a valued contribution until health concerns caused his return to the USA. Nevertheless, he was able to spend a further 6 months in Chaplaincy work before his final illness.
Bob Pope TSSF died on September 11, in Cardiff, where he had been living in recent years. He was professed in 1965 and during the 1980’s served as Guardian (as the title was then) of the European Province.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Wayne Martin took the new name of Maximilian when he made his profession in first vows on October 7.
Bart Seaton was admitted as a novice at Hilfield on October 4, taking the name Lawrence. He moved to Glasshampton the following day.
Maureen is now the General Secretary for CSF, and continues as Provincial Secretary.
Rowan Clare has begun ordination training at Westcott House Cambridge.
Jason, Kentigern John and Elizabeth have moved to Halcrow Street.
Augustine Thomas, John and Stuart all moved to Hilfield in September.
Damian and Mark Edmund have moved to Alnmouth.
Nicholas Alan has moved to Glasshampton and Malcolm to Shepherd’s Bush.
Dominic Christopher is spending three months at Gladstone Park.
It is expected that the brothers will be leaving St. Helen’s Vicarage, Burghwallis, in January after nearly three years there as a house of contemplative living. We are very grateful to the Diocese of Sheffield and to Fr. Michael Johnson the parish priest for their encouragement and support.
Giles is visiting the Community of the Divine Compassion in Zimbabwe until January 19, and Geoffrey has returned from three months there.
Rose has now returned to the European Province.
Edward James and Dominic have withdrawn from the noviciate. f
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