franciscan - January 2005
© The Society of Saint Francis, 2004
Brother Nicholas Alan writes:
During Eastertide 2004 I was able to spend six weeks with the Korean Franciscan Brotherhood at their friary near Chuncheon in South Korea. They are living in a peaceful rural area, surrounded by woods and mountains, with paddy fields and scattered villages filling the valleys. The brothers have faithfully translated the SSF Daily Office book into Korean, which they recite in a beautiful chapel overlooking the stream that runs beside the house. Outside work includes voluntary work with the poor in Chuncheon and helping out at the local church.
Their friary is on land owned by the Diocese of Seoul, and there is a plan to build a retreat centre next to where the brothers are living. The brothers themselves are raising money to extend the property where they live, in order to be able to accommodate groups and individuals wanting to stay, and to have room enough to accept people wanting to join the order. The SSF and the KFB have a covenant relationship of mutual support and encouragement, and Christopher John from the Australia-New Zealand province has been with them for 10 years helping them to get established. Do remember them, and the Korean Franciscan Sisterhood, in your prayers as they seek more vocations and establish a Franciscan presence in the Anglican Church of Korea.
Chapel Blessing at Shepherd’s Law
For over three decades Brother Harold Palmer, a 'consecrated hermit' has lived a life of prayer for the unity of the church, most of those years as a member of the First Order in SSF. On 18 September 2004 the new chapel of the Hermitage of St Mary and St Cuthbert, built in a beautiful Romanesque style, was dedicated by the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, assisted by the Bishops of Newcastle and Wakefield and the Roman Catholic Vicar-General of the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, representing Bishop Kevin. The new chapel at Shepherd`s Law was "a timely antidote to the busyness and worldliness of our Churches"', the Archbishop told the 200-strong ecumenical congregation. At a time when "the powers of darkness stalk our world, we are all brought here for reconciliation, healing and peace. Here is the cost of 'Opus Dei' - not in an escape from reality, but in being led deeper into the mystery of Christ".
Brother Harold and various SSF brothers have certainly worked faithfully for God and His church over the years in this special place and so now the fruit of this faithfulness, in the difficult times and the spiritual battles, is a lovely church for others to come and use for prayer and worship.
In Northumberland where St Aidan and St Cuthbert witnessed so eloquently by their own lives of prayer and devotion to God and neighbour, it is a tremendous achievement to have a chapel to welcome people of this age to take time to be alone with God in a site hallowed by Brother Harold's 33 years as a hermit.
It was a rare privilege for those present, including the SSF Minister General, to witness the solemn and joyful dedication of this new monastic church.
It had been some years since the brothers and sisters of the First Order houses in the Midlands had hosted any sort of general gathering to celebrate St Francis, so it was with some trepidation that one was planned for 11 September, 2004. The initial count from invitations returned by Companions and Tertiaries indicated 30 people planning to attend, but on the day, we numbered at least 70 at St Francis' Church, Bournville, Birmingham. People came from distances involving an hour or more in travelling time, welcoming the opportunity to meet new faces and renew older contacts. St Francis' Church was an appropriate accessible meeting place though, being beside Cadbury World, not all those who used the church car park that morning were attending our celebration! After a Eucharist at which the Bishop of Dudley, David Walker TSSF preached on some ways in which he found Francis' life giving inspiration in following Christ in the present day, we had a bring and share lunch in the church centre, followed by an informal session, 'who we are and what we do' in the three First Order Houses (CSF Gillott Rd, SSF Fourlands Road and Glasshampton Friary), living as a Tertiary, and being a Companion of SSF. The time was rounded off by a short service of worship. It was generally agreed that it had been an interesting day and suggestions were made for building on it.
ARC Conference 2004
From 6-9 September Anselm, Christine James, Colin Wilfred and Martin met with 23 other Anglican religious from a total of 19 communities, at Sneaton Castle, Whitby.
Our theme was 'Ecumenical Traditions within the Religious Life' and the invited speakers the Rev'd Roy Searle, Baptist minister and leader of the Northumbria Community, and Canon A.M. (Donald) Allchin, Anglican scholar and an old friend of many communities - Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox.
On 6 September we found our way (some with difficulty) to Sneaton Castle, home of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, bringing with us our expectations. On 9 September we departed, taking with us - what?
For one participant, broadly three things.
First, from Roy Searle, an awareness of new possibilities, new life. The Northumbria Community, 500 strong, includes Baptists, Roman Catholics, some Anglicans - all committed to a prayer life centred on 'Celtic Daily Prayer'.
Second, from Donald Allchin, a personal account of ecumenical contacts with religious communities from his student days in the 1950's onwards, told with passion, humour and conviction.
Third, from each other, the knowledge that in days of numerical decline the religious life is faithfully, joyfully, vitally lived in many shapes and sizes.
P.S. We were reminded of the big world out there where numbers do not decline - by the presence of Sister Vongai Patricia, Community of the Gifts of the Holy Fire, Zimbabwe. Perhaps she said the most of all, by her presence.
Over the Bridge
London Bridge, that is, and Southwark Cathedral is at the southern end amidst the busyness of the Borough Market and the teeming life of south London - no leafy close here! In October a team of Franciscans: brothers, sisters, tertiaries and theological students, led by Samuel, spent ten days with the people of the cathedral community who were at the end of a year-long process of Encountering God as a preparation for the centenary of the diocese in 2005.
The programme was built round eating and worshipping together either in the middle of the day or in the evening and dividing into five 'passion' groups: Passion for … Prayer, Truth, Relationships, Joy, Peace. Each night 50 or 60 people gathered in the cathedral choir stalls to sing Compline gently to round off a very full day. Many people made big sacrifices of leisure and work time to encounter one another and God.
On the final Saturday cathedral people and the team spilled out of the building into the wider community for further encounters with people and God. One group ran a stall in Borough Market, another prayed its way round the locality: the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, Guys Hospital, etc. A group were welcomed into a dialogue with some Shia Muslims at their centre in Streatham. A large group of pilgrims, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, from their respective cathedrals in Southwark, journeyed and prayed together on a day pilgrimage to Walsingham.
Someone from Southwark said afterwards, "People at the Cathedral will talk about the time before and the time after Encountering God", and a member of the team said "This time together has done a lot to restore my faith in the church in general, and the Church of England in particular!"
Two brothers from the Solomon Islands have been visiting us in this province during 2004. Geoffrey Gerefo'oa spent a month at Glasshampton and a short period at Hilfield Friary before returning to Honiara. Jonas Balugna has continued at Hilfield, taking part in the Youth and Families' Camps, and joining the team at Greenbelt. He will be in this province until April 2005.
Damian has been appointed Provincial Bursar for the brothers of the European Province, taking over from Jonathan.
Edmund has moved to Plaistow, Giles to Glasshampton and Gregory to Dundee. Angelo will move to Alnmouth early in the New Year following the closure of the house at Gladstone Park.
David Francis and Jackie have begun periods of leave of absence and Jason has returned. Rose has been released from Life Vows and membership of CSF.
In the Second Order at Freeland, Kathleen Marie OSC made her First Profession on 5 November. f
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