The Secular Franciscan Order is a community of Catholic men and women, of any of the Rites in communion with Rome (Latin, Byzantine, Melkite, etc.), in the world who seek to pattern their lives after Christ in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Secular Franciscans are territories, or members of the Third Order of St. Francis founded by St. Francis of Assisi 850 years ago. Originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the Order is approved and recognized by the Holy See by the official name of Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis (OFS). It is open to any Catholic not bound by religious vows to another Religious Order. It is made up of the laity (men and women) and also secular clergy (deacons, priests, bishops). Although Secular Franciscans make a public profession, they are not bound by public vows as are religious orders living in community. The Third Order Regular (TOR), which grew out of the Third Order Secular, do make religious vows and live in community. The Holy See has entrusted the pastoral care and spiritual assistance of the Secular Franciscan Order, because it belongs to the same spiritual family, to the Franciscan First Order (Friars Minor) and Franciscan Third Order Regular (TOR).
The preaching of St. Francis, as well as his own living example and that of his first disciples, exercised such a powerful attraction on the people that many married men and women wanted to join the First or the Second Order, as is witnessed to in some writings of Francis addressed to them: the two Letters to the Faithful as well as the contents of Chapter 23 of the Regula non bullata, which constitute the basis and spiritual reference for what would become, in time, The Franciscan Third Order. Francis formed his third order because of circumstances that he had not foreseen. As he preached penance in one place after another, devout lay persons who were bound by family responsibilities begged to be taught a more perfect way of life. He showed them how they must lead the Gospel life at home and at their work, and spread the Gospel teaching by word and example among their neighbours, in imitation of the poor and suffering Christ. St. Francis found a middle way: he gave them a rule animated by the Franciscan spirit. In the composition of this rule St. Francis was assisted by his friend Cardinal Ugolino, later Pope Gregory IX.
This way of life was quickly embraced by many couples and single men and women. They zealously practiced the lessons Francis had taught them concerning prayer, humility, peacemaking, self-denial, fidelity to the duties of their state, and above all charity. Like Francis himself, they cared for lepers and outcasts.
The earliest Rule was found in the Guarnacci Library in Volterra. This primitive document is known as the Earlier Exhortation, or the Earlier Version, of “The Letter to All the Faithful” and was likely composed before 1215. An expanded version, the Later Exhortation, was completed by about 1220. Both have been established as having been composed by St. Francis. Both documents call the lay faithful to a life of penance, i.e., of turning away from sin and toward God. In the Earlier Exhortation, Francis describes the elements of the conversion process: 1) love God 2) love one’s neighbour 3) turn away from our sinful tendencies 4) “receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ” and, as a result of the above, 5) producing worthy fruits of penance – a renewed life characterized by charity, forgiveness and compassion toward others.
The Secular Franciscan Order is a public association in the Catholic Church. It is divided into fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national, and international. The OFS is governed by the universal law of the Church; and by its own: the Rule, the Constitutions, the Ritual, and the particular statutes. The interpretation of the Rule and of the Constitutions belongs to the Holy See. The practical interpretation of the Constitutions, with the purpose of harmonizing its application in different areas and at the various levels of the Order, belongs to the General Chapter of the OFS. The clarification of specific points which require a timely decision is the competence of the Presidency of the International Council of the OFS. The International Council of the OFS has its own proper statutes approved by the General Chapter of the OFS and confirmed by the Union of the Franciscan Ministers General. National fraternities have their own statutes approved by the Presidency of the International Council of the OFS. The regional and the local fraternities may have their own statutes approved by the council of the higher level. The fraternities at different levels are animated and guided by the minister or president, with the council, in accordance with the Rule, the Constitutions, and their own Statutes. These offices are conferred through elections. In 2002, the CIOFS reported a worldwide membership of 400,000 professed members.
The International Fraternity is constituted by the organic union of all the Catholic Secular Franciscan fraternities in the world. It is identical to the OFS. It has its own juridical personality within the Church. It is organized and it functions in conformity with the Constitutions and its own Statutes. The International Fraternity is guided and animated by the Minister or President with the International Council (CIOFS) that has its seat in Rome, Italy.
History of OFS in India
It was during the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), who was an OFS member himself that the OFS was officially implanted in India. It was his desire to spread OFS everywhere. The pope wrote to the provincial minister of the capuchins of Lombardy in northern Italy, that he wished the Third Order to spread farther and farther, day by day. Let us propagate and propagate the Third Order. Let us take great pains to do so. It was in this response that the Italian capuchins, who worked as missionaries in North India during the later part of the nineteenth century, under took the task of implanting the Third Order in several of their mission territories. With the departure of the Italian capuchins, the Third Order fraternities, established by them, showed signs of decline and gradually became extinct in North India but proved to be more successful in South India. The beginning of the OFS in India took place at different times and in different states.
In Goa in the year 1770 :
In Kerala in the year 1868 :
In North India in the year 1886 :
In Karnataka in the year 1927 :
In Tamil Nadu in the year 1933;
In Maharashtra in the year 1964.
In India today totally there are 87 Regions with 725 established local Fraternities and over 18, 000 and more members .
Becoming the Member of the Order
Anyone can become the active member of this Franciscan, the largest family in the Church. Some Popes, Bishops, Priests, kings and queens, married and unmarried, young and old have embraced this Order since the beginning of 1215.
So, the membership is open to all, especially for the married and unmarried, above the age of 18 who are willing to live the Gospel Life in their own family, through, prayer, fasting, penance and charitable worked, are eligible to be permanent members through their profession.
When a person expresses his/her desire to join, he/she will be welcomed to the fraternity. After knowing more about their life and mission for six months, he/she will be vested with the holy scapler and badge as an external sign of their acceptance. After a year of training and instruction, they are promoted to make their profession during the Eucharist to be the members for life. In 1215 Brother Luchesio and Sister Bona Jona became the first members of the Secular Franciscan Order. Since then, the Order has grown considerably all over the Church.
The Local Beginning in bondel church.
It was on 25th February’ 1996 that the seed of Secular Franciscan Order was sown by Fr. Cliffford D’ Souza, the then Parish Priest. About 25 members accepted publicly to be the members of the Secular Franciscan Order. From that day on the members are rendering their selfless services towards the spiritual and moral growth of their own families, neighbourhood and the Parish at large.
At present on every 4th Sunday evening at 4.30 p.m. about 20-25 members gather together for our monthly prayer meeting. After invoking the Holy Spirit, we recite the office, read the Passage from the Scripture and Rules and reflect on them. The attendance in called out and secret offerings are collected and share one another about each one’s good works for the month and take up collectively and individually some more charitable works for the coming month. Whenever Spiritual Assistant visits us he guides us and explains the scriptures and the Rules. In his absence usually the Formator guides and reflects on the Word of God and the Rules.
There are 31 sisters, 2 brothers and 5 elderly sisters. We are eager and enthusiastic to increase our membership through proclaiming the Spirit of St. Francis of Assisi by word and deed. The first priority is to live in unity in our homes with our family members. We visit the old and aged; sick and needy; contribute our mite towards the needy children and poor; pray and console the bereaved families of the dead; conduct and participate in the Novenas and Adoration and other prayer meetings.
During Lenten Season, we spend a day in Prayer, Penance, Fasting and Meditation at the regional level and at the level of local fraternity.
In preparation for the feast of our Patron, a day is observed in going in pilgrimage to Monte Mariano, Farangipet and spend the day in Prayer, Adoration, Penance, Confession and the celebration of the ‘Transitus’, the final moments of St. Francis’ Journey to Heaven.
Feast of our Patron St. Francis of Assisi is celebrated at the local and regional level every year.
Annually we do contribute towards the maintenance of ‘Karunalaya’, old age home run by the Secular Franciscan Order at Brahmavar.
Spiritual Assistant :Rev. Fr. Manohar D’ Souza, Capuchin
President :Sr. Diana Miranda
Vice-President :Sr. Leena Saldhana
Secretary :Sr. Cicilia D’ Cunha
Formator : Sr. Genevieve Albuquerque
Treasurer : Br. Oneil Lobo
Councilor : (1) Sr. Irene D’ Souza
: (2) Sr. Severine Menezes
Praise Be Lord Jesus Christ, Now And For Ever.