Friday, June 18, 2010

Secular Franciscans passionate about serving others

We hope that all Ministers (both Regional and Local) would consider asking your local diocesan or even local newspaper to "publicize" your Permanent Professions. What a wonderful story this is, and St. Clare Regional Minister Sherry Stevenson reported that they had a great turnout and numerous inquiries about the Secular Franciscan life as a result of this story.

Please don't let our "bright, new lights" be hidden under the bushel basket!

Secular Franciscans passionate about serving others
By Jennifer Brinker |
Image by Lisa A. Johnston

Pure joy is in Debbie Schisler's voice.
Since childhood, Schisler knew in her heart she wanted to help others. That carried over into adulthood. And next week, the 53-year-old wife and mother of five will make an even stronger commitment to that way of life as she is professed as a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.
Schisler, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Arnold, is one of five individuals who will make their profession as Secular Franciscans next week as members of the St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity in Oakville. They formally will become part of a larger community of Franciscans that pledge to live the Gospel message, following in the ways of St. Francis of Assisi. The saint exemplified virtues including obedience, charity, humility, poverty, simplicity and wisdom.
Secular Franciscans are individuals who live as married or single laypeople. They can also be diocesan priests and permanent deacons. They strive to live the virtues of St. Francis by using their individuals gifts, given by the Holy Spirit, within their families, workplaces and even parish life, according to formation director Rita Baughman.
Baughman said that there are many examples of those who wish to become Secular Franciscans. "We have young people, senior citizens. People like the simplicity, the deepening of the spirituality we try to emphasize. St. Francis had many dimensions, so people are attracted for different reasons." She stressed the main requirement for someone joining the community is a love for the saint and a desire to live their lives in his spirit.
Schisler was exposed to the Franciscan way of life at an early age. Her father's youngest brother was a Franciscan priest.
"I just loved his lifestyle," she recalled. "He just seemed so free and loving."
She also recalled a simple memory from her own childhood, a time she shared her crayons with a fellow classmate, only to be chastised by other children for doing so.
"I thought, 'Isn't that what we're supposed to do?'"
Schisler knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life helping others, but it wasn't until about four years ago, when an aunt died, that she recognized that there was a community of Catholics living the life she already had.
That aunt, buried in a brown habit, was a member of the Secular Franciscans. "I didn't know anything about them before that. So I started searching on the Internet about Secular Franciscans."
Prior to their profession, Secular Franciscans undergo formation, which generally takes about three years, sometimes longer, depending on the individual, said Baughman. There are several stages, including an orientation, which offers individuals an introduction to the community; inquiry, a formal period of initiation to learn more about the Franciscan way of life at a deeper level; and candidacy, a final period of initiation and immersion to prepare for the permanent commitment as a Franciscan.
After their profession, Secular Franciscans continue their formation through monthly group meetings. They also are involved in several apostolates, including assistance to the Poor Clare Sisters, participating in local fund-raising efforts, helping with the Franciscan Connection, a ministry that provides outreach to the poor, and teaching school children about the life of St. Francis.
While she was going through formation, Schisler said she was seeking a "set of rules -- something that was black and white." But instead, she developed an understanding that the commitment was more about emphasizing a way of life and not so much about following rules. "I learned that being a Franciscan is living with dignity while helping others to live with dignity."
Schisler said Baughman explained to her that "when you profess, you become part of a community of support. That's what drew me to this."
After profession, it will be life as usual for Schisler. During the week, she babysits for her three grandchildren. She also serves as a second-grade PSR teacher at Immaculate Conception, a role she has had for the past two decades. She volunteers as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and participates in a small faith-sharing community at the parish. She especially enjoys working with PSR students at a time when they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and First Communion.
The difference is that being a Franciscan "formally will hold me accountable," she said. "It will make my everyday living more conscious of it."
"This is an ongoing conversion," said Baughman. "It doesn't just stop at profession. We're constantly striving to become more Franciscan in our manners, in our mindset and in our lifestyle."

Five Catholics will profess as members of the Secular Franciscan Order next week. They include Suzee Irwin, Epiphany Parish in South St. Louis; Debbie Schisler, Mimi Siebert and Beverly Tedeschi, all of Immaculate Conception Parish in Arnold; and Deacon John Wainscott of St. Justin Martyr Parish in Sunset Hills.
All are welcome to attend the Mass and profession, especially those interested in becoming a
member of the Secular Franciscans.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 9
Poor Clare Monastery, 200 Marycrest Drive in Oakville
learn more about the Secular Franciscans, call Sherry Stevenson at (314)
487-5058 or e-mail her at [2]

Secular Franciscans
The following are current statistics on the Secular Franciscans in the United States:
* 14,722 professed members
* 2,143 members currently in formation
* 674 Secular Franciscan fraternities, with an additional 80 that are emerging
* There are 11 fraternities and 209 professed members in the St. Clare Region, which includes St. Louis, Oakville, Normandy, O’Fallon, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Boonville/Jefferson City, Mo., Rolla, Mo., Springfield, Mo., Belleville, Ill., Granite City, Ill., and Evansville, Ind.
* The Secular Franciscans are part of the Third Order of St. Francis, which was founded by the saint in 1221. It includes members who form fraternities as well as isolated tertiaries, hermits and pilgrims. Franciscans of the First Order include the Friars (priests and brothers), both Capuchin and Oblates, and was founded by St. Francis in 1209. The Second Order includes the Poor Clares, monasteries of cloistered women religious who profess the rule of St. Clare. The foundation for that community was created in 1212.
All content copyright (©) 2010 Saint Louis Review. All Rights Reserved.