Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

  • Register


What is the World Social Forum (WSF) 

Created in 2001 at Porto Alegre, the capitol of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, the World Social Forum was seen as a democratic space to debate, network and plan actions aimed at making concrete the Forum’s “another world is possible”. It was conceived as an opposition to and challenging the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which in their annual meetings the rich nations programmed the neo-liberal top-down development models they proposed to the world. The Social Forum, however, was conceived as a process to promote bottom-up development and seeks to include grass-roots organizations, people’s social movements, NGOs, religious groups and all those interested in addressing the social, economic and political problems afflicting today’s world. The WSF promotes free manifestations of possible alternatives to the WEF model, exchange among citizens, complaints, inspiration, concrete commitments and the development of networking strategies that lead to concrete actions of international solidarity, social and environmental justice, social economy, participative democracy and the recognition of the equal dignity of all.

Working towards its objectives, the WSF does not put participants in positions of advancing or imposing their own visions and models, but rather brings together all those who are committed to seeking possible and shared solutions to a common theme or a common problem.

Franciscan participation at the WSFs

In its initial phase in 2001 members of the Franciscan family were present at the WSF and that presence has continued in successive Forums: Porto Alegre in 2005, Nairobi in 2007 and Tunis in 2015 . The Franciscan Family also participated in the United Nations Climate Summit in Rio de Janeiro (commonly known as Rio + 20) and in the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris last year, commonly known as COP21

Over the years this participation has evolved thanks to the financial support of the Mission Zentrale der Franciskaner , a German Franciscan entity created to offer financial support to the missions and the social activities of the Franciscan Family.

The original presence was loosely organized and left to personal initiative but, over time it has become gradually structured and organized, involving members of the Franciscan Family in the area where the Forum is held in order to help them become better acquainted and promotes networking to involve Franciscans at the events associated to the Forum in such a way that they can become a reference for concrete interventions on behalf of the weak and marginalized.

During our participation in the Peoples’ Summit held parallel to the organized RIO +20 Summit, an international delegation composed of Franciscans involved in JPIC ( Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation) and members of Franciscans International ( FI) decided to take action on three themes from the Franciscan contribution to work for the defence of Mother Earth: Life-style ( formation and spirituality), industrial mining and opposition to the Green Economy which seeks to commodify Creation and the Environment. Since that time, much has been done in these three areas, and especially concerning mining. After their participation in COP 21, last December the Franciscan Family decided to strengthen its commitment, focusing its engagement on extractive industries as a response to the cry of the Earth, and on the economy, as a response to the cry of the Poor – the Green Economy, which has proven to be nothing but a slogan to leave everything unchanged, has died a natural death and has even disappeared from common parlance -- and life-style, as a personal and communal witness.

Montreal 2016

The Franciscan Delegation at Montreal was composed of 14 members (OFM, OFM Conv, OFM Cap, OFS, Gifra , FCJM, FAN and FI) from all parts of the world.

Through FI , it organized some well attended activities and seminars: they treated  the rights of Nature and the Environment; the problem of tackling crimes against the environment and persons perpetrated by mining industries, with particular reference to the cases of Maikana in Canada e Mariana in Brazil; how to address Extreme Poverty as a human rights violation of these persons; and the document promoted by FI at the United Nations proposing the recognition of civil responsibility and penalizing the multinationals for damage caused by their activity beyond the state in which they have their legal seat ( at present, for example, since it is not Brazilian, BHP/VALE, the multinational society that owns the mine that caused the Mariana disaster, cannot be prosecuted by the Brazilian government ) .

There were also other activities on topics such as Migrants, the Encyclical Laudato Si and solidarity, agroecology, and the right to food (sustainability and sovereignty).

All these activities reconfirmed the necessity of working in synergy with other organizations and networking with them, to learn and share but also to offer concrete witness to Franciscan values; besides, as some episodes clearly showed, the world is thirsting for and seeking these values.

During a wrap-up gathering at the Forums conclusion, the delegation agreed on some points to work at to developing in the worldwide Franciscan Family:  

  1. In the near future, following the example of what was done at COP 21, it would be advantageous to have greater visibility, organizing a Franciscan meeting point in which we can present and share materials, documents and initiatives that illustrate our message and our values
  2. Since Laudato Si has become a milestone document, there was a suggestion to organize a seminar based on it to support the commitment to “hear” the cry of the Earth and the Poor and to respond to them concretely
  3. Begin working to raise consciousness in the grass-roots members and involve them in the area of food sovereignty and sustainability, strengthening the existing collaboration at FAO (UN Food and Agricultural Organization) and finding resources to make this collaboration ongoing
  4. Through ad hoc seminars, involve JPIC promoters and activists to help make the above-mentioned three areas of involvement a committed involvement of all Franciscans at all levels.

At the conclusion of this participation all the members of the delegation -- many of whom attended the WSF for the first time -- agreed that it was very important to be present because of the great learning opportunities offered but also because their participation and presence gave them greater awareness of the necessity of responding to these challenges with organized, effective and concrete actions, and that this can happen only when  we unite with other movements and organizations, and not only religious ones, who are working for the same goals. In this way, we Franciscans can learn from the experience of those who have been concretely committed for years or from those who have the necessary scientific expertise, at the same time bearing witness to our values and our spirituality, working side by side with them in a spirit of minority. This is the centre of our ministry and a confirmation of the fact that JPIC, which is said to be deeply rooted in the Franciscan DNA, can become a priority and a model for a new evangelization that allows us to defend the poor and the environment with the commitment of our life.

Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis

Consilium Internationale




Chapter III



Chapter III presents “Family, Inclusion and Society” and its many important themes so that we can share and reflect on them together. We suggest that you read this chapter completely. We will reflect on some points but we propose that each fraternity try to animate itself and to deepen your knowledge according to your local reality.
Let us share (discuss) in fraternity the following questions:
          1. What is the reality of our grandparents, persons with special needs, (and) single persons in our families and our surroundings?

          2. Migrants, refugees, and the persecuted live in our cities. What is their situation?

          3. Women – what are the difficult situations that women face today?

          4. Are our children and youth happy? Are their rights respected in our society?
We will form ourselves in light of the documents

The Elderly

Our grandparents are very important in the restructuring of family values:
One of the most serious and urgent tasks of the Christian family is to preserve the link between generations to ensure the transmission of the faith and the basic values of life… Grandparents in a family deserve special attention. They are the link between generations, and ensure a psycho-affective balance through the transmission of traditions and customs, values and virtues, where younger persons can recognize their roots [...] (N°17/18.)
Pope Francis, in his exhortation, Amoris Laetitia says: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Ps 71:9). This is the plea of the elderly, who fear being forgotten and rejected. Just as God asks us to be his means of hearing the cry of the poor, so too he wants us to hear the cry of the elderly. This represents a challenge to families and communities, since “the Church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less of indifference and contempt, towards old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community. Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life”. Indeed, “how I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture by
the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old!” [...] ( AL191). The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. A mentality that can only say, “Then was then, now is now”, is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth: “Recall the former days” (Heb 10:32). Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country. [...] (AL 193)

Persons with Special Needs

So much love is reflected in families that give value to life…
[...] Families which lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are to be greatly admired. They render to the Church and society an invaluable witness of their faithfulness to the gift of life[...] If the family, in the light of the faith, accepts the presence of people with special needs, they will be able to recognize and guarantee the quality and value of every human life, with its proper needs, rights and opportunities. This approach will encourage care and services on behalf of these disadvantaged persons and will encourage people to draw near to them and provide affection at every stage of their life. (N° 21) (AL 47)

Persons Who Are Unmarried

In our fraternities there are many brothers and sisters who have chosen this state in life…
Many people who are unmarried in life are not only devoted to their own family but often render great service in their group of friends, in the Church community and in their professional lives. Sometimes, their presence and contributions are overlooked, however, causing in them a sense of isolation. More often than not, many exhibit noble motives in their full engagement in art, science and the good of humanity. Many put their talents at the service of the Christian community in the name of charity and volunteer work. Others remain unmarried, because they have consecrated their lives for love of Christ and neighbor. Their dedication greatly enriches the family, the Church and society. (N° 22)

Migrants, Refugees and Those Suffering Persecution

A reality that challenges us today is welcoming these brothers and sisters and working with them…
We are all pilgrims: Special pastoral attention needs to be given to the effects of migration on the family. In various ways, migration has its effects on entire populations in different parts of the world. The Church has exercised a major role in this area. Maintaining and developing this witness to the Gospel (cf. Mt 25:35) is more urgently needed today than ever. The truth of the history of humanity and the history of migrants is inscribed in the life of families and entire peoples. Even our faith makes this clear: we are all pilgrims…In accompanying migrants, the Church needs a specific pastoral program addressed to not only families in migration but also members of the families who remain behind. This pastoral activity must be implemented with due respect for their cultures, for the human and religious formation from which they come and for the spiritual richness of their rites and traditions, even by means of a specific pastoral care. “It is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be
protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare. This is especially the case when they responsibly assume their obligations towards those who receive them, gratefully respecting the material and spiritual heritage of the host country, obeying its laws and helping with its needs” (Francis, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016, 12 September 2015). (N ° 23).


Jesus said: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
Children are a blessing from God (Gen 4:1); they ought to be of primary concern in the family and society and are a priority in the Church’s pastoral activity. “In fact, society can be judged from the way children are treated, not only morally but also sociologically, whether it is a liberal society or a society enslaved by international interests. [...] Children remind us [...] that all are sons and daughters. [...] And this always brings us back to the fact that we did not give ourselves life but that we have received it.” (Francis, General Audience, 18 March 2015) [...] (N°26)
“Families cannot help but be places of support, guidance and direction, however much they may have to rethink their methods and discover new resources. Parents need to consider what they want their children to be exposed to, and this necessarily means being concerned about who is providing their entertainment, who is entering their rooms through television and electronic devices, and with whom they are spending their free time. Only if we devote time to our children, speaking of important things with simplicity and concern, and finding healthy ways for them to spend their time, will we be able to shield them from harm. Vigilance is always necessary and neglect is never beneficial. Parents have to help prepare children and adolescents to confront the risk, for example, of aggression, abuse or drug addiction”. ( AL 260)
Childhood, today, must be a priority for the church, for the family and for state institutions – because of the possibilities (children) offer, as well as the vulnerability to which (they) are exposed. Children are a gift and a sign of God’s presence in the world because of their ability to accept the Gospel message simply. Jesus chose them with special tenderness (Cf. Mt. 19:14), and presented their capacity to accept the Gospel as a model to enter the Kingdom of God (Cf. Mark 10:14; Mathew 18:3). We painfully see the situation of the poor, of family violence (above all in irregular or broken families), of sexual abuse; we see what a large number of our children are going through -- working children, homeless children, children with HIV, orphans, soldier children, boys and girls who are misled and exposed to pornography and forced prostitution – as much virtual as actual. Above all, early childhood (0-6 years old) requires special attention and care. We cannot remain indifferent in view of the suffering of so many innocent children. (Aparecida Document, the Latin American Bishops 438/439)


“But Mary kept all these things pondering on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).
Women have a crucial role in the life of the individual, family and society. “Every human person owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of what follows in life, both human and spiritual formation, to her.” (Francis, General Audience, 7 January 2015) [...] Truly, however, the status of women in the world varies considerably, primarily because of socio-cultural factors. The dignity of women needs to be defended and promoted [...]In many places, discrimination results simply because one is a woman: the gift of motherhood is penalized rather than valued. [...]A contributing factor in the social recognition of the role of women is a greater appreciation of their responsibilities in the Church: their involvement in decision-making, their participation in the administration of some institutions and their involvement in the formation of ordained ministers.(N ° 27)


Man plays an equally decisive role in family life, particularly in reference to the protection and support of his wife and children. A model for a man in a family is St. Joseph, the just man, who in the hour of danger, “took the child and his mother by night” (Mt 2:14) and brought them to safety. Many men are aware of the importance of their role in the family and live according to their masculine role. The absence of a father gravely affects family life and the upbringing of children and their integration into society. This absence, which may be physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual, deprives children of an appropriate model of paternal behavior. [...] (N ° 27)

Young People

Many young people continue to see marriage as the great desire of their life and the idea of forming their own family as a fulfilment of their aspirations. Nevertheless, young people, in practice, have varying attitudes with regard to marriage. [...] In their plans of love, young people who are baptized are to be encouraged to have no doubts in viewing the riches available in the Sacrament of Matrimony, to be aware of the strong support they can receive from the grace of Christ and to seize the opportunity of participating fully in the life of the Church. The reasons for the young renouncing marriage and their discouragement in marrying need to be more carefully discerned. Young people can gain greater confidence in the choice of marriage thanks to those families who, in the Christian community, provide a trustworthy example of enduring witness over time. (N ° 29)

         *In view of these challenges, ¿what actions should we take and what commitments should we make?

         *Considering especially the older brothers and sisters of our fraternities, what should we do to accompany them at this stage in their lives?


Prayer to the Holy Family
Jesus, Mary and Joseph

in you we contemplate

the splendor of true love, to you, confidently we come.

Holy Family of Nazareth, make our families also

the Cenacle place of communion and prayer,

genuine schools of the Gospel and small domestic churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,

let there never be families episodes of violence,

of isolation and division;

that anyone who has been hurt or offended may soon be comforted and healed.

Holy Family of Nazareth,

make aware to all the sacred and inviolable character of the family,

of its beauty in God's plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, hear and receive our prayer.

July 2016

New council of Slovakias Fraternity was elected: 

National Minister: Josef Gazdik, International counselor: Lucia Spodniakova.

New council of Australia Fraternity was elected: 

National Minister: Lola Kelly, International counselor: Andre Burvill.

The new council of New Zealand Fraternity was elected  on the 4th of September 2016 which took place at St Francis Retreat Centre, Auckland , New Zealand: 

National Minister: Lloyd de Melo, International counselor: Chantal Healy.

...together on the journey



2016 -2                                                                                     Year 23                                                                                     n. 90




Fr. José Antonio Cruz Duarte, OFM


What does it mean to live mercy? How do we live mercy in fraternity? These questions pop up immediately when we write about “living mercy in fraternity”. To begin, it will help to define precisely the meaning of the terms, which will help us understand the underlying reality they seek to describe. What do we understand when we say mercy? When we say fraternity? The dictionary defines fraternity as a feeling of affection that binds brothers and sisters together. Fraternity is a feeling of affection for someone who is close, those who are “neighbors”. Consequently, we can say that to live mercy in fraternity is to live mercy among brothers and sisters, among those who are close, who are neighbors.

A doctor of the law asks Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: “Who is my neighbor? (Lk 10,25-27). For Jewish tradition, neighbor is someone who belongs to the family circle, with the possibility of widening the circle to include someone who is part of the Covenant with God, that is, a member of the same community. In this perspective it is not possible to love one’s enemies. In Jewish tradition it is only possible to create fraternity with those who participate in the Covenant, who are part of the people of God. We can say that fraternity is determined by family ties, by pursuing the same objectives and the same beliefs. Christianity widens the concept of neighbor.  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus presents a new idea of neighbor that goes beyond the the dimension of family or membership in the same community. He invites the doctor of the law to widen his concept of neighbor; it is: “The one who acted with mercy toward him”. Jesus reminds the doctor of the practice of justice expressed in the works of mercy.  Neighbor, fraternity and mercy are terms which are intertwined and relate to one another.

Christianity is characterized by its presentation of “neighbor” in a universal way. Neighbor is all humanity saved by Jesus Christ. Jesus, the new Moses, presents a New Law in the eight Beatitudes. He proposes: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. And pray for those who persecute and slander you” (Mt 5,44). His proposal transforms the concept of neighbor. 

In recent centuries equality between all human beings has been presented as the foundation of universal fraternity, ignoring the fact that: “The history of faith has been from the beginning a history of brotherhood, albeit not without conflict... Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters...Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity... At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ”[1].

Fraternity – what is it?

Fraternity is the path of fulfillment for human life. It is not possible to fulfill oneself humanly without being in communion with others. Without living in fraternity it is impossible to survive physically, psychologically and spiritually. “In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced”[2]. Fraternity is an essential dimension of humankind, because humans are relational beings. “The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood...It is a fatherhood, then, which effectively generates fraternity”[3].

Fraternity is the dream of God revealed by the prophet Isaiah: “The wolf will dwell with the lamb; and the leopard will lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion and the sheep will abide together; and a little boy will drive them. The calf and the bear will feed together; their young ones will rest together. And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And a breastfeeding infant will play above the lair of the asp. And a child who has been weaned will thrust his hand into the den of the king snake. They will not harm, and they will not kill, on all my holy mountain. For the earth has been filled with the knowledge of the Lord, like the waters covering the sea” (Is 11, 6-9).

When the other is seen as brother or sister, his or her fulfillment becomes a priority and precedes our own fulfillment. Saint Francis calls this fraternal attitude loving obedience.  “And should a subject see that some things might be better and more useful for his soul than what a prelate commands, let him willingly offer such things to God as a sacrifice; and, instead, let him earnestly strive to fulfill the preslates’s wishes.  For this is loving obedience because it pleases God and neighbor”[4].  

When Saint Francis composed the Canticle of Brother Sun in the spring of 1225, he included all of the other creatures, widening in this way the notion of fraternity.  Saint Francis “stretches the idea of human fraternity into that of cosmic fraterntiy, revealing not only an ecological consciouness but also a true relationship with all of Creation”[5].  But we must be careful not “to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails”[6]. Cosmic fraternity is not based on the equality of all beings, but rather on the creative love of God. “Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world”[7].

Cosmic fraternity can also be grasped by the expression “integral ecology”, where it is understood “that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others”[8].

Pope Francis says that we “together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect”[9].  This communion is realized “when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one... Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth”[10]

Mercy – what is it?

For Pope Francis, mercy is a program of life. The theme of mercy is abundantly present in his talks, homilies and catechetical teachings, because “mercy is the heart of the Gospel!”[11]. “The calling of Matthew is also presented within the context of mercy...  Saint Bede the Venerable, commenting on this Gospel passage, wrote that Jesus looked upon Matthew with merciful love and chose him: miserando atque eligendo”[12]. Pope Francis chose this expression as his slogan and program of life[13]. He declares that mercy is the face and the name of God[14], and also that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy”[15].

In the Bull “Misericordiae Vultus” there is a definition for mercy.  “Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness”[16].

“God is love” (1 John 4:8.16), and “This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously... Everything in him speaks of mercy”[17].

In the parable of the merciful father (Lk 15,11-32), Jesus reveals how God acts, how mercy overcomes everthing, how it fills the heart with love and consoles with pardon[18].

To Live Mercy in Fraternity

Fraternity promotes mercy, and mercy is only possible in fraternity. Fraternity is the space where mercy is lived.  But fraternity brings about mercy and it is not just the social constitution of a human group.  More than a juridal form designating a human grouping, fraternity is a way of being for its members.

The parable of the merciful father (Lk 15,11-32), “contains a profound teaching for all of us. Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us....  the words of Jesus who made mercy an ideal of life and a criterion for the credibility of our faith: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)”[19].

Mercy shows “God’s action towards us... By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. .... As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other”[20].

We are invited open our hearts: “Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity”[21].


The Pope tells us: “At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason, I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective”[22].

Jubilee is always an extraordinary time to live what is essential to human life and resize it according to parameters that are not measurable because God has imprinted in men's hearts a mark of his divinity: mercy, another name for love.


Roma – Seraphicum – CIOFS Presidency

From April 2nd to 9th 2016, the meeting of the CIOFS Presidency was held at the Seraphicum College, Rome. There was a fraternal and respectful atmosphere among the members of the Presidency. A sign of brotherhood was the farewell given to Br. Martin Bitzer, OFMConv, who ends his service after 12 years. In this meeting the rotation of the chairman and secretary of the CAS on duty took place.   Br. José Antonio Cruz Duarte OFM outgoing president thanked the members of the CAS for the work done and presented the new President Br. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR, and the new secretary Br. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFMCap. The liturgy, a sign of union with God, was simple but well attended. With the participation of all we got to finish well all the topics that were proposed in the agenda.

Vietnam – National Elective Chapter

The National Elective Chapter of the OFS in Vietnam was celebrated from May 13th to 15th in Thu Duc - Ho Chi Minh City, at the Retreat House San Damiano. In a fraternal atmosphere, 40 chapter members took part. The Chapter took place with the support of the Vietnamese Province of the Minor Friars of St. Francis of Assisi. Augustine Yoon, Councilor of the CIOFS Presidency, delegated by the OFS General Minister, presided over the Chapter with Br. Luke Young JinYoo, OFM, as delegate of the CAS. On May 15th, as planned, the election of the new Council took place, and Paul Nguyen Van Hoa was elected National Minister, Anton Phung Bai International Councilor and Joseph Vu Van Khai substitute International Councilor. The elected members accepted the election. The new National Executive Council was installed during the Holy Mass of Thanksgiving.

Malta – National Chapter

Between May 20th and 21st, in the "Franciscan Center" of Floriana, the National Elective Chapter of Malta took place presided over by Tibor Kauser, OFS General Minister, together with Br. Martín Bitzer, OFMConv, General Assistant OFS. Anthony Vella was elected National Minister and Godwin Vella Clark, International Councilor.

Ethiopia - Visit and professions

From May 22nd. to 29th. 2016, according to a decision of the CIOFS Presidency, Jenny Harrington, Councilor of the Presidency Br. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFMCap, General Assistant OFS-YouFra made an extraordinary visit to Ethiopia. The purpose of the visit was to hold a moment of formation for the Spiritual Assistants, to evaluate the situation of certain groups of people formed by the Capuchin Friars in different missions with a view to begin again the OFS in Ethiopia, and that Jenny Harrington, according to her assessment, might accept the profession of some, on behalf of the General Minister OFS, Tibor Kauser. After a day of formation for Spiritual Assistants, the visitors met groups in four different locations: Addis Ababa, Kanafa (in Soddo), Bushulo (in Hawassa) and Meganasse, all followed by the Capuchin Friars, although in Bushulo and Kanafa some nearby Franciscan sisters accompany closely these groups. On Sunday 29th. during the Eucharistic celebration presided by Br. Endale OFMCap, vicar of the Custody of Ethiopia, in the Church of San Francesco in Meganasse, Jenny Harrington received the profession of 23 Secular Franciscans, and then appointed a council to animate the nascent fraternity.  Other professions are planned in the coming months in other cities according to the availability of the Presidency to send someone to receive them. To be noted is the great commitment of the Capuchin Friars in promoting the OFS in their churches and fraternities.

Quito, Ecuador - IX Latin American Congress OFS-YouFra

In Cumbaya, Quito, Ecuador, in the Retreat House "San Patricio" of the Salesian Fathers, from May 25th to 29th 2016, the "OFS-Youfra IX Latin American Congress" was celebrated. From the Presidency of the OFS International Council (CIOFS) Tibor Kauser, OFS General Minister, Chelito Nuñez, General Vice-Minister OFS, Andrea Odak, Councilor for YouFra, Silvia Diana and Ana María Rafo Laos, both Councilor for Latin America, Portugal, Spain and the Portuguese-speaking nations, Br. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR, and Br. Martin Bitzer OFMConv, General Assistant OFS-YouFra attended. The event organized by the OFS National Council of Ecuador with the collaboration of the OFS Presidency was attended by 17 national fraternities of the OFS and Franciscan Youth in Latin America and the Caribbean. The theme of the Congress was: "Secular Franciscans, a family of Christian values in America." Moments of prayer (Mass, Lauds, Vespers, Eucharistic Adoration), fellowship and formation marked the event. The nine working groups examined the different issues presented. The members of the CIOFS Presidency coordinated and animated the three workshops: 1. Guidance and animation of the OFS; 2. The Franciscan Youth and the family in Latin America; 3. The spiritual assistance of the local fraternity. The opening Mass (Wednesday, May 25th.) was presided over by Br. Amando, president of the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants, while the closing Mass (Sunday, May 29th.) was presided over by Br. Martin. In this Eucharist Br. Amando made a fraternal acknowledgement of Br. Martin for his 12 years of service as General Assistant OFS-YouFra. The afternoon and evening of Friday, May 27th was devoted to a trip to the "Middle of the World", the historic center of Quito and the Convent of St. Francis, where the participants were welcomed with dances and songs typical of Ecuador and a dinner offered by the national Council and by the OFM Friars. For more information, you can consult the web page .

Italy - Pastoral and Fraternal Visit

The fraternal and pastoral visits of OFS-Italy were made by Tibor Kauser, OFS General Minister and Br. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFMCap, General Spiritual Assistant OFS-YouFra from June 1st to 5th 2016. The meetings and exchanges were made at the national headquarters in viale delle Mura Aurelia 9, Rome. 12 members from the 13 in total of the National Council were present for the visit - the majority remaining from start to finish (the representative of the Franciscan Youth was absent). The visitors started the visits with a Mass presided by Br. Francis in which he prayed for the success of the visits and reminded all of the main purpose of the visits according to the OFS General Constitutions. Then, after a brief plenary session of introduction, the visitors over the following days listened to each member individually and shared with the four Spiritual Assistants together. Tibor also saw all the registers and archives. A day with the regional ministers was planned and realised. Many came to the meeting, each one giving a very brief presentation of the situation of the OFS in his or her region. On the 3rd day, everyone went to the Monastery of Santa Chiara in via Vitellia for vespers with the sisters, followed by a conference held on Mercy by Sister Elena, Poor Clare. Since everything was well prepared and carried out on time, the visits (fraternal and pastoral) were concluded a little early on the afternoon of the fourth day, with a plenary session in which the visitors presented the conclusions and some recommendations.

It is important to note that the work began every day with Holy Mass and morning prayer in the Chapel of the National Headquarters. Both the visitors were very pleased with what they saw as an experience of fraternal relations and commitment to the service of the Order in the National Council of the OFS-Italy.

San Juan, Puerto Rico - Formation workshop for Spiritual Assistants to OFS

On Thursday, June 2nd. a formation workshop for the spiritual assistants of the OFS in Puerto Rico took place at St. Anthony School, in San Juan Porto Rico. The workshop was organized by the National Council and the OFS National Minister, Isabel Lima Pérez, and was directed by Br. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR, General Assistant OFS-YouFra. Ten assistants attended the meetings, nine Capuchin brothers and a Friar Minor, including the National Assistant, Br. Luis Gonzalez, OFMCap, and the former National Assistant Br. Luis Oscar Padilla OFMCap. The themes presented and discussed were: 1) The Origin, history and mission of the OFS, and 2) The spiritual and pastoral care of OFS. The workshop was a good opportunity to clarify some doubts and look for ways to improve the service of spiritual assistance to the OFS fraternity. The meetings were concluded with a fraternal agape.

Utuado, Puerto Rico - Formation workshop for Secular Franciscans

From Friday 3rd to Sunday, June 5th a formation workshop was held for the Secular Franciscans of Puerto Rico in the house "San José de la Porciúncula", Utuado, Puerto Rico, organized by the National Council and the OFS National Minister, Isabel Pérez Lima;  it was directed by Br. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR, General Assistant OFS-YouFra. About 60 Secular Franciscans from various local OFS Fraternities of the Island attended the workshop. The themes were: 1) The Origin, history and mission of the OFS, 2) The identity of the OFS, 3) Active presence of the OFS in the Church and in the world, 4) The spiritual assistance and pastoral care of the OFS, and 5) the sense of brotherhood in the OFS. The workshop took place in an atmosphere of fraternity and active participation. The working groups and plenary sessions were very fruitful. The work was accompanied by liturgical celebrations and fraternal recreation, surrounded by an exuberant nature.

Ukraine - National Elective Chapter

The National Elective Chapter in the Ukraine was held from June 3rd to 5th at the "House of Mary and bread" managed and restored by the OFS National Council, in Starij Ostropil, Khmielnickyi region. The Chapter was presided over by the delegate of the General Minister Tibor Kauser, Attilio Galimberti, member of the CIOFS Presidency and Br. Rufino Maryjka, OFM, Provincial Minister of the Province of Saint Mary of the Angels of Krakow as the Delegate of CAS. In a spirit of prayer, fraternity, service and reception it was attended by 52 representative chapter members of the 1,300 Secular Franciscans of Ukraine.  The three National Assistants, and a National Assistant of YouFra, and some local assistants were also present. Natalia Almiz was elected National Minister, Dina Francesca Szabalina was elected International Councilor and Christina Lopaczak Deputy International Director. At the Mass of installation, the National Assistant, Br Krzysztof Pelc, OFMCap presided.

Bulgaria - Sofia Chapter of the fraternity

In Bulgaria there is an OFS fraternity in Sofia, the only fraternity established in Bulgaria, and another in Zhitnitsa, of which nothing is known about the canonical erection. The fraternity of Zhitnitsa consists of older and infirm women. The fraternity of Sofia consists of only 6 brothers. The elective Chapter of the OFS fraternity of Sofia in Bulgaria was celebrated on June 17th at the "Center of the Parish Church of St. Joseph” in Sofia. The Chapter was presided over by the delegate of the General Minister Tibor Kauser, Attilio Galimberti, member of the Presidency CIOFS and Br. José Antonio Cruz Duarte, OFM, General Assistant. The spiritual assistant Br. Marcin Grec, OFMCap, and Br. Jaroslaw Babik Guardian, OFMCap, were present. Vesselin Krastev was elected Minister of the fraternity, and Elizabeta Bosilkova was elected vice-minister.

Dominican Republic - National Elective Chapter

The National Elective Chapter of the OFS of the Dominican Republic was celebrated from June 24th to 26th, in Santo Domingo. The Chapter was presided over by the delegate of the General Minister Tibor Kauser, Isabel Lima Peréz, National Minister of Puerto Rico, and Br. Gerardo A. Vargas Cruz, OFM, Custos of the Franciscan Custody of the Caribbean as a delegate of the CAS. In a spirit of prayer, fraternity, service and reception, 14 regional ministers of the 15 regions attended the chapter. Br Juan Miguel Gutierrez, OFM, and Br Fernando Samaniego, OFM, National Spiritual Assistants were present. María Mejía was elected National Minister, Luismi Diego Ruiz was elected Deputy Minister, Aida López was elected International Councilor. The inaugural Mass was celebrated by Br. Gerardo A. Vargas Cruz, OFM.

Lusaka - Zambia – Formation Course

From June 22nd to 25th, a formation workshop was held at St. Bonaventure's University Institute in Lusaka - Zambia for Spiritual Assistants and members of the OFS National Councils of English-speaking East African countries. This was the first planned and realized by the coordination of the Africa Project of the CIOFS. It was attended by 90 delegates including 16 Spiritual Assistants from ten different countries including Angola and Mozambique that are Portuguese-speaking. The project was approved and sponsored in part by the CIOFS Presidency and had as the main theme: "let's start again because until now we have done little or nothing." The animators of the workshops, Jenny Harrington, OFS, and Br. Francis Bongajum Dor, OFMCap, made presentations on the identity and nature of the OFS, guidelines for formation, roles and responsibilities of major superiors and spiritual assistants, and on the social teaching of the Church. A third speaker, Daniel Chidemu from Zimbabwe gave a testimony about the family. All participants were hosted at the three convents of the Friars Minor that make up St. Bonaventure's University Institute. At the end of the work, the participants who were able, made a pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine in Lusaka. The Africa Project Coordinator, Adolph Assagba OFS-Togo did not have a visa for Zambia, and so was absent. But he sent a greeting of encouragement to all the participants. With the grace of God, for next year, members of the Africa Project foresee a forthcoming workshop in French for West and Central Africa. Despite the initial uncertainty and some difficulties in communication and organization, this workshop was a great success, thanks to the support of the Friars Minor of the place.

United States - OFS Quinquennial Congress

From June 30th to July 4th, in the city of Saint Louis, Louisiana, USA, the Quinquennial Congress of the OFS was celebrated. Among the 600 participants were also four members of the Presidency CIOFS: Tibor Kauser, OFS General Minister, Ana Fruk, Jennny Harrington and Br. Martin Bitzer, OFMConv, who, in addition to presenting the different topics asked of them, made up a round table on Saturday, July 2nd. The speakers were as different as the form of presentation of their reports. Work in small groups made possible the participation of all delegates. Br Martin presided over the Mass of Friday, July 1st. Reflections, moments of celebration and fraternal sharing experienced in a very organized and structured environment meant that this Congress took place with great success. The US National Council together with its national Minister Jan Parker demonstrated a great unity and capacity for work which involved a large number of collaborators, starting with the members of the OFS Regional Council based in Saint Louis. The presence of Secular Franciscans from various regions of the United States is a positive sign that opens up interesting prospects for the OFS recovery in that country. For more information, you can visit the website.

Words of Gratitude to Br. Martin Bitzer, OFMConv

The Conference of General Spiritual Assistants would like to thank Br. Martin Bitzer for his fraternal service to the OFS and CAS carried out during these twelve years, extending to him the best possible wishes for his new assignment. Martin Bitzer, OFMConv, was appointed General Assistant of the OFS and YouFra on July 2nd, 2004. Thank you, dear Br. Martin, from the heart.

[1] Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei, 29 June 2013, n. 54

[2]Pope Francis, Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace – 1 January 2014, n.1.

[3] Ibid n.3.

[4] Admonition III. Perfect Obedience.  Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume I, p. 130.  New City Press, New York, 1999.

*NB – In medieval ecclesiastical language the term prelate generically designates any person who is responsible for the “care of souls”, from bishops to parish priests.  Francis extended the concept to include the “ministers” of the fraternities, who are called to care for the souls of the brothers (See Earlier Rule IV, 6).

[5] Card. Roger Etchegaray, Homily at the celebration of the Jubilee of the Franciscan Family in 2000:

[6] Pope Francis, Laudato sì, 24 May 2015, n.90.

[7] Ibid. n.77.

[8] Ibid. n.70.

[9] Ibid.n.89.

[10] Ibid. n. 92.

[11] Pope Francis, Address to participants in a course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, 28 March 2014.

[12] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 11 April 2015, n.8.

[13] Cfr. The explanation of the Coat of Arms of Pope Francis.

[14] Cfr. Pope Francis, Angelus, 18 August 2013. 

[15] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 11 April 2015, n.1.

[16] Ibid. n.2.

[17] Ibid. n.8.

[18] cfr. Ibid. n.9.

[19] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 11 April 2015, n.9.

[20] Ibid. n.9.

[21] Ibid. n.15

[22] Ibid. n.3.

New council of Paraguay Fraternity elected : 

National Minister: Higinio F. Díaz Noceda, International counselor: Alcides I. Martínez A.