| Franciscan Federation USA
The Franciscan Federation
of the Sisters and Brothers
of the Third Order Regular
of the United States
O. Box 29080
Washington, DC 20017
TEL: (202) 529-2334
FAX: (202) 529-7016
VISIT THE | FRANCISCAN FEDERATION WEBE SITE |
in the United States
the thirteenth century on, Franciscans had spread throughout Europe and beyond. During the
sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Franciscan friars of the First Order were
engaged in missionary activities among the Indians in the future United States, especially
in the southwest. Not until the nineteenth century, however, did Franciscan men and women
of the Third Order create foundations in the United States.
mid-nineteenth century more and more active communities of Third Order Regular Franciscan
women in Europe had begun to emerge from cloistered foundations or were newly founded to
serve the poor, the ill and the uneducated. These beginnings occurred during the
political, religious and social movements in Europe which caused widespread emigration to
the United States.
first group of Third Order men to come to the United States did so in 1847. At the request
of Bishop M. O'Connor of Pittsburgh, PA, six Third Order brothers came to Loretto, PA from
the monasteries of Roundstone and Chfden, Ireland. They began their educational ministry
by establishing St. Francis Academy for Boys.
1849 a group of six women, the same number of men, and two priests, all members of the
Third Order Secular, came to Milwaukee from Ettenbeuren, Bavaria. The women succeeded in
forming a religious community of the Third Order of St. Francis. These two totally
unrelated ventures were the beginnings of many more that were to occur during the rest of
the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.
find thirteen men's Third Order Regular Franciscan communities in the United States
offlcially approved by the Church. Several that have been more recently founded are in a
state of formation. The generalate or motherhouse of seven of these is in the United
States. Two have generalates in Germany, two in Italy, one in Spain and one in Ireland.
Eight are communities of brothers, five include both friars (ordained clerics) and
brothers. The first independent group of brothers to be founded in the United States is
the Congregation of the Religious Brothers of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis,
commonly called the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn.
the seventy-seven women's Third Order Regular Franciscan communities listed in the
Official Catholic Directory, 1994, thirty-nine originated in the United States although
their founders may have emigrated from a European country. one of these is a recent
reunification of two communities and one, the amalgamation of two unrelated Franciscan
communities. The other thirty-eight were founded by religious congregations from fifteen
countries. Most of these are provinces or some kind of subdivision of a motherhouse
located outside the United States. Many of the women founders belonged to the Third Order
Secular before taking the step to form a Third Order Regular religious community both in
Europe and in the United States.
the United States the founders of the Franciscan communities and their companions were
holy and intrepid women determined to live what they understood as the Franciscan way of
life and, in doing so, bring Christ's love and compassion to those they served,
particularly through education and health care. Sometimes they came in fulfillment of
their own vision and sometimes at the request, direction and encouragement of bishops and
clergy, sometimes of Franciscan friars. They pioneered, not only alongside immigrant
families, but often emerged as leaders and innovators by stepping outside and beyond the
perceived role of their women counterparts.
Third Order sisters and brothers came to the United States, however, during the nineteenth
century, the combination of the counter-reformation Church, the unmet social needs of the
"new poor", the working classes of the Industrial Revolution, the demands of
frontier life, as well as the constitutional jurisdictional interpretations of the time,
profoundly affected their lives and spirituality. Recent research into the increasingly
accessible Franciscan sources has brought about a deeper understanding and enlightened
interpretation of the Franciscan vocation in a society experiencing the throes of change
similar to the days of Francis.
Vatican II, Third Order sisters and brothers, through their research have come to know not
only their thirteenth century Franciscan founders better, but they have also come to know
the founders of their individual communities better, as well as the circumstances of the
time and subsequent developments. They have discovered how these women and men struggled
against almost insurmountable odds to fulfil their mission, how they persisted in the face
of various kinds of opposition sometimes clerical, so they could be true to the spirit of
Francis as they interpreted Gospel living for their time.
first Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852 the Bishops of the United States accepted the
goal of the Provincial Councils that there be a parochial school in every parish. This
goal, combined with the belief that the Catholic faith was best preserved if learned in
one's native language, motivated ethnic parishes to build schools and seek religious
sisters and brothers to staff them. As a result, elementary and secondary education in
parochial and diocesan settings became the primary ministry of most of the Franciscan
Congregations. Some also established schools and academies of their own, especially with
the intent of providing secondary education for young women and men.
and religious education for children and adults also became a ministry for many of the
sisters and some of the brothers, as well as Montessori, pre-school and day-care programs.
These and ministries in social services, retreat and pastoral work in parishes and health
care institutions developed as communities expanded and societal needs changed.
in the nineteenth century and earlier days of the twentieth, dioceses established
orphanages for the care and education of children who had lost parents because of disease,
war and hazards concomitant with pioneer living. Some of these orphanages, when there were
fewer orphans, became havens for troubled and disturbed children. A number of Third Order
men's and women's congregations have developed schools and homes for the mentally
retarded, both children and adults.
congregations continue their work among Native Americans on reservations, in parishes for
the Blacks in the south and inner cities, among Hispanics, Asians and migrant workers.
Originally missionaries to the United States, Franciscan congregations as they grew in
membership sent missionaries abroad, especially to China in the 1920s until 1949. They are
now found in many countries in Africa, Asia, South and Central America.
of others demanded that the sisters and brothers become educated themselves. To this end
they began to attend institutions of higher learning and to establish normal schools
and/or colleges for the education of their own members and other religious. Presently
Franciscan Third Order women sponsor fifteen colleges which offer 4-year baccalaureate
degree and some master degree programs. The men sponsor two colleges. Most of the
institutions of higher education sponsored by the men and women are now coeducational.
than half of the Third Order women's congregations are involved in some form of healing
ministry which often began as home care and developed from sponsorship of a single
hospital to numerous hospitals; schools of nursing; nursing homes, hospice and home care
and related social services. At least thirty congregations sponsor health care systems,
some of which constitute more than 30 entities. The Third Order men also sponsor homes and
services for the elderly, engage in nursing and provide various social services for the
ill and homeless.
FRANCISCAN FEDERATION, U.S.A.
the 1960s, the major superiors of the Franciscan communities of women, became convinced
that the time had come for collaboration among themselves. They founded the Federation of
Franciscan Sisters in 1965 for the purpose of working together to renew religious life as
followers of St. Francis. Sixteen years later (I981) the federation widened its
membership to include the Third Order Regular men and is now officially the Franciscan
Federation of the Sisters and Brothers of the Third Order Regular of the United States.
Also, the Franciscan
Orders, men and women, collaborate in support of Franciscans International, a
nongovernmental organization at the United Nations. It serves its members, United Nations
personnel and other non-governmental organizations "through collaboration, education,
and action regarding care of creation, peacemaking, and concern for the poor." As we
approach the twenty-first century, the Franciscan message is more pertinent than it has
taken in part from:
Committed to All .....
Pages 35 - 41
EDITIONS DU SIGNE
BP 94 - 1 rue Alfred Kastler
F-67038 Strasbourg CEDEX 2
by: Justin Lang, O.F.M.
Grace McDonald, F.S.P.A.