Secular Franciscans - The
FRANCIS & CLARE OF ASSISI
Article by: Carol Gentile, SFO
National Minister, Secular Franciscan Order - USA
January 2004 -
The Secular Franciscan Order,
formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, is an official Order within the Catholic
Church, and was established by St. Francis of Assisi early in the thirteenth century.
Members do not live in community, but live their everyday lives in the world. However,
members gather together in fraternity on a regular basis. By profession, they promise to
follow a Rule of Life approved and confirmed by Pope Paul VI in June of 1978.
In these fraternities the brothers and
sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state.
At their profession they
pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of St. Francis by
means of this rule approved by the Church. The National Fraternity is represented at
the International level (headquarters in Rome - see website
http://www.ofs.it), by an International
The SFO in the United States is structured
into 31 geographic regions; the Minister (president) of each Region is a member of the
National Fraternity Council, as are the members of the National Executive Council and four
members of the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants, one from each of the four
Friar Obediences. There are approximately 741 local fraternities which have a total of
approximately 17,000 professed members, and there are approximately 1400 people in
formation. Each fraternity has a Spiritual Assistant, who is usually a First Order, or
Third Order Regular, Friar, but could be a religious, diocesan clergy, or a certified lay
The process of becoming a professed Secular
Franciscans involves a commitment of from 18 to 36 months of formation. The extent depends
on the guidelines of the particular Region. The average duration of a monthly formation
meeting is approximately two hours. At home study is expected. Initial formation is
divided into three stages: an Orientation stage, an Inquiry stage and a Candidacy stage.
The Orientation stage is a time for determining a person's interest, eligibility and
disposition to enter into the rest of the process. The Inquiry stage is a time of learning
about the Franciscan charism, Franciscan history, etc. and is a time of discernment to
determine if the inquirer has a vocation to the Order. If vocation is discerned, the
inquirer is received into the Order. The goal of the Candidacy phase of formation is the
candidate's profession to live the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. Profession is a
The Rule calls Secular Franciscans to four
Apostolic areas: Ecology, Family, Peace and Justice and Work. National Apostolic
Commissions promote apostolic action in these four areas. There is a National Youth
Commission which promotes the Franciscan Charism among youth, and a National Formation
If you are interested in the Secular
Franciscan Order, and, especially, if you feel that you have a vocation, please phone
1-800-FRANCIS for more information.
Peace, Joy and Love,
Carol Gentile, SFO
Minister, Secular Franciscan Order - USA
the Lord bless you and keep you;
may the Lord show his face to you
and have compassion on you!
May he turn his face to you
and give you peace!