Who We Are
The Secular Franciscan Order, formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, is an official Order within the Catholic Church, established by St. Francis of Assisi himself early in the thirteenth century. Ordinarily, we do not live in community; rather, we live with our families and perform our jobs out in the world, gathering in fraternities on a regular basis. By profession, we 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 ongoing daily conversion, to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel. We seek, with and only with God's grace, perfect charity in our secular state, helping one another in this journey closer to Christ, following in the footsteps of Sts. Francis and Clare. (Taken from an letter by: Tom Bello, OFS Minister, Secular Franciscan Order – USA) Is God Calling You to the Secular Franciscan Order?
Our Rule of Life
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance
In the name of the Lord!
Concerning Those Who Do Penance
All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.
Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because "the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them" (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make "his home and dwelling among them" (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).
We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill "the will of the Father who is in heaven" (Mt 12:50).
We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).
Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.
The first fraternity of the Third Order of St. Francis was established in Phoenix under the patronage of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia. The Declaration of Establishment is dated February 18, 1898 and was signed by the Rev. Theodore Arentz, OSF. This was a Spanish speaking fraternity that met at St. Mary's Church in Phoenix which today, is still the meeting place of St. Francis Fraternity.
In 1902, the first English speaking tertiaries were received into the fraternity and soon thereafter, the practice of having separate meetings for English and Spanish tertiaries prevailed. Each group had its own ministers and separate set of officers. The group of English speaking tertiaries were given the name of St. Francis Fraternity around 1922 but did not become established as a separate and independent fraternity until 1940. The Document of Establishment was signed by the Rev. Brian Lyons, OFM, Director and was filed in the Diocese of Tucson.
The first prefect was Clyda Markham, who served from 1940-1942. Sr. Markham also served as historian from the inception until two years before her death in 1960. The membership was stated as 285 members in 1958.
St. Francis Fraternity has always been characterized by its caring activities and rich spirituality offered to its members. One of the projects the fraternity has taken on was active participation in the St. John's Indian Mission Fair. This included making crafts, dolls and other items and selling them at the fair.
Always interested in spreading the Good News, the fraternity steadily supported the Franciscan Communication Center. Tertiaries took an active part in getting the program, "The Hour of St. Francis" on the air and keeping it on for several years. Other outreach projects included showing spiritual movies and maintaining a library.
The newsletter, the "Franciscan Crown" was first introduced in 1935 and has provided news and inspiring reading. It reached its high point under editor, Louise Caruso.
In 1959, St. Francis hosted a convention, with the theme "The Third Order Fraternity: A Spiritual School for Life" and activities included workshops, spiritual exercises and a school for Tertiaries.
Several members have served on the provincial and national levels. Among these were Clyda Markham, Joe Caruso and Bob McCarthy.
Quietly and prayerfully, St. Francis Fraternity continues to love and serve Jesus in the spirit of St. Francis
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