Publication Name
TAU-INFO
Vol. 16 - No. 3 - September

Period
September

 


Year
2004

Volume
16

 


Number
3


 

Praise and bless my Lord,

thank Him and praise Him in deep humility.

A very happy feast of Saint Francis to all!

 

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News from the Franciscan Federation in the U.S.A.

The 39th Annual Franciscan Conference of the Franciscan Federation in the United States met in Fort Worth, Texas, from August 15 - 18, 2004. The theme of the conference was Common Bread and Blessing: The Currency of Our Franciscan Life. Sister Gabriele Uhlein, OSF and Brother William J. Short, OFM, gave presentations centred on the theme. Here are a few "kernels" of what they talked about.

The presentations began by looking at Francis' and Clare's time and what type of money was used and how it was viewed by the people of that time. Looking at our life today, currency can be defined as a "medium of exchange":

* that which connects us,
* how needs are met and responded to,
* determines our business/busyness,
* how we spend/invest time and resources,
* how value is ascribed or lost.

The universe is the "alms" of God to us. In our communities there are three "E's" to look at: Economy, Ecology, and Eucharist. What economic realities exist for us? How do we care for the earth? In an Eucharistic economy, everything is gift; we own nothing.

At the business meeting two resolutions were affirmed:

1. Resolution to Advocate for Global HIV/AIDS Funding - Realising that we are in solidarity with the People of Africa and other underdeveloped countries, members of the Franciscan Fede-ration commit them-selves to prayerful support, to education about the HIV/AIDS crisis, and to advocacy for Global HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention funding.

2. Resolution to Advocate for the Night Commuters - Realising that we are in solidarity with the People of Africa and have a special concern for the children in northern Uganda, members of the Federation commit themselves to prayerful support, to education about the condition of the night commuters, and to advocacy for legislation that addresses this crisis.

The Conference also reaffirmed the 2000 resolution which states that since we hold that each human being is created by a God whose mercy extends to the most errant behaviour, we urge an immediate end to the death penalty. Presentations on the last morning of the Assembly and an action of writing postcards and marching with them to the post office were focused on ending the death penalty.

In keeping with the theme of the Conference, a Peacemaker Banquet honoured some fifty Franciscans, men and women, who witnessed through their lives how they treasured the gifts, both communal and personal, entrusted to them.

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The "Adventure of a Journey"…

Seven Franciscan Congregations modestly questioned themselves on the prophetic dimension of the Rule of 1982 and the possibility of founding a new Franciscan Congregation together.

The Superiors General and some general councillors of each Congregation met regularly and in 1989 a Federative Charter was drawn up which would become the Charter of Collaboration in 1990. Through this Charter the Congregations committed themselves to a project of collaboration without knowing exactly where this would lead them.

Inter-Institute Councils formed by the Superiors General and their respective councils met once a year for sharing their life and helping to discern on orientations to be taken.

In 1992, the Charter of Collaboration became a Federation Project. The Institutes then drew up the Federation Statutes which were submitted to Rome who approved them on 30th November 1993 ad experimentum for three years.

The Statutes of the Federation were accepted by all the Congregations and approved definitively in December 1999. From 1999 to 2001 the Congregations, while preserving their autonomy, organised meetings open to all the Sisters; these included ongoing formation courses, Spiritual Exercises, study days, etc.

A step forward was taken in setting up some important commissions:
+ The "Formation" Commission which planned meetings for local superiors of Europe and Africa
+ The " First Call" Commission which sought to give a thrust to youth ministry and vocation promotion in the different Congregations.
+ The "Mission-Administration" Commission which brought together the Superiors General and General Bursars of all the Congregations under every aspect (juridical, demographic, economic, etc..)

In the Federal Council meeting of 2000, the Superiors General presented the situation of the various Institutes in view of a possible Union. Thus on 20th September 2000, a new step was taken when at Orsay a day of formation and information was pro-grammed; this was animated by a Jesuit priest, a canonist and consultor of the CICLSAL (Fr. Michel Dortel-Claudot). More than 140 sisters responded; they included Belgians, French, Indians, Italians, Spanish, Swiss, Africans from Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, Central Africa, all of them being in the heart of the Federation.

The road to the Union was an Exodus marked by perplexity, fear, doubt, trials and joy; everything was lived in faith, in hope "which does not fail". The deep motivations were our strength and encouraged us towards the Union:
* to respond to the urgent calls of the Church and the world,
* vitality of the Franciscan charism,
* witness of unity in a divided world,
* sharing of common richness,
* greater quality service to the poor.

The Spirit urged us on "to dare the future" and so we saw the first stage of the journey towards Union realised.

We also organised:
# international meetings where we divided the work of questionnaires drawn up by each community,
# assemblies on an international level; to know one another and reflect together on themes that are particular and essential to our Franciscan consecrated life,
# meetings of the various commissions that drew up the Project of Life that would be the basis of the Constitutions of the New Institute, that was reviewed by the participants in their various meetings,
# international and inter-congregational communities.

The 6th March 2003 was an important day of our journey. Six Superiors General accompanied by the Jesuit priest, canonist, met the Congregation for Religious (CICLSAL), to submit our Union Project to the Church in the spirit that animated Saint Francis, to ask for the approval of the Church through the Sovereign Pontiff' s word.

The Superiors General were received very cordially and were reassured and encouraged to continue the "path undertaken" even if it would be a "paschal mystery" to be lived, so that the New Institute may be an authentic "bearer of life" The 'experts' had accompanied us during this time:
- an Assumptionist priest for the theological aspect of the consecrated life,
- a Franciscan friar for the Franciscan aspect,
- a Jesuit priest for the canonical and juridical part.

Other experts helped us for study days in the different countries.

On 27th March 2004, we had a celebrative day and a feast called "Chapter of Mats" because it brought together 270 Sisters belonging to seven Congregations that would form the Union.

On this occasion it was announced that the New Congregation would be called, "Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi"

Some documents were written to accompany us for the first three years of the New Institute:
* The Project of Life which is the core and basis for the future Constitutions,
* the Transitional Statutes whose aim is to organise the overall life and promote unity,
* the Statute on Formation for the various formative stages.

1. The duration of the stage of "Active Search" lasted for two years, from 25th March 2002 till 27th March 2004.

2. Now we are living the Canonical Stage from April to July 2004. In all the Congregations, there was the spiritual preparation for the personal consultation of each sister for entering the Union with the other six Congregations. Then, in all the Congregations Ordinary or Extra-ordinary Chapters were celebrated in order to vote on the decision for the entry of each Congregation into the Union. Now they must send the file of all the Sisters of each Institute to the Congregation for Religious with the Request for forming the Union and await the answer from the Church which, if all goes well, will send the Decree of Erection of the New Congregation before the end of 2004.

It is also very humbly that we presented our request to our Holy Mother the Church, knowing that our deepest desire is to allow ourselves to be led by a path that the Spirit alone knows in order to live the essential of our belonging to Christ in His Church and in the world.

Be praised O God our Father who raised up "new paths" in His Church where diversity is harmonised, united and becomes richness for all.

Be praised, Spirit of the Lord who gives light and strength to "dare the future" allowing oneself to be challenged by new situations towards and "unpredictable becoming" and "running unthinkable courses".

Be praised, Lord Jesus Christ who invites us to live His Gospel in the manner of Francis of Assisi, to serve the brothers and sisters in "minority and fidelity" according to the special charism given to Francis and passed on even to us, "deposit of a heritage", "witnesses of communion and of hope" and "living stones" foundation of this New family, born of the "creative breath" of the Spirit in His Church.