October 12, 2017 // Diocese

Deacon professes final vows with Third Order Franciscans

By Emily Diehm

Be still and know that I am God (Ps 46:11).

Deacon Jim Kitchens, right, recently professed his final vows with the Third Order Franciscans, professing to live a life devoted to Christ, imitating him and following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. — Trisha Trout

Be still. Sitting in Deacon Jim Kitchen’s office, surrounded by pictures of him and his wife, their children, grandchildren and a beautiful cross that was recently gifted to him, this is easy for a guest to do. Deacon Kitchens emits an air of contentment and peacefulness that stays with a person.

During a recent conversation, squeezed in after Mass but before the work day officially started, Deacon Kitchens reflected on his recent profession of faith to the secular Third Order of Franciscans. However, even in his busy office, a calmness was present. 

Sharing stories about his love for his family and the great joy he feels from his weekends spent with his grandchildren in Indianapolis, Deacon Kitchens talked about attending their cross-county meets and his frequent Skype conversations with another grandson in Sweden. He has found a way to obtain a balance between home and career.

To date he has baptized 332 babies, and each of their names are written in his journal. He shared about times he was called to sit and pray with and for people as they passed, and mentioned the complete happiness he felt during each of the 35 weddings he has officiated. 

“I have felt God’s hand in so many aspects in my life. I encourage all to find a way to connect their heart to God in all they do. Doing so will make their life richer and their decisions better.”

Although many topics and situations were discussed, Deacon Kitchen’s message was clear: Slow down. Embrace quiet time, pray often and enjoy the blessings God has given. 

“I think young people, all people really, need to take a moment and be still,” he said. “Turn off the cell phones, step away from the noise and enjoy and marvel at the beauty that God has created for us to see every day. God is always present. In everything.”

In 2006, Deacon Kitchens was finishing up his masters of theology degree at the University of Notre Dame. It was a busy time for him, as he was simultaneously completing the diaconate program.

“There was a lot going on at that time in my life,” he said. “I remember one day sitting in class and observing how these two deacons always seemed to be at ease. They were happy. Peaceful. I wanted that.”

The two men he referred to are Deacon Bill Gallagher and Deacon Jim Fuchs. They shared with Deacon Kitchens that they both were members of the Third Order Franciscans. An official order within the Catholic Church, the Secular Franciscan fraternity was established early in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi.

Deacon Kitchens was intrigued. He wanted to learn more, and did. On Sept. 17 of this year he made his public commitment to live as a Secular Franciscan. 

“In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, who are led by the Holy Spirit, strive for ongoing change. We pray that we always will strive to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel,” said Kitchens. “We ask for God’s grace in helping one another in this a journey to become closer to Christ. I want to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis. I strive for joyful simplicity in my daily life.”

For Deacon Kitchens, the process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan involved a commitment of four years of formation. This included a monthly formation meeting, coupled with prayer and study. There is heavy emphasis on prayer.

“Formation is divided into three stages: an orientation stage, an inquiry stage and a candidacy stage,” he explained.

The orientation stage is a time for determining a person’s interest, eligibility and disposition to enter into the rest of the process. To be eligible, a person must be in good standing with the Catholic Church.

The inquiry stage is a time of learning about the Franciscan charism and history. It is an important time of discernment, designed to determine if the inquirer has a vocation to the order. If a vocation is discerned, both by the individual and the local fraternity, the inquirer is received into the order.

 “Normally the bishop does this, but this year Father Dave (Voors) presided. Our ceremony included five new inductees.” 

The new Secular Franciscans
have prayerfully chosen to live a simple, God-centered life. Their dedication and message is clear. Leading by example, Deacon Kitchens is teaching, urging, others just be still. 

“I believe that we should not let our possessions own us,” said Kitchens. “I will instead live a life devoted to Christ, imitating him and following in the footsteps of St. Francis.”

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