By Trish Linner
As the first snow of the season fell gently outside, 14 individuals, surrounded by family, friends and members of Franciscan religious orders, professed their vows as Secular Franciscans on Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration chapel in Mishawaka. The profession is the culmination of a three-year journey for the newest members.
The Secular Franciscan Order was established by St. Francis of Assisi around the year 1221, and was originally called the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. He established the order for people interested in following in his footsteps, but not in being bound by religious life. The Secular Franciscans are a true order, approved by Rome, and a global organization open to any man or woman, married or single, who is interested in living the Gospel as St. Francis did — through humility, prayer, service and devotion to Jesus Christ and his or her fellow man.
Sister Agnes Marie Regan, OSF, who serves as spiritual assistant to the Secular Franciscans, greeted guests before and after the ceremony.
“Today is a very joyous occasion, as we carry on an 850-year old tradition. It is pure love to witness men and women professing their love and devotion to Jesus Christ today,” she stated. “We want to thank God for the blessings of this day.”
In his homily, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades thanked the candidates for their dedication to the ideals of St. Francis. He reminded them to include the five ways that St. Francis encountered Jesus Christ into their daily lives. He told those gathered that St. Francis encountered Jesus Christ in prayer, in the Gospels, through other people, in nature and most importantly, in the Holy Eucharist. “This is the way to holiness,” he said.
The Franciscans were honored to have Bishop Rhoades serve as the celebrant for the ceremony. He was joined by priests from many of the home parishes of those making their profession. “We feel very excited and blessed that the Bishop could be with us today. It was so generous of him to celebrate with us,” said Linda O’Neil, OFS, minister of the local fraternity of the order.
The Secular Franciscans meet once a month to continue their formation. “We are always striving to live as Christ. Spending time together helps us remain committed to each other and our order,” said O’Neil. In addition, the Secular Franciscans serve their communities in a variety of ways. One local group serves breakfast for the homeless at Our Lady of the Road in South Bend once a month. “Community is very important, serving others is a vital part of our order,” she noted.
The Franciscan community is proud to welcome Sarah Belisle, Joella Carll, Cathy Catral, Diego Delgado, Deborah Feece, Dennis Feece, Kathy Fuchs, Anita Harker, Daniel Kreager, Diane Kreager, Marcy Salkay, Jeff Shafier, Randolph Thomas and Chantel Vigbedor as the newest Secular Franciscans.
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