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Secular Franciscan Formation and Discernment. Decisions we need to make for our candidates and our Order. Bill Geary, SFO April 2009.

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Secular FranciscanFormation and Discernment

  • Decisions we need to make for
  • our candidates and our Order

Bill Geary, SFO

April 2009


“The Church recognizes Secular Franciscans as belonging to a real Order….Their profession to live the Gospel life is so extraordinary that, it too, is regarded as a sacred act that is no less important then the profession that friars and sisters make.”

Fr. Felice Cangelosi, OFM Cap. Speaking on the mystery of the SFO profession. Complete context of his presentation can be found on the NAFRA Web site.


If all we do is feed our candidates intellectually and fail to feed the heart and soul we are basically fooling ourselves.

The need is urgent to make our candidates AND our professed members understand fully what it means to be a member of the Franciscan Order, and to understand without any doubt what our profession means.


Decisions, decisions, decisions

  • Are we a Religious Order or Club?
  • Is it good for the Order or are club numbers more important?
  • Is the decision-making a two way street?
  • What are we looking for?
  • Who makes the final decision?

Notes by Fr. Lester Bach, OFM Cap

  • Formation Sessions prepare people to:
  • Know, understand, and live the Gospel, the SFO Rule, and the Constitutions
  • Get acquainted with fraternity members
  • Engage in apostolic activities
  • Participate in fraternity gatherings
  • Be involved in contemplative prayer

Notes by Fr. Lester Bach, OFM Cap

  • Formation Sessions prepare people to:
  • Continue their conversion in the spirit of St. Francis and Clare
  • Discern their possible Franciscan vocation
  • Learn about scriptural prayer
  • Prepare for a LIFETIME of commitment
  • Learn about the organization of the Secular Franciscan Order

Notes by Fr. Lester Bach, OFM Cap

  • Formation Sessions prepare people to:
  • Understand the meaning of servant-leadership
  • Become familiar with the life and words of St. Francis and St. Clare
  • Recognize the SFO’s relationship with the Church
  • Develop a love for our Franciscan perceptions

Notes by Fr. Lester Bach, OFM Cap

  • Formation Sessions prepare people to:
  • Put the learning into practice
  • Understand the role of a Spiritual Assistant





If the regular formation gathering is

4 hours long, and we meet once a

month, we spend only about

48 hours together for the whole year.

That actually doesn’t sound like much to support a lifetime commitment to a Franciscan Vocation.



To prepare people for an authentic Franciscan Vocation with a lifetime commitment in a worldwide religious order to carry on the ministry of Christ…

Doesn’t it seem realistic to extend the time we spend in formation gatherings or get together for formation more often?



  • A Franciscan life in the world is no easy matter.
    • Regular gatherings need to use plenty of time for ongoing formation.
    • Fraternity members are expected to assist in ongoing formation.

What to look for in a Candidate

  • How does the candidate interact during the formation sessions? Do their people skills reflect a Franciscan spirit?
  • What type of attitude does the candidate bring to the formation sessions and the fraternity gatherings? Can you find hints of a Franciscan spirit?
  • Do they ask serious and important questions? Do they show healthy signs of struggling with the challenges of Franciscan life?
      • Do they make a commitment to participating fully in formation and the life of the fraternity? Are they preparing for a permanent vocation?

What to look for in a Candidate

  • Do they take formation seriously by coming prepared and showing eagerness to enter into formation?
  • Are they able to look beyond what is going on in their own lives to include what is going on in the Order and the world?
  • Do they offer their talents or skills for the work of the fraternity?
  • Do they have a life of prayer that helps them to stay in touch with God?
  • Can they articulate why they feel called to a Secular Franciscan vocation as opposed to simply being a “Super Catholic”?

What to look for in a Candidate

  • Can they articulate why they feel called to a Secular Franciscan vocation as opposed to simply being impressed by St. Francis?
  • Can they articulate why their Call or Vocation is distinctly Franciscan rather than say Dominican or Cistercian?
  • If they encounter stumbling blocks or trials during formation, do they show some level of perseverance or initiative to overcome challenges in order to follow their Call?
  • Can they articulate what the Franciscan Charism is and what it means to them?

What to look for in a Candidate

  • Do they truly know what the Secular Franciscan vocation means, and does their life already reflect some hint of a Franciscan lifestyle?
  • Have they followed some level of structured process of discernment, and come to believe they have a vocation? Does the fraternity also come to believe the candidate has a vocation?

What to look for in a Candidate

Are they willing to be personally present, namely regular participation (not optional!) at the fraternity gatherings?

Are they willing to take a active role at fraternity gatherings?

Do they fully understand the meaning of service especially when it comes to holding office?

These considerations should be held in mind by those responsible for formation and by the Fraternity Councils when they appraise the suitability of the candidate for SFO profession

If so, you might just have a

Secular Franciscan Vocation

in your hands…


Great! Maybe everyone now agrees the candidate would be a good addition to the Order.

Notice that this is “to the Order”

not just “to the fraternity.”

This is very, very important:

Secular Franciscans are a worldwide religious order, not simply a local church club.


What happens now?

Q: We have experienced the joy of a new Secular Franciscan profession, so can we get back to normal business?

A: NO! Formation is a never ending process.

(That’s why we call it “ongoing formation.”) Ongoing formation needs to take center stage at every fraternity gathering. Just like daily conversion, it should never stop.

Q: Is doing regular ongoing formation a natural step for many fraternities?

A: Not yet, so it must be worked at continuously by formation directors, spiritual assistants, and every fraternity member.


Please remember these are just reminders of what to look for and some other thoughts to refresh your memory. The methods you use to put them into practice will require some creative ideas on your part.


You are a Secular Franciscan - one of 350,000 other Franciscans worldwide who belong to the Franciscan Order.