View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Where oh where can more Franciscans be found?

Today I was thought about a conversation I had with our formation director at my Secular Franciscan group.

I am the only person currently in formation. Since I joined the group in September of 2008, only one other person has joined, and she was already far along in the formation process, so she was able to join the group scheduled to profess in August of 2009.

I remain the sole "new" person.

The formation director and I talked briefly about why the group is not attracting new members, while the other local group (out in Hilton) is.

I have my own ideas.

The Hilton group is parish-based, ours is not. We meet at a hospice. Their group has a natural, steady and large recruiting base.

Moreover, the parish is the home of a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal who stops home periodically. And his parents are members of the Hilton group.

In addition, the pastor of the Hilton parish is a member. We have a priest affiliated with our group, but he no longer attends on a regular basis, and has many parish duties at an inner-city parish. It would help if we had a priest who was active in our group.

Why does all this matter? On one level, it would be nice if there was someone else in the formation class, if only to lead to more discussion.

I am also at 54 one of the youngest - if not the youngest - members of the fraternity. That does not bode well for the future. We could use some new members.

So what to do?

We could wait and let God prompt people to seek out the Franciscans. That's how I ended up there.

We could start a website or blog to help attract people.

We could write letters to the Catholic Courier, and maybe get notices in our parish bulletins.

We could individually invite people.

Of course, I am not an official in the group. I'm not even professed. So it's not my call.


Anyway, if you area Rochester-area reader of this blog, and if you have ever felt the Spirit moving you in a Franciscan way, consider it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the feeling. I am 50. The average age of my Fraternity is 80! I transferred to my current Fraternity when I was 46. We have a formation director and a young Franciscan college professor who have been trying to attract new (young) members these last 4 years, but unfortunately, nothing has worked. Anyone younger than 80 is a transfer, usually around 75 or older. - I agree this does not bode well for the future of a (our) fraternity. - Perhaps, let me share my experience...I was invited to attend a Fraternity meeting by a Friar. I was about 37 years old at the time. This was a Friar and priest, I would meet and get to know, from Mass and Church activities attendance. I attended the Fraternity meetings, and met many whom I would see at Sunday or Daily Mass. Thus I was welcome and getting further involved with the Secular Franciscans, was an extension of my faith, Mass attendance and simple church apostalates I had at the time. Also - additional apostalates were made available with support, advice, or counseling as needed. It started with a suggestion, invitation and conversation, directly from a Religious. That is how he worked and how many members were, for the most part, approached. Since I had moved on to another Fraternity 5 years ago. I really do not know the approaches that are taken today. I do see ads on bulletin boards at various parishes in the area. They are actually pretty shabbily hand written ads. That probably attract no one's attention. There are no polished invitations to a fraternity meeting table after a Mass, no presentations directed as such that I am aware of in our Fraternity. (I put together the newsletter for our Fraternity) I do not think the Parishes are overly open to these as they are in effect competing for volunteers and participants themselves. - Just sharing some thoughts and observations. Best Wishes in your endeavours. Pax et Bonum, Joe

6:06 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Thanks for sharing. It is a puzzle.

I hope to help with our newsletter - and maybe a blog. That might touch a few people, but we need more.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me too. I recently turned 50 and just started attending meetings where I and another person about my age are by far the youngest. I went to a large meeting also where many fraternities gathered. The "ethnic" fraternities there -- Vietnamese, Mexican, Korean, etc.--all had healthy representations of younger people, actually quite a number in their 20s. The Caucasians averaged in their 70s, I'd say, and at the fraternity I go to, I hear there are quite a few other members who would like to attend, but they've grown just to feeble to get there. Anyway, at the big meeting it was announced that there would be a special focus on attracting younger people in 2010. There is a whole lot we could do to help with this. I asked around and sent a list of ideas to someone said to be chairing this, so I hope it goes somewhere. I think the time is so very ripe now with the interest in living a greener life, the (somewhat forced) need to drastically downsize our lifestyles due to the economy and massive debt that so many of us have accumulated (sometimes as the result of our own materialism), the drop in clerical influence due to scandal, and the widespread opening of people's hearts to God's creatures more than ever. The Third/Secular Order had a highly transformative impact on medieval Europe. Can this happen again?

7:47 PM  

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