READ ABOUT: BECOMING A SECULAR FRANCISCAN
Those of us who are professed Secular Franciscans came to the fraternity in many different ways. However, each of us was called by God to serve Him in a special way by following in the footsteps of St. Francis.
Some of our older members might remember being “recruited” by a friar and starting to attend meetings of the fraternity without a particularly clear understanding of what it meant to be a Secular Franciscan. At that time instructions were usually provided by the friar Spiritual Assistant. In later years, fraternity members served as the “Postulant Instructor” and the “Novice Master”.
The beginning phase of formation was called the Postulancy. Postulancy lasted 3 months. Then the candidate entered the Novitiate. After one year and a day of instruction, the candidate was professed into the Order.
Today, the initial preparation for entering the order has been extended. A person who believes he or she has been called to be a Secular Franciscan begins by attending a few fraternity meetings and getting to know the members and the activities of the fraternity. This is known as the period of Orientation which should last no less than three months. After this time period, we welcome the newcomer, and he or she becomes an Inquirer. According to our Ritual, the Ceremony of Welcoming “…is a simple paraliturgical expression of the community’s interest in the newcomers and its support for their searching out the Secular Franciscan vocation. The ceremony does not take place within the context of a ritual or liturgical celebration, but rather as part of the fraternal portion of the regular meeting of the community.”
Once he or she has been welcomed, the newcomer enters the period of Inquiry. This roughly corresponds to the old term Postulancy and begins the time of study. This period now usually lasts 6 months—but can be longer according to the National Statutes. (So, at the end of the Inquiry period, the newcomer will have been with the fraternity for almost a year or more!) At the time of welcoming, the newcomer is given a biography of St. Francis which symbolizes the beginning of the period of study.
At the end of this initial period of study, the fraternity celebrates the Rite of Admission of the newcomer. This period is called the Candidacy, and the National Statutes state that it “…shall consist of not less than eighteen months and not more than thirty-six months." During this time each candidate is required to attend formation classes. Our statutes state that “All persons in initial formation, [must also] participate in the meetings of the Local Fraternity as this is an indispensable [means] for initiation into community prayer and into fraternity life.”
To be admitted to the SFO in the United States, a person must be a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church (i.e., having received the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation/Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) in addition to being an actively practicing Catholic.
According to the Ritual, “The rite of Admission should be simple and plain. It is appropriate that this entrance into the Secular Franciscan Order take place within a celebration of the Word of God with the whole fraternity present, and not during the celebration of the Eucharist.”
The candidates should request and have the will to experience the gospel life like Francis of Assisi. They must also keep in mind that their request to be admitted is related to a possible future commitment to live this way of life, with the help of the fraternity, in communion and harmony with the whole Franciscan Family. The newly admitted candidates are given the Rule of Life which he or she will now study and follow and the Tau which is the symbol of our Order.