From left: Ms Joanna Chew, Ms Monica Michael, Mrs Janette Tan and Madam Cecilia Michael made their profession as Secular Franciscans on July 16.
It was the Franciscans’ joy and simplicity which inspired four women to become Secular Franciscans.
Madam Cecilia Michael and her sister Monica, Mrs Janette Tan and Ms Joanna Chew were welcomed into the fraternity after making their profession on July 16 at Church of St Mary of the Angels.
The Secular Franciscans comprise laypeople and clergy who not take the vows of the Religious. Lay members also do not take the vow of celibacy and can be married or single.
Secular Franciscans are called to live the Gospel faithfully in the secular world. They follow the example of St Francis of Assisi and are involved in apostolates such as caring for creation, peace-building and service to the poor.
Madam Cecilia Michael said the Franciscans’ love for the Eucharist and St Francis’ desire to imitate Christ, such as caring for a leper, inspired her to be part of the community.
Her late elder brother’s devotion to God was also an inspiration to her, said Madam Michael, 56.
Another newly professed Secular Franciscan, Mrs Janette Tan, said that her initial encounter with humble and joyful Franciscans as well as some Secular Franciscans led her to join the fraternity.
The journey to being a Secular Franciscan starts from being an observer to becoming an inquirer and candidate, and can take between one and a half to two years. The inquiry period is about six months after which one is admitted into the fraternity and becomes a candidate for a year or more.
Both Madam Michael and Mrs Tan told CatholicNews their lives have changed since becoming part of the community.
Madam Michael said her spiritual life has improved and prayer now comes more naturally to her. She is now more able to recognise Christ in others, and family relationships have also strengthened.
Mrs Tan said she finds joy in community life, and is now more able to be patient towards and supportive of others.
The Secular Franciscans live out the Franciscan ideals of humility, simplicity and poverty. These qualities attracted some to join the Secular Franciscans when they got in contact with other Franciscans, Religious or laypeople. Some also were led to join after reading books or watching movies on the founder.
Secular Franciscans meet up regularly to pray and engage in works of mercy such as visiting the elderly and people in welfare homes. They may also support the Franciscan friars and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters in their activities.
On their own, some are involved in inter-religious dialogue, or in their own parish ministries. Some also use public transport, recycle clothing and buy from thrift shops in living out the Franciscan values.
The headquarters of the Secular Franciscan Order is in Rome with 450,000 members worldwide. There are about 40 Secular Franciscans in Singapore divided into four fraternities.
By Darren Boon