An important goal for Secular Franciscans is to make their presence felt in the world, says a top official
Secular Franciscans need to rise to the challenge of living in a secular world and to be a visible force in it by living out their values, a top official from the order said recently.
Mr Doug Clorey, vice-minister general of the Secular Franciscan Order, made these comments in an interview with CatholicNews on Jan 28. He was in Singapore on a pastoral visit to the Secular Franciscan communities in Singapore and Malaysia.
Quoting from one of the order’s general chapter meetings –“we need to get out of the sacristy and enter the city” – Mr Clorey said members need to go beyond Church activities to “be present in the world around us”, such as in families, work places, civil communities and even politics.
The Secular Franciscans comprise laypeople and clergy who do not take the vows of the Religious. Lay members also do not take the vow of celibacy and can be married or single.
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.
Although there are 450,000 Secular Franciscans in 111 countries, Mr Clorey, who has been a member for 25 years, notes that the numbers in developed countries are declining.
However, there has been great interest in the Secular Franciscan way of life in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, he said.
He added that there are about 50,000 young members around the globe who are concerned about peace, poverty and the planet.
Mr Clorey listed five priorities for the order.
The top priority is improving formation, followed by improving communication between the order and the nations it is present in, developing young members to reach out to other young people, encouraging members to be a presence in the world such as in the workplace, and supporting the growth of emerging fraternities by connecting them with established ones.
During his pastoral visit, Mr Clorey met with representatives from Singapore, West Malaysia and Sabah to get a better understanding of their local fraternities and to give them support.
Mr Clorey also helped guide the process of merging the three countries’ fraternities into a single entity which would report to the international headquarters in Rome.
There are about 40 Secular Franciscans in Singapore divided into four fraternities. They meet regularly at least once a month for ongoing formation, to pray and to engage in works of mercy such as visiting the elderly and people in welfare homes.
Some are also involved in mission outreach, and interreligious and ecumenical dialogue.
By Darren Boon