A Report to the Minister and Chapter of the Order of Secular Franciscans (OFS), the Third Order, Province of the Americas, Society of St. Francis (TSSF), and the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF)
October 7, 2015
Since its inception in February of 2004, the Joint Committee on Franciscan Unity has believed:
“For the sake of creation, we are called to bear witness to the essential unity of the church, the Body of Christ, by working towards Franciscan unity in all of is expressions. We will achieve this through dialogue and collaboration among the Orders which follow Christ in the tradition of Francis and Clare.”
Until this past year, the Joint Committee produced and led nine conferences throughout the United States, designed around The Elements of Franciscan Unity , bringing together the leadership of the three sponsoring Orders to reflect on and discuss those Franciscan principles we hold in common regardless of our ecclesial identification. Those conferences have been enthusiastically received, and have served to further our mission to broaden our understanding of each other and to deepen our relationship – a mighty task, given the size of our communities, and the history of the church.
This past year, in the midst of increased world-wide turbulence related violence in the name of religion, the Committee chose to present a conference devoted to recognizing and affirming that which we hold in common with all persons who honor the One God – particularly those of the Abrahamic traditions. This it did in the spirit of Francis, who in his day, ventured forth to make contact with the Sultan Malek al -Kamil to promote peace and goodwill. To that end, the Joint Committee produced, in co -operation with Roots & Branches: Programs for Spiritual Growth (a ministry founded and directed by a member of the Joint Committee) The People of God: A Sacred Prism. The intension was to bring together numbers of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Although there were more Christians represented than any other tradition, the program was educational, inspiring, and transformative.
The conference was held from Sunday evening, April 12 through Tuesday morning, April 14 at the Franciscan Center of Tampa, Florida. Led by a Christian priest (member of the Joint Committee), a rabbi and an imam, the purpose of the conference was to provide greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity of God’s presence in the world by presenting participants with the foundational precepts of the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and by guiding them through experiencing some of the spiritual practices of the several traditions, including meditation, chants based on sacred texts, sacred movement, and silence. Evaluations submitted by participants enthusiastically and unanimously affirmed the value of the conference in that it broadened and deepened their understanding and appreciation of, not only the other traditions, but also the richness of character and of spiritual depth of the presenters of the other traditions. Most, if not all, took with them a far more positive attitude and resolve towards building bridges among Jews and Muslims in the Name of Christ, rather than burning them.
At its Annual Meeting in September, following much prayer, discussion, and listening to each other, the Joint Committee discerned that the 2016 conference should be based on the most recent encyclical of Pope Francis addressed, not only to Roman Catholics, but to all – Laudato si (Praise be to you [Lord Christ]). Because Laudato si is so obviously steeped in Franciscan spirituality – literally inspired by the words and life of Francis of Assisi, and calling all people to be responsive to our “common home,” the earth and its inhabitance, it is a perfect document around which all Franciscans can gather to reflect on and discuss how God might be calling us, as individuals and communities to respond to our environments in healthier ways – in the Name of God. Laudato si, then, will be our resource to apply to the Elements of Franciscan Unity: Holy Baptism into Christ, Christ-Centered Vocation, Charism of Holy Spirit, Christ-Centered Spirituality, and Prophetic Voice to the Church and the World. The conference is scheduled for Friday afternoon, August 5 through Saturday afternoon, August 6, 2016 at the Franciscan Spiritual Center, Aston, Pennsylvania. More details will be forthcoming.
In order to continue to provide conferences of such quality and value, and with the increase of cost to secure space for its Annual Meeting, the Joint Committee agreed the annual contribution from the sponsoring Orders be increase from $1000.00 (which it has been since 2005) to $1,500.
Members of the Joint Committee on Franciscan Unity are:
The Rev. Masud Ibn Syedullah TSSF, Chair
The Rev. Deacon Joan C. Verret, TSSF
Mr. Michael Carsten, OFS
Ms. Anne Mulqueen, OFS
Louis Canter, OEF
Richard LeFevre, OEF
Respectfully submitted, October 7, 2015
The Rev. Masud Ibn Syedullah TSSF, Chair