What is the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans?

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Ecumenism, Francis

The Order of Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF), which I’ve recently joined as a postulant, is a body of Christians who are followers of Christ after the examples of Francis and Clare of Assisi. 

The OEF is a diverse group with members’ church affiliations including free churches and mainline Protestant denominations, as well as Anglican and Catholic communions.

Shoshanah Kay, OEF, and Director of Formation Counseling, represented the OEF at the Annual NAFRA (National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order USA) Chapter convention recently.  With Shoshanah’s permission I am reproducing the introduction to the OEF that she presented at the meeting; it’s an excellent summary and exposition of the value of the order as a vibrant witness to Christ.   So here it is:

As Director of Formation, I receive all new inquiries.
I am also responsible for all those in formation.
Thank God, no one expects me to do this alone!

We get all kinds of inquiries.  As surely you do also.

Everything from: Those in faraway lands saying:
“I want to come to America and join your monastery.”

To the high school student who says:
“I go to Catholic school.  I have to write a report on
your Order. It is due tomorrow.  Please tell me:
“How did you receive your call?”

To the one who says:
“I have been a Franciscan all my life.
I go to mass barefoot everyday.  Please call me.”

To the ones confident we are just around the corner:
” Hello from Kansas.
What day and time is the next meeting in Topeka?”
…………………………

…………………………………………………..

To us — as I imagine also to you — come:

* The lost — the fragile — the lonely — the imprisoned.

* The curious and the wandering and the wondering.

* The passionately active — the courageous truth-speakers
— and the gentle and daring hope-bringers.

*  The rock-solid-centered and the compassionately grounded.

*  The prayerfully questioning and the humble ones
— tender and ever-listening.
…………………………………………………………………………………

“Who are you?”, they ask.
“Can I join you?”, they wonder.
“Would you welcome even me?”
“And if you will and if you do, what will this mean?”
…………………………………………………………………………………..

And to all, I begin by saying:

We are tiny.  We are less than a hundred.
We are growing.  We are becoming.
We are not done yet.
We have as many in formation as we have professed.
But we are dispersed.  We are scattered.
We gather all together only once a year.
For some, a little more often
— if we live a little close —
— if we are a little lucky —

We are Catholic and we are Protestant.
We are clergy and lay, men and women, gay and straight,
single, married and partnered.

We are united in our desire to follow Christ
in the ways of Francis and Clare of Assisi.
…………………………………………………………………………………………

“So — is this a commitment to a community?”, they ask.
“Or to a way of life?”

“To a way of life”, I answer too quickly.
“And to a community”, I quickly correct.
“It is to a community that exists to support the way of life”, I try to explain.

” Yes.  Both. “,  I finally answer truthfully.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

And so it is, for us:  together yet not together,
alone yet not alone,
gathered yet dispersed,
a community and a way of life
following the Poor Christ
in the footsteps of Francis and Clare.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

We commit to our “General Rule and Principles”
(patterned along the lines of those held by SFO and TSSF).

We commit also to a “Personal Rule of Life”
(addressing specifically the following 8 areas:
worship, prayer, penitence, obedience,
work, community,lifestyle, service).

Each year at Chapter/Convocation, we lay our Rules on the altar,
promising, by the grace of God, to keep them through the coming year,
in the hopes that we might live more faithfully as Franciscan Christians
— in each of our churches
— in each of our own little corners of this wide world we share
— this big, beautiful, broken, beloved, wide world we all share.

We commit to active engagement in a local Christian congregation.
We commit to being in regular (monthly) spiritual direction.
We commit to prayer — with and for one another —
and to prayer with and for the Christian Church Universal
— for the love of God and for the life of the world.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To close on a more personal note:

As some of you know,
I was raised Southern Baptist,
began formation with OEF as a Quaker,
and professed with OEF as a Roman Catholic.

I embrace the goodness in each and cherish my experiences in all three.

And those in all three often curiously ask me:
“Why the Ecumenical Franciscans?”

The Quakers meaning: “Why the Franciscans?”
The Catholics meaning: “Why the Ecumenicals?”
And the Baptists meaning: “Why either and why an Order?”
…………………………………………………………………………………….

To the Quakers I say this:

In the Franciscan Way, I find all that I most cherish
in Quakerism: peace, justice, care for creation, solidarity
with the poor and the oppressed, an embrace of the
contemplative and the mystical, of simplicity and
non-violence, inclusion for the excluded and
appreciation for the little and the least.

And yet, at the very heart of Franciscan Spirituality,
at the very place from which all else flows, there is:
Christ, the Cross, Humility and Obedience to God.

And, for me, that makes all the difference.

And the Quakers, they get that.
………………………………………………………………………………….

To the Catholics, I say this:

The Body of Christ is way bigger than the Roman Catholic Church.
It includes our Protestant brothers and sisters
and our Orthodox brothers and sisters.
It includes sisters and brothers within the
Independent Catholic Movement
and sisters and brothers with no church home
who love Christ passionately
and serve Christ quietly and faithfully
even as they feel shut out of so many of His churches.

We have built walls maybe too strong.
And bridges surely too scarce.

I have seen with my own eyes that Christ is alive and breathing
and lovingly active in churches beyond our own
and in brothers and sisters, known and unknown.

I need to be with that.  I need to touch that.
And the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans gives me one way to do that.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Finally, to the Bible-Believing Baptists,
and to most other Protestants, I say simply this:

You know the Sermon on the Mount?
These people try to live that.

Matthew 25?
They do that.

And when Jesus says:
“…..that they might be one….”

They long for that.  They believe that can be.
They trust that.  We trust that.

And even the Baptists, they get that.
………………………………………………………………………………………..

As Christians and as Franciscans,
May we come to be One in the Love of Jesus,
freely and generously, and, yes, even recklessly
sharing His Love
whenever we gather
wherever we go
however we can
for as long as we live.

May the Peace of Christ be with us all!
……………………………………………………………………………………………….

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Comments
  1. Caycilia says:

    I’ve been reading about different religious orders and trying to discern whether I am called to one. The OEF keeps coming up and I keep re-stumbling upon it, but I have many questions. This post is so beautiful and reminds me why I am continually attracted to St. Francis, and those who try to live as he did, even in this world today.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comment Caycilia!

      There are contact details on our website (www.franciscans.com) of brothers and sisters who can help you discern whether or not the order is the right match for you.

      We also have a Facebook page which is updated on a daily basis and will help you to get a better feel for our community.

      God bless,
      Scott

      Like

  2. sefarlow says:

    How do I join?

    Like

  3. James Donadio says:

    Dear Brother,

    I ask for your blessing.I am a retired male, Vietnam Veteran, ordained in the Byelorussian Autocephalic Orthodox Church by Archbishop Mikalay several years ago.

    I have always felt an attraction to the Franciscan way of life. In facr, I am currently a novice with the Order of Servant Franciscans. I will be taking first vows in August. I am quite ecumenical in thought and practice, and have always dreamed of being a member of an order who practices what I feel to be correct and proper.

    I ask for advice and consideration about entrance into your formation program.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Pax et Bonum!

    James

    Like

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