A Chapter is a "sacred time," Doug Clorey, vice general minister of the worldwide Secular Franciscan Order, told the national gathering of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States.
Meeting in Albuquerque, NM from Oct. 20 to 25, the U.S. order is holding a triennial Chapter of Elections.
A Chapter is a time "when the Holy Spirit will move among us and be experienced," he said. "It is a sacred time to be respected through prayer and fraternity -- a time to recognize the giftedness of our community and of thanksgiving for those willing to serve, and those who have served during the past three years."
Using some of his original songs and music in his presentation, Clorey focused on the "context in which we live our Secular Franciscan vocation, the International Fraternity and the priorities of the International Fraternity."
Doug Clorey, SFO
Secular Franciscans must live their vocation as members of the Franciscan family, as members of four fraternities -- local, regional, national and international. During the National Chapter, the focus should be on belonging to the National Fraternity, which is part of the larger international family, he said.
The International Fraternity is guided by an International Council and International Presidency, that consists of International Councilors, the Minister General, Vice-Minister General, seven presidency councilors, one YouFra (Fanciscan Youth) representative and four General Spiritual Assistants.
Clorey reported that over half of the order around the world is over the age of 65, more than half are married and an additional quarter are widowed. Two thirds are women and live in urban areas; more than one-third are poor. In addition, there are over 500 Franciscan Youth fraternities, primarily in South America.
He described how the 2008 General Chapter established five priorities for the Order: Formation, Communication, Franciscan Youth, Presence in the World and Emerging Fraternities.
The International Fraternity has established the following goals, he said: fully implementing the Formation Project, establishing a central theme of annual formation, encouraging promotion of vocations, preparing tools for the formation of spiritual assistants who are not members of the First or Third Order, joint formation meetings with Franciscan religious.
The Order should improve communications both inside and outside of the Order, he said. "We must also increase the role of International Councilors in communications." In addition "twinning" of fraternities at all levels was recommended.
The International (CIOFS) website, which is an important resource, should be enhanced, he said.
To further communication, there should be improved contacts with the local Church and collaborations with other Franciscan organizations, especially other Third Orders, he added.
Franciscan Youth (YouFra)
Secular Franciscans should take increased responsibility toward YouFra, he emphasized. "YouFra materials should be distributed worldwide and tools should be developed to help select and prepare fraternal animators to YouFra."
He told the gathering that there should be better integration of YouFra with SFO, especially through inclusion of YouFra in SFO activities.
And, finally, better statistics should be developed regarding YouFra, including where groups exist and their numbers.
Presence in the World
Clorey noted that the Secular Franciscans should be present in the world by "being" and by "doing."
"'Enter the city' by witnessing, and promoting justice, peace and care of creation," he said. The Order needs to be present, not just through the initiatives of individual members but through presence in social justice events and in the promotion of human rights.
Among them is active participation in Franciscans International (which provides a Franciscan viewpoint at the United Nations).
Clorey dramatically demonstrated on a world map the development of emerging fraternities, mostly in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. There is growth and richness of the Order, he said, and it needs "to be supported with particular care and attention. Also, all emerging national fraternities should be accompanied by established national fraternities, he said. "We must explore opportunities to raise funds to support them."
He concluded by saying, "National priorities must reflect the priorities of the entire Order. Leaders should be chosen based on their skills to implement these priorities."