|While the number of professed members shows a decline from last year, outgoing National Minister Patrick Mendés said he found it encouraging to see more people in initial formation and a growth in emerging and newly forming fraternities.
Patrick Mendés, SFO
Giving his State-of-the-Order report at the National Chapter, he said the number of "professed brothers and sisters" stood at 14,722 (down by over a thousand from last year's report).
"It has been suggested to me that some fraternities are failing to report shut-in or other brothers and sisters whose financial situation doesn't allow them to contribute to Fair Share," Patrick noted.
"I hope that this is not a widespread practice. We need to remember that the responsibility of Fair Share is that of the fraternity, NOT the individual. It is a failure against the virtue of justice to simply 'lapse' those brothers and sisters who simply haven't the where-with-all to contribute to the common fund or Fair Share collection."
The number of both candidates and inquirers grew to 1,245 and 898, respectively, he said. Emerging fraternities increased by 7 to 44 while newly forming groups were up by 3 to 36.
The number of friar spiritual assistants continued a downward trend, which demonstrates the need for qualified Secular Franciscans to step up to be trained for that role, he said. And he was pleased to report that all 30 Regions have at least one regional spiritual assistant.
Patrick said he was delighted to see a vitality of the Franciscan charism being lived out in the various regions he has visited during his three years as national minister.
"In talking with the ministers and members of local fraternities..., I learned that the fraternities are involved in a variety of ministries bringing to life our Holy Rule lived in its entirety. Their active works of mercy, reflecting the Beatitudes, find them working in shelters for the homeless, food kitchens, clinics for the poor and marginalized, prison ministry, homes for battered women, ecological issues, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, making rosaries for the missions, prayer shawls for the sick and shut-in, visiting and conducting prayer services in nursing homes, visiting the shut-ins of their own fraternity, volunteering for the missions, particularly in Latin America and Haiti, as well as being very involved in the ministries of their respective parishes."
He said he was also pleased to see that "our regions and many of our local fraternities have at least an annual retreat and host a variety of workshops and days of reflection, all with the goal of deepening our spirituality and the lived experience of our charism."
- praised the work of the National Formation Commission for its intense work on developing a Formation Manual and planning multiple workshops in 2011. Chaired by Bob Fitzsimmons, SFO, the commission is incorporating formation chapters from the International Fraternity's manual as well as drafting original material.
- hailed the "vital contribution" to on-going formation being provided by the summer seminars at St. Francis University in Loretto, PA.
- welcomed the move toward self-governance by youth on the National Youth/Young Adult Committee, and expressed delight at their vision and their annual H2O project.
- praised the members of the National Executive Council and the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants for their vision, gifts and support.