South East region invite us all to their regional day on 1st July (see below). More news from the regions will follow late in July, but we are now rushing off to France, until Tuesday 27th, for a wedding.
Last week we mentioned two upcoming events: the national assembly in Gibraltar in late April, and a weekend at Pantasaph in September led by Paula Pearce.
We now have news of two other events.
We are invited by the Venerable Margaret Sinclair Fraternity, Arkley (London Region) to join their Day of Recollection at The Poor Clare Monastery, Arkley (near Barnet) on Sunday, 30th April 2017. These Days of Recollection at Arkley are always very well attended events. There will be a presentation by Mother Francisca OSC (the Mother Abbess) on “Laudato Si”, and a talk by Fr. Jesmond Pawley OFMConv (one of the national spiritual assistants to the OFS). A shuttle service will run from High Barnet Underground Station to ferry you to the Monastery in Galley Lane. Please see the programme here for full details. As the Sisters need to know how many to cater for please contact Ursula Mott ofs before 25th April to let her know you wish to attend. There is no specific charge for the day but please be prepared to make a generous donation to our Poor Clare sisters.
And in late October we will have a national formation weekend at Wistaton Hall, Crewe led by our national formation minister, John Power. The subject is “The Revised Programme for Ongoing Formation and the New Bibliography”. See below for further details of this event. A booking form may be found here.
The programme for the National Assembly to be held in Gibraltar in April is now available. We are delighted that every region is represented. There may still be places available should others wish to attend. It seems that the Extra Costs will now be only £40, and not £110 as originally expected. This is to help meet the costs of the Speaker and Spiritual Assistants and the catering for the weekend. We believe that the Gibraltar Fraternity will revitalise everyone who comes. We know they have devoted a huge amount of time and energy to make this unique experience uplifting and successful.
And in September Paula Pearce will lead a Living in Faith in Daily Life weekend retreat at Pantasaph Friary. Details may be found here.
Formation: We hope you are making good use of the excellent formation material that our national formation minister, John Power, has provided. John is also now working on material for Ongoing Formation.
South Wales and South West region have an interesting programme of events for 2017, and perhaps members from other regions might like to join them. Many from other regions will recall that in 2016 South Wales and South West offered the excellent “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response” weekend in Cardiff.
London Region have a Youfra initiative with an event in April: Working together to build Peace in our families, schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, our nation, our world…..and ourselves. See the hurt of the world and want to respond in the way of Peace, Joy, Hope, Love, Good….? There are many ways to be involved: pray for this initiative; publicise it; support one-off events; or join us in our year of monthly meetings/activities, growing together as we explore our Christian life in the Franciscan spirit.
Come and See: Friday 28th April 2017, 6.30pm-8pm Our Lady of the Rosary Church Hall, Brixton.
Get in touch and keep in touch: Facebook: Franciscan Youth UK
and on Twitter: @YouFraLondon
Email – YouFraLondon@aol.co.uk
If young people from other OFSGB regions want to make contact for resources etc, please get in touch.
The latest Southern Region newsletter “Viewpoint” is just in. There is much interesting material in the newsletters that the various regions provide.
East Anglian Region are drawing our attention to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales initiative referred to as the Holy Land Co-ordination.
After a recent visit the CBCEW say that “In 2017 we see a land of tension and division, walls and suspicion.” They invite us to “Take Action”, one suggestion being contact with our MP’s. David Gleave of East Anglian region says: “They have provided a pro-forma letter, so it is quite easy to share their message with your MP – all you have to do is provide your name and address.”
Since 1998, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has organised an annual meeting of the Co-ordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land. Mandated by the Holy See, an international delegation of bishops meets in the region every January to act in solidarity with the Christian communities there and to share in the pastoral life of the local Church as it experiences extreme political and social-economic pressure.
Our North East Region are energetically drawing our attention to a charity ride in memory of the much loved Michael Almond, of the Leeds fraternity, who died last year.
South East Region have details of the funeral arrangements for Declan Walsh ofs, dearly missed Minister of the Croydon fraternity. The Requiem will take place on Friday 31 March 2017 at Our Lady of the Rosary, 2 St Barnabas Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 4NL at 10.00 hrs. Followed by burial at Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Warlingham, and a reception at The Horseshoe Pub, Warlingham. The region are suggesting donations to the OFS Barton project instead of flowers.
A further update may follow with news from Scotland, the North West Region, and the Midland Region.
Paula has written a second text this Lent, covering a variety of topics: the Barton Project, the Gibraltar National Assembly, Our Challenging World, the OFSGB website, a September weekend retreat at Pantasaph which she will lead (details of which are here), and a national Formation Weekend planned for October. Read on.
As you will know US President Donald Trump recently issued an Executive Order banning travel to the USA from seven Muslim-majority countries. Enforcement of this order has been suspended since a federal district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against it. That injunction was upheld by the ninth circuit court of appeals in a 9 February ruling.
Now, according to various news sources, such as Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, President Trump plans to rescind his executive order and replace it with a new one. “Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” the justice department writes in a brief to the ninth circuit court of appeals. A draft of President Donald Trump’s revised immigration ban targets the same seven countries listed in his original executive order (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya), and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they haven’t used it yet.
It is good to see the Franciscans of the United States have taken a stand on this issue in prayer for and solidarity with our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. The Franciscan Friars of the United States have issued this statement signed by the Provincials of the seven OFM provinces in the USA. And Carolyn Townes, the OFS National Animator for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the United States has said that “The U.S. Seculars will stand with and support our brother Friars as well as our Bishops.” She says: “Let us come together in prayer and solidarity for our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters!” And she offers this “Prayer for Migrants” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Merciful and loving Father,
We beseech you, open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality and refuge to migrants who are lonely, afraid, and far from their homes. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst, to invite them into our communities as a demonstration of Christ’s love for us. We pray that when we encounter the other, we see in her the face of your Son, when we meet a stranger, that we take his hand in welcome. Help us to live in solidarity with one another, to seek justice for those who are persecuted and comfort for those who are suffering. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Prayer for Migrants, USCCB)
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website also has these reflections on Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration.
May we in the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain stand together with our sisters and brothers in the USA. And may we, as communities, respond to the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme that Cardinal Vincent Nichols outlined to us when he spoke recently on the BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour. The Cardinal spoke about President Trump’s executive order, and he also spoke in praise of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme, a UK government-backed initiative that enables community groups – including the Catholic Church, its agencies and charities – to take on the role of welcoming and supporting resettled refugees in the UK.
In the interview, the Cardinal explained that safety ‘is not secured by fear, it is secured by improving relationships…by opening up things not shutting them down.’ He also expressed concern that the executive order ‘increases the risk faced by Christian communities in the Middle East because it implicitly backs a false notion that this conflict is between Christians and Muslims. It increases the image of Christianity as a Western phenomenon.’
Reflecting on political leaders’ duty of care, Cardinal Vincent emphasised that this is ‘a question of how you exercise that duty’. The Cardinal expressed his concern that the executive order would not help. ‘Safety can never be the overall and ultimate aim, because if we try and live safely by simplifying, identifying others as our enemies, then we live in an increasingly enclosed mentality and an enclosed environment and that is not the best way for people to live.’
Speaking then in praise and encouragement of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme he said ‘The challenge is not only to the government, but to the communities in this country who often speak about their generosity, to really take up this opportunity. Then, I would hope, that programme can be speeded up and expanded.’
Cardinal Vincent acknowledged the difficulty in making decisions regarding acceptance of more refugees, but emphasised that ‘the intention that we play a concerted effort to solve this dramatic crisis of our time is very important because otherwise it is the extreme voices that win, whether they’re the extreme terrorist voices or the populist voices. I don’t believe that any form of leadership is best exercised by using fear.’
The full BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour interview is available to listen to here.
Do let us know of any initiatives drawn from the Community Sponsorship Scheme (or similar projects) that your fraternities, your regions or your parishes are engaging in or planning to engage in. An excellent Presence in the World project.
Michael Martin, of our Oxford fraternity, has alerted us to a letter “Children praying for peace” from the Minister General of the OFM (Fr. Michael Perry OFM), and from the new Custos of the Holy Land (Fr. Francesco Patton OFM). The letter was posted on the First Sunday of Advent on both the OFM website, and on the website of the Custodia Terrae Sanctae (The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land).
The letter is addressed “to all the friars of the Order of Friars Minor, to the Poor Clares, to the sisters to the brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, and to all women and men of good will.”
This text follows Fr. Michael’s recent message, at the time of the feast of St Francis, regarding Syria and Aleppo, which we posted here.
A PDF of the letter, which you may download, is available here.
Fathers Michael and Francesco say in the letter that they wish to join, and “want to propose to all our communities”, the “Children praying for peace” initiative that began with “Aid to the Church in Need.” They say that “our Parish of St. Francis in Aleppo, which has been strongly affected by the tragedy of war and which has been tenaciously anchored to its hope for peace, has already joined the initiative. From Aleppo, we are now sending out our invitation to the whole world.”
“We believe that the Lord hears the cry of the “little ones” and that their prayer will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.”
“We are asking each community to dedicate their children’s mass, or the mass most frequented by children, on the first Sunday of every month, to prayer for peace, according to what is locally possible. The same thing can be done in a celebration during the Oratory or by involving the schools, thus, in this way giving an ecumenical and interreligious spirit to the initiative. If a community does not have a children’s liturgy or if it does not have a ministry for Oratories or a school, it can make the gesture during the communal Praises or Vespers, or on an occasion created especially for this initiative.”
They offer, in the letter, some practical suggestions using the example of how it is done in Aleppo.
If you do not have access to facebook, then add a comment to this post mentioning your community’s response to the initiative, which we can pass on to them, to assure them of the solidarity of the various communities / fraternities that make up the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain.
As Fathers Michael and Francesco mention, “Children Praying for Peace” is an Aid to the Church in Need initiative. In May this year Aid to the Church in Need reported that children from Syria’s different Christian denominations (Catholic and Orthodox) would be joining together to pray for peace in that country on International Children’s Day.
And on 7th October Aid to the Church in Need reported that More than one million children in Syria have been calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the violence engulfing the country. “At least 2,000 schools from many parts of Syria are taking part in the initiative in which youngsters have been drawing pictures and writing messages for the attention of the United Nations in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. Children of all denominations in the capital, Damascus, as well as in Homs, Yabroud, Marmarita as well as Aleppo have been taking part in the Peace for Children initiative with songs, dances, drama and prayer, all calling for peace.”
Aid to the Church in Need project partners including Aleppo-based Sister Annie Demerjian have stressed the number of traumatised children, with many experiencing violence, sexual exploitation, abduction and the loss of loved ones. Sister Annie Demerjian (pictured below), was recently in London at an Aid to the Church in Need event, and spoke of the extremely difficult conditions they faced in Aleppo.
Fathers Michael and Francesco suggest that the prayers of the “little ones” will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.” Grown-Ups wishing to add their prayers to those of the children may find an additional resource on this page.
Sister Annie Demerjian:
Children from Al Nouzha, Homs showing pictures of the Infant of Prague which they drew in Catechism classes – from Aid to the Church in Need:
Christine Frendo, OFSGB National Youth Minister and Minister of our Gibraltar Divine Mercy fraternity, has kindly sent us this report on the recent Pilgrimage to Assisi.
Secular Franciscan Order, Gibraltar & UK Pilgrimage to Assisi
29th October-6th November 2016
We left Gibraltar in the very early hours of the morning on Saturday 29th November
and flew from Seville to Rome, where we joined the UK, OFS members and travelled
to Greccio in the beautiful valley of Rieti, to the sanctuary where St. Francis set up
the first live crib. About 800 years ago people began to come in procession, carrying
their torches and candles to contemplate the first reenactment of the nativity scene.
The idea of re-creating a manger scene soon spread throughout Catholic Europe.
Thomas of Celano, recalls that Francis stood before the manger, overwhelmed with
love and filled with a wonderful happiness.
The following morning when we were getting ready for Mass we heard a rumbling and
suddenly realised it was an earthquake!! In fact we were only about 7 to 8 kilometres
from the epicentre!! Thank God we were all safe and there was no damage where we
were staying but we prayed very especially for those who had been affected in any
way. Later we found out that it had been a strong earthquake!!
On arrival in Assisi we found that they had also felt the earthquake there. and we
could not visit the Portiuncula as they were checking out whether there were any
damages. – The Portiuncola is situated now inside the Basilica of Saint Mary of the
Angels around 5 km from Assisi. It was restored by Saint Francis and it was here
that he founded the Order of the Friars Minor 1209, “establishing here his home,
because of his reverence for the angels, and of his great love of the Mother of
Christ”. (St. Bonaventure) This was the centre of the Franciscan Order where he
brought together all the Friars for the Chapter every year to renew their dedication
to the Gospel Life. The Chapter of Mats in 1221 was attended by more than 5000 friars.
When Francis knew he was dying, he requested to be brought to the Portiuncula
to end his earthly life. Because of the earthquake our itinerary was changed, and we
could not visit Foligno but we did walk around Assisi and the Lord blessed us with
On 1st November, after breakfast, we had morning prayer and the Eucharist in the
Carceri a Hermitage, on the slope of Monte Subasio just outside the walls of Assisi
where St. Francis, at times, lived alone in a cave, prayed fervently and did penance.
The word Carceri is from the Latin carceres and means “isolated places”.
Francis dedicated himself to a life of preaching and missions, but throughout his life
he would frequently withdraw to the Carceri to pray and contemplate. As you gaze at
the surrounding scenery, the breathtaking views of Mount Subasio one cannot but be
led to contemplate the beauty of creation and the goodness of the Creator. That afternoon
we finally got to visit the Portiuncula!
The next day we visited the Mount of La Verna. I am always impressed by the
peaceful quiet of the beauty of this Sanctuary. I think it’s a very special place that
was donated to St. Francis in 1213 by Count Orlando Chiusi of La Verna. A hermitage
was founded there becoming one of the favourite places for Francis and his brothers
to retire for prayer and contemplation. Francis’ last stay at La Verna was in 1224,
two years before his death, when he was already tired and ill. During this time, while
in intense prayer, he had a vision and received the stigmata.
When we arrived it was really cold and foggy but we had a beautiful Mass. In the
homily Fr. Jesmond, the friar who led the Pilgrimage, commented that as there was
fog all around us it might be a good opportunity for each of us to look inside ourselves,
and examine ourselves. We had lunch and then joined the friars for afternoon
prayer (None) and the procession to the Chapel of the Cappella della Pietà, where
Francis got his stigmata. The procession has taken place every day at 3 pm ever since
1431.. A very touching experience in a beautiful Sanctuary.
The following day we visited San Damiano, which is where it all began. Praying before
the crucifix of San Damiano St Francis heard the words “Go Rebuild my Church which
as you see is falling into ruin!” It is also where St. Clare died in 1253, it was an important
stop in our pilgrimage where an Irish Friar spoke to us about Francis and
Clare and explained that the Original Cross is in the Basilica of St. Clare because
when the Poor Clares moved from San Damiano they took the Crucifix with them.
The next day we visited the Basilica of St. Francis. We had Mass in the Chapel of
Peace and then a guided visit. Fr. Dan Quackenbush gave us an inspiring insight into
the life, journey and spirituality of Francis. He gave us all the details of the beautiful
Frescoes in the Basilica and touched on different aspects of St. Francis’ spirituality
and his immense love for Jesus. “Love is not loved!” Francis used to say. We
spent some time praying in front of Francis’ tomb.
That night we went to see the musical “Chiara di Dio”. It is a beautiful production.
and care has been taken to represent an authentic representation of the lives of
Francis and Clare. We all thoroughly enjoyed
On Saturday, our last day in Assisi we visited La Chiesa Nouva, where St. Francis’
house is thought to have been and then the Basilica of St. Clare where the original
San Damiano Cross is. We spent some time there in silent prayer, praying for healing
and direction for our lives.
It’s been a fantastic Pilgrimage and I think the last evening when we sung “bind us
together” it was really heartfelt. We reunited with brothers and sisters we have
known for a long time and made new friends in Christ. It has been a beautiful, and
inspiring time. Pace e Bene.