Franciscan Family Commemorates 800th Anniversary

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — Nearly 120 members of the Franciscan family commemorated the Order’s eighth centenary last weekend with a special event at the Province’s New York City location.

Men and women representing every branch of the Franciscan family — first, second, Third Order Regular (TOR), and Secular Franciscans — attended HNP’s Franciscan Family Study Day on April 25 in the San Damiano Hall on West 31st Street. 

In addition to Holy Name friars, participants included Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Sisters of St. Francis (New York), Sisters of St. Francis (Philadelphia), Franciscan Sisters of Peace, Brooklyn Brothers (TOR), Poor Clares of New Jersey (Chesterfield) Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (Paterson, N.J.), Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, as well as Secular Franciscans from Beach Haven, N.J., and Wappingers Falls, N.Y., and New York fraternities. Attendees came from as far away as Boston and Buffalo, N.Y.

The event, which opened with a welcome from F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, shown above, was followed by Morning Prayer, recognizing the feast of St. Mark. 

The program began with a keynote presentation by Michael Blastic, OFM, associate professor at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. He talked about “Our Franciscan Evangelical Way of Life and Ministry in the 21st Century,” highlighting three perspectives: a description of the event being celebrated, the five characteristics of the early brothers and sisters as disciples of Jesus, and concluding reflections on how Franciscans stand at this moment in history. 

Michael said the mission of the Franciscans is to affect reconciliation and peace, adding, “Francis left Assisi to live with the marginalized, a focus that is important today. 

“Poverty is not to be idealized as an end in itself,” he said. “Poverty means living within sufficiency.” 

“This is our anniversary and it is a wonderful occasion to remember our responsibility and to celebrate,” he said.

The day included lunch and four talks. Participants were invited to attend two of four workshops:

• “The Early Franciscan Movement, A New Way of Being Church” by Dominic Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar of Holy Name and a specialist in Franciscan history.

• “One Thing Only: Franciscan Evangelical Life — What Next?” by Sr. Kathleen Moffat, OSF, a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia. She conducts many programs for Franciscan audiences and organizations.

• “On Being Brother/Sister; the Heart of the Charism” by Edward Coughlin, vice president for the Franciscan Mission at SBU, and Mary Petrosky, FMM, a staff member of the Center for Franciscan Spirituality and Spiritual Direction (CFSSD) at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York. 

• “Basic Texts for a Franciscan Approach to Evangelization” by Anthony Carrozzo, OFM, of the Center for Franciscan Spirituality and Spiritual Direction at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, and former HNP Provincial Minister.

The Study Day was hosted by two Province groups: the Fraternal Life Directorate and the Ongoing Formation Committee. It was held to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the approval by Pope Innocent III of Francis of Assisi’s proposal to live a Gospel Way of Life in 1209.

Between sessions, attendees chatted with authors Michael Blastic and Dominic Monti, who signed copies of their books: A Study of the Rule of 1223: History, Exegesis and Reflection, published by the Province’s Ongoing Formation Committee, and Francis and His Brothers, published by St. Anthony Messenger Press.

The day concluded with a Mass celebrated by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, at which Franciscan men and women renewed their professions. Anthony LoGalbo, OFM, co-chair of the Fraternal Life Directorate and director of the CFSSD, gave the homily.

This was one of many commemorations of the 800th anniversary held by Franciscans around the world in April, the month in which the Rule of Francis was approved. Throughout 2009, communities of friars and sisters — all branches of the Franciscan family — are celebrating their heritage and their future.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.