Gene Pistacchio Begins Leadership Role with Secular Franciscans

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

Autumn has been a busy season for the Secular Franciscans. In October, the annual meeting was held, and the same month, a new spiritual director was named for the more than 100 Holy Name Province chapters.

Gene Pistacchio, OFM, of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, began his role as HNP spiritual director for the Secular Franciscan Order on Oct. 1. He succeeds Richard Trezza, OFM.

“I am looking forward to my work in this capacity,” said Gene, a native of Rhode Island. “As Provincial spiritual assistant, I will be assisting the SFO fraternities that are bonded to our Province in finding spiritual assistants who will provide animation and spiritual nourishment for the SFO family.”

As of early last year, when a report was presented to the Provincial Chapter, 110 fraternities were bonded to HNP, and a total of 2,541 Secular Franciscans were receiving spiritual assistance.

Spiritual Direction Experience
Gene said he hopes that his “experience of being U.S. Zonal ecclesiastical assistant for the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ for the past eight years will prove beneficial in my new role with the SFOs. The missionaries are a Secular Institute of Pontifical Right in the Franciscan tradition. The community was founded in 1919 in Assisi, Italy. The first five U.S. missionaries were professed in 1953 under the leadership of Barbara Ottenger and, of happy memory, our renowned Biblical scholar of Holy Name Province, Stephen Hartdegan, OFM. I am honored and privileged to serve these communities in the great Franciscan spiritual tradition.”

In addition, Gene served as spiritual assistant to a Secular Franciscan Order fraternity in Wood-Ridge, N.J. He was appointed to this role in 1990 and served six years. At that time, Gene learned much about the SFOs, he said.

“Together with the president and council of the fraternity, new life was gradually being instilled into the growing community. The members of the group at that time were getting older and did not have the energy to venture out into new projects and apostolic activities. We could always rely on the prayerful presence of the older members during our formation meetings with the younger members who were being formed in the dynamism of Franciscan spirituality.

“As these younger members became of age, were professed and ready to take on roles of leadership within the fraternity, the community began to show signs of new growth as newer candidates expressed interest in the Franciscan way,” said Gene, who commemorated 25 years as a friar in 2009. “It was a joy to experience as their spiritual assistant, the fraternity’s enthusiasm as they helped to organize a food pantry in the friary basement and as they prepared with me the many formative discussions pertaining to prayer, Franciscan servanthood, hospitality, ongoing conversion and joy in serving others.”

Information about the Province’s Secular Franciscan fraternities, from Maine to Florida, can be obtained through Gene at 1-800-FRANCIS, as well as from the National Fraternity website.

Order’s Annual Chapter
Two weeks after Gene took on his role, the Secular Franciscan Order held its elective chapter in Denver, Colo. — the annual National Fraternity (NaFra) meeting — from Oct. 16 to 21. The gathering is held in a different region each year, according to Richard.

During the meeting, the seculars’ national body, representing 13,400 people, wrote and endorsed a letter that was distributed by the Catholic News Service, urging U.S. business leaders and government officials, including the next U.S. president, to approach economic and political issues with the “foundational premise” that “all of creation, especially human life, has dignity and value.” In the article, titled “Secular Franciscan Order Has Message for Presidential Candidates: All of Creation, Especially Human,” CNS provided the full text of the statement of the U.S. Secular Franciscan Order.

Last year, the Secular Franciscans changed the acronym used to identify members. After the October 2011 Chapter, the community announced that “OFS” would replace “SFO.”

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