SFO Communities Emerge

Richard Trezza Features

With the Secular Franciscan Order movement growing, HNP Today asked its spiritual assistant, Richard Trezza, OFM, to attribute the expansion. He provided the following report, explaining how the organization is structured, what new fraternities are emerging, and why he finds the ministry fulfilling. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — I have been ministering to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) since 1968 when Edwin Dirig, OFM, asked if I would be the spiritual assistant to St. John the Evangelist fraternity in South Portland, Maine. The rest is history.

Today, I serve as the spiritual assistant for Holy Name Province. I am also a regional spiritual assistant to Our Lady of the Angels Region, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Region (Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire) and to Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha Region (Northern New York State and part of Vermont). I am the local spiritual assistant to St. Anne’s Fraternity in Fair Lawn, N.J., and serve on the National Formation Commission and the National Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission. 

Emerging Fraternities
The fraternity is the basic unit of SFO life. Fraternities are established by the friars of the First Order, to whom they are bonded. Holy Name Province has many SFO fraternities on the Eastern seaboard, and the number is growing. Right now, fraternities are merging in Harlem, in New York City and in Providence, R.I., for which Frank Sevola, OFM, is the spiritual assistant. 

Through its friar spiritual assistants, diocesan priests, deacons and other religious who also minister in this capacity, HNP assists approximatey 2,800 Secular Franciscans.

Fraternities are clustered into geographical regions. In some instances, comprising two to four states. The headquarters of HNP is in Our Lady of the Angels Region, made up of Northern New Jersey, Manhattan, Mt. Vernon, N.Y., and Yonkers, N.Y. 

Marking the 800th Anniversary
Secular Franciscans celebrated the 800th anniversary of the Franciscan Rule in a variety of ways. Some regions used their annual retreat as a way to study and appreciate the Rule. Others sponsored days of recollection and even pilgrimages to Assisi. 

For others, it was an opportunity to meet with other regions and groups of fraternities to study the Rule. Still other fraternities used the opportunity to make the Rule the theme of continuing education. 

In many areas, there seems to be considerable growth in the SFO, both in numbers and in its understanding of the SFO as a true Order in the Church. People thirst for spirituality. Not only is there a formation in theology, the writings of Francis and Clare, sessions on ecclesiology and the importance of the laity in the Church, but also a lived experience of fraternity — that privileged place where one can live out his or her profession as a Secular Franciscan.

A Rewarding Experience
I could not imagine being a friar without the complement of the SFO. It is a rewarding ministry, since I get to meet many people and give days of recollection, retreats and formation sessions throughout the country.

On the national and international levels, there have been many creative initiatives taken up by the Order. Seculars are involved in all sectors of life, and are represented in all professions. 

They have been influential in matters of ecology, family, the spirituality of work, and in promoting peace, justice and the integrity of creation. They have joined with many others in the Franciscan Action Network, giving expression to the individual and communal permanent professions in the SFO.

— Fr. Richard is Holy Name’s spiritual assistant to the SFO. He lives at Sacred Heart Friary in East Rutherford, N.J.