Four Fargo-area Christians become “Lay Franciscans” – InForum
WEST FARGO — On the evening of her profession as a lay Franciscan in the small chapel at the back of Holy Cross Church, Diane Kelly’s contented soul beamed outward.
“I was so joyful inside and had such peace. I wish I could have wrapped it in a bubble,” she says of her entry into the Secular Franciscan Order fraternity. “This whole evening was just perfect, so I know whatever the trip brings, it will be good.”
Kelly was among a group of four who attended a special ceremony and Mass on May 31, officiated by Bishop John Folda, joined by several members of the Immaculate Heart of Mary chapter of the Lay Franciscans of Grand Forks, as well as of family and friends.
The fraternity aims to follow the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi, living more devoted to Christ; not in a cloister or monastery, but in the world as ordinary Christians.
“If I hadn’t been part of that training and committed to it, I would have turned myself off,” says Kelly, who considers herself an introvert. “But now, thanks to the Franciscan way guiding me, it helps me stretch and makes me more aware of the directions I take in my daily life – what I say and what I do.”
Each new member received five tangible objects for their journey: A book containing the Rule of Saint Francis to guide them; a copy of the Gospels; a cross of San Damiano to wear around the neck; a candle, symbolizing the light of Christ they are to bring to the world; and a Tau cross, which in the United States forms part of the habit or dress of the Franciscan order.
The Fargo Franciscans hope to eventually branch out into their own separate chapter in the coming months. If so, it would be named after Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who died in a Nazi labor camp during World War II.
During his homily, Folda said that when St. Francis accepted our Lord’s call to holiness, he became “a beacon of grace for others,” drawing others to follow that disposition. “They were attracted by this intimacy he had with our Lord, and they were struck by the simplicity of his life and the joy he exuded.”
Folda said they discovered the adventure of being a true disciple of Jesus. “I believe that your profession as Franciscans will now have a similar effect in your own humble life of your faith, and through your Franciscan charism you will be an instrument of grace in the hands of our Lord.”
The evening was the culmination of a long discernment for the Fargo quartet, who have been traveling for nearly three years with the Grand Forks band – a chapter that has now been in existence for 57 years.
According to Ken Flanagan, Grand Forks, the international order dates back some 800 years, when St. Francis himself founded it. “We are the lay secular part of the Franciscan family.”
Ken and his wife, Kim, were among those who welcomed the four into the fraternity, with other new members including Geraldine Cariveau, Judy Joeb and Bradley Steen.
The Flanagans, who made their profession 23 years ago, have also been involved with chapters in Ohio and Indiana. “We had a young family then, so our kids grew up with parents who went to all that Franciscan stuff.”
Ken explained the four pillars of the order: prayer, training, business and fellowship. The spirit of Saint Francis, he says, is to live simply and learn to renounce earthly pleasures.
“We don’t have to live in poverty, but we are called to be good stewards of resources, and there is individual discernment of what that means.”
Often the details don’t become clear until after the profession, he says. “We grow by surrendering our will to God, and amazing things happen when you do that,” noting “the rich history of people who have been called to this path,” including many canonized saints.
Born in Italy around 1182, Saint Francis of Assisi was famous for drinking and partying in his youth. According to legend, he began to receive visions from God and heard God asking him to fix the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. He became a devotee of the faith and his reputation began to spread throughout Christendom.
Formation Director Jo Lambert first met St. Francis through “The Prayer for Peace,” which, although not written by St. Francis, encompasses his way of life. “It’s centered on the other. It’s about giving, letting go and the glory of God.
Lambert began her vocation as a Franciscan nun in a convent in Minnesota, but later realized she was no match for group life. “But I wanted to remain a Franciscan, and that fit the course of my life much better,” she says, adding that she has been linked to the order for 40 years.
It means studying St. Francis and the Church, assessing the state of the world, and “bringing it all together in your state of life, to bring it to your family and to the world.”
Following the profession, each new member shared their motivation for joining.
Geraldine Cariveau had always admired the Franciscan Sisters as a young girl growing up in Hankinson, ND, and eventually became a Franciscan Sister herself, but later left and married.
“I was with them for 15 years,” she says. “But I got really agitated and had to leave. It was God’s doing.
Nevertheless, she still loved the Franciscan way of life and wanted to keep it one way or another. Seeing an article about the Grand Forks chapter in Fargo’s diocesan magazine, New Earth, Cariveau began researching the possibility of starting a chapter here and met with the bishop.
“He was really interested, but he still had questions,” says Cariveau. During this time, he sent her “several beautiful letters”, finally expressing his support for her.
By then, Bradley Steen had joined her, meeting several times for coffee to discuss a chapter of Fargo.
“I’ve always been fascinated by monks and monasteries, even years before I joined the Church in 1996,” he says.
Although he is not called to be part of a religious community, as a single man, the idea of being connected to a community of people who intentionally share their faith appealed to him, he says. , adding that he finds the gift of presence important, “to visit the nursing home and listen, just sit and be there for people,” the type of activity encouraged within the order.
Since his profession, Steen says it’s like something has clicked into place. “I have never been married and I have no children. Sometimes in the Church you wonder where you fit in… It makes me feel a little more complete.
Kelly says she initially attended the meetings reluctantly, but as the profession grew closer she “surrendered”.
“You don’t know where exactly this is going to lead, but I get goosebumps thinking about it now,” she remarks, adding that St. Francis tried to turn to God in everything.
“That’s what I want to strive for.”
As a teenager in Bismarck, Judy Joeb remembers walking with her brother to the drive-in to watch the movie “St. Francis” and being captivated.
For years she felt there was “something more God wanted me to do,” but what? She learned, through reading, that there were religious orders with secular components that non-religious people could join.
Having now found a local community to experience this, she says: “There’s a saying, ‘There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us’, and part of it is being filled. now.”
Salonen, wife and mother of five, works as a freelance writer and speaker at Fargo. Email him at [email protected] and check out his work at Peace Garden Passage, http://roxanesalonen.com.