Carl Schafer OFM

1. Origins

For many years before the Thirteenth Century , within the Church's penitential discipline, groups of penitents made a communal commitment (propositum) to gospel living. Francis and his companions were first called "Penitents of Assisi" before their Rule received papal approval. His group developed into a new order of friars (not monks). Clare's group developed into a new order of sisters (nuns).

The Little Flowers of St Francis and other documents describe how Francis attracted many lay persons, men and women, single and married, commoners and nobility, to live a gospel way of life adapted to their secular state. His lay followers developed into a new group of the order of penitents. Also, existing groups of penitents attached themselves to him. They and many other groups of laity were called "third orders". They didn't belong to the order of clerics, nor to the order of monks and nuns, but to a third order of lay penitents.

2. The Rules as Milestones

1221: Memoriale Propositi, of honourius III

Largely because of the influence of Francis and his friars, the groups of the order of penitents multiplied, so that honourius III felt it necessary to give them canonical status and clear directives. This was the first legislation that affected the Franciscan lay groups, but it was directed to all lay groups committed to conversion of life and gospel living.

1289: Supra Montem, of Nicholas IV:

This papal bull was addressed to the Franciscan Order of Penitents and was adopted as the Rule not only of lay groups in the Order but also of religious groups of men or women that had developed out of mixed lay groups. The Franciscan Third Order Regular owns this as its first Rule. This document recognizes Francis as "the founder" of his own Order of Penitents, but Gregory IX had recognized that fact in 1238. This document remained the rule of the Franciscan Third Order Secular until 1883.

3. Recent History, 1883 to 2003 (See Diagram, and fuller treatment in the 2002 Seminar for Assistants, "A Brief History of the Rules of the SFO", and "Response".)

1883: Misericors Dei Filius, of Leo XIII

This apostolic constitution reduced the rule of the Franciscan Third Order Secular to its bare essentials. It retained as much of Supra Montem as could be adapted to the life of any practising Catholic, and modified any parts of it that seemed outdated or harsh. It was addressed to the four obediential Franciscan Third Orders, organized in local Fraternities, and confirmed the Franciscan friars as Spiritual Directors of the fraternities.

1957: General Constitutions: promulgated by a decree of the Sacred Congregation for Religious. These Constitutions applied the Rule of Leo XIII in greater detail to all four Franciscan Third Orders, and recognized Provincial Fraternities of the Third Order based on the Provinces of the friars.

1978: Seraphicus Patriarcha, of Paul VI

In 1968, soon after the Second Vatican Council, the Third Order set about updating the Rule of 1883. After ten years of hard work done by Tertiaries, Paul VI promulgated the present Rule in 1978. He united the four Third Orders of St Francis into the one Secular Franciscan Order, structured in local, regional, and national Fraternities, which make up the international Fraternity. The friars are no longer the spiritual Directors of the local fraternities, but rather their Spiritual Assistants. The Rule stresses secularity, unity, autonomy, apostolic activity and the changed role of the friars.

1984: Ritual was updated by liturgists and approved by the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship. It is open to adaptation by the National Fraternity Councils. In Oceania, we use either the official English translation of the Latin original, or the version adapted for use in the United States.

1990 .... 2000: General Constitutions apply the Rule of Paul VI universally. The International Presidency began the work of drafting new Constitutions in 1984. They were promulgated experimentally in 1990 and finally approved by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 2000. Of interest to us, it calls for Conferences of Assistants, regional, national, and international (general). All Statutes have to be revised in accordance with the General Constitutions.

1992: Statutes for Assistance were requested and approved by the friar Ministers General, to clarify their own role and that of the Assistants whom they appoint to the SFO at all levels. These Statutes were revised and approved by the Conference of Ministers General on 28 March, 2002.

International, National and Regional Statutes. The Statutes of the International Fraternity were approved by the General Chapter of the SFO, on November 18, 2002.

Much work has gone into the writing of National and Regional Statutes over the past ten years. The Statutes of the National Fraternity of the SFO - Oceania were approved in 1997. Their revision in 2000 is awaiting approval.


Carl Schafer OFM

1. Numbers (from the Report of SFO Minister General to General Chapter 2002:)

According to the census of 2002, the total number of Secular Franciscans is about 430,000, in 57 national fraternities.

Twenty-three national fraternities have more than 2,000 members, twenty-one have up to 2,000 members, and thirteen have up to 500 members.

The largest group of 25 national fraternities use English for communication, 22 use Spanish, 8 use French, and two use Italian.

North and South America together have 22 national fraternities, Europe has 19, Africa has 9, Asia has six, and Oceania has one.

Europe has about 195,000 Secular Franciscans, Latin America 170,000, North America 36,000, Asia 24,000, Africa 14,000, Oceania 1,500.

According to the language they speak, the largest number speak Spanish (165,000), then Italian (126,000), English (72,000), German (34,000), Portuguese (24,000), French, including Canada (18,000).

2. Formation

Almost all national fraternities have set up formation teams. They have produced texts adapted to the culture and traditions of the local fraternities. Formation is not restricted to the distribution of written material, but includes local meetings, regional seminars, and national conventions organized in dependence on the economic and political situation. The desire for formation and the capacity for self-formation have increased. Members are more aware that belonging to the SFO means their active presence in society and in the local Church. They have grown in their missionary commitment. Fraternity life has intensified. There are few local fraternities any longer with merely traditional "monthly meetings", where devotional activities are carried out and the members attend passively.

We will discuss later: "Formation of Secular Franciscans: Initial and Ongoing."

3. Unity of the Order

It has taken twenty years to renew the legislation of the SFO: Rule, Ritual, General Constitutions, and Statutes (international, national and regional), also Statutes for Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO. Many members complained about being involved in the renewal of legislation and clamoured for prayers and spirituality. But all that hard work was necessary in order to establish the unity of the Order and its spiritual life on a solid juridical basis. It has helped to develop the awareness of the need for unity and has brought to light serious questions about the legislation and the problems of achieving unity in real life, not just on paper or by imposition from above. (See below, "Current Movements, b. Unity")

4. Relations with the Franciscan Family

On the international level, relations are well developed and frequent. The Conference of the Franciscan Family is composed of the four friar Ministers General, the SFO Minister General, and the President of the Conference of Franciscan Institutes, that is, all the Franciscan Sisters' and Brothers' congregations. These six leaders co-sign letters sent out to the Franciscan Family. The SFO Minister General is invited to the General Chapters of the friars.

On the national level, the SFO national Minister or the regional Minister is often invited to the Provincial Chapters of the friars, not as a voting member but as a consultant or at least an observer. The members of the SFO National Executive take part in friars' ongoing formation courses, especially when these are dedicated to SFO Spiritual Assistants, as in Australia and New Zealand. In some countries, they take part also in the formation of postulants and novices. This is yet to happen in Australia, where at present we have at Maryfields, Campbelltown, four novices from Singapore.

The Franciscan teams working on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, and also Franciscans International, look for more participation of the SFO in their efforts.


Carl Schafer OFM

1. Secularity, Unity and Autonomy

a. Secularity

"Secularity" is a positive concept that was developed by Vatican II. It is the quality of life that is lived as a lay person or secular priest in the world of family, work, politics, economics, and in the Church. It is distinct from religious life, which is lived in a community whose members take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Secular Franciscans, laity or clerics, are led by the Spirit to strive for perfect charity in their secular state. They follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, after the example of St Francis.

The SFO has striven to recover its secular character, as at its beginning, when it penetrated the whole of secular or civil society and the life of the laity in the Church.

Paul VI outlined the secular tasks of the SFO in the Rule of 1978: build a more fraternal world; promote justice; esteem work as a gift; cultivate the Franciscan spirit in the family; respect all creatures; and bring peace, joy and hope into the secular world.

The Secular Franciscans should be first of all evangelized through: following their secular vocation; conversion; initial and ongoing formation; and spiritual assistance. Then they should evangelize others in the family, at work, in secular society and in the church community, both in the SFO local Fraternity and outside the SFO.

b. Unity

Historically, various Franciscan Third Orders derived from the respective Orders of friars who were responsible for their spiritual direction. The unity of the SFO is a consequence of the Rule of Paul VI, of 1978, which united these various Third Orders into one Secular Franciscan Order, at least on paper.

They were restructured in fraternities at the local, regional, national and international levels. This revolutionary restructuring requires that the friar assistants at the levels above the local level cooperate in a Conference of Assistants in order to fulfil their responsibility of giving spiritual assistance. New General Constitutions had to spell out the requirements of the Rule, and were not finalised until 2000. Unity of structures has made great progress, but is still to be achieved in some countries, notably Italy.

More important than unity of structures is unity of spirit. Structural unity must be built on spiritual unity of minds and hearts. Otherwise, unity is a fiction and structural unity is an imposition. Unity of structures follows spiritual unity because the spirit creates the structures that are best adapted to express itself.

c. Autonomy

The SFO, according to its Rule and General Constitutions, is autonomous because it is a single Order guided by elected secular leaders and financed by the professed members.

The Minister and the members of the Council of the SFO Fraternities at all levels are elected by professed Secular Franciscans. The elective Chapters are presided over by a Minister of the next higher level, except in the General Chapter, when the president is a Minister General of the friars. The Fraternity Council has full responsibility for the government of the Fraternity. Each Council includes a Spiritual Assistant appointed by a Provincial Minister of the friars. The Assistant may not vote in the elections of SFO Ministers and Councillors, or in the Fraternity's financial matters.

The role of the friars' Ministers General and Provincial in the external government of the SFO, and the role of the Spiritual Assistants whom they appoint are clearly defined in the legislation of the friars and of the Secular Franciscans.

In reality, the SFO has come a long way in gaining its autonomy, but is still growing into autonomy. At best, its autonomy is modified by its essential links with the four Orders of friars. These links are intended to promote a "life-giving union" between the religious Orders and the secular Order, equal members of a single Franciscan Family.

The SFO will not be as autonomous as it can be until: it is united as a single Order in every regional and national Fraternity; the Councils at the various levels are capable of governing the corresponding Fraternities; and until it is financially self-sufficient.

These conditions require: overcoming the obediential divisions introduced by the Orders of friars; independence from the friars in the internal direction of the Fraternities; and financial independence.

2. Formation of Secular Franciscan leaders

Since last year, the National Executive's Committee on Formation has worked on a programme to help regional and local Fraternities conduct days of formation for leaders. So far, eight papers have been published on the following topics: (1) The Franciscan Vision. (2) The Call to Leadership. (3) Discernment of Goals. (4) Personal Commitment. (5) Shared Leadership. (6) The Tasks of Servant Leaders. (7) Styles of Leadership. (8) Reviving the Fraternity's Life of Prayer. Sets are available from the National Office, 19a Quirk St, Rozelle NSW Australia 2039.

The danger with this approach is that the Regional Executives receive these papers and promptly file them (we hope!). The hard work of gathering the leaders, planning formation days and conducting them is left up to the regional executives, without further involvement of the national executive or follow-up.

3. Formation of Spiritual Assistants

As OFM National Assistant, at the request of Stephen Bliss OFM, Provincial Minister, I conducted a Seminar for OFM Assistants in Australia, in 2001. In the same year, I conducted a similar seminar for OFM and Capuchin Assistants in New Zealand, at the request of the two religious superiors. In 2002, the Conference of National Assistants conducted a Seminar for all friar Assistants in Australia. This year, the Conference will conduct a Seminar for all Assistants, friars and non-friars, in Australia. The friars' superiors in New Zealand, Singapore-Sabah and PNG have been encouraged to attend to the formation of the Spiritual Assistants in their respective entities. We will go into the formation of Spiritual Assistants on Wednesday afternoon.

4. Promotion of Vocations to the SFO

Since early 2001, the National Executive's Committee on Promotion of Vocations to the SFO has put together a "Workshop on Promoting the SFO". The National Council gave us the go-ahead to conduct three workshops in NSW in 2002. They were held in Toronto, Waverley and Leeton. We prepared a Handout for the participants, which we have expanded into a Handbook for the other regional executives who want to conduct a workshop in 2003. The Committee will collect all the results and produce a Manual for promoting vocations to the SFO in Oceania, which will be presented to the National Chapter in 2004.

The results of the questionnaire returned by the local Fraternities and groups in PNG clearly show the need for the local Fraternities to run a promotion program (See the results for PNG). I will leave with you a copy of the Handbook for Spiritual Assistants, and leave you to read "The Need for a Promotion Program", and "Where Do We Go From Here?". Both items are addressed to the Secular Franciscans, not to the Spiritual Assistants.


Tom Ritchie OFM


The first members of the Franciscan Family to settle down in PNG were seven friars from the OFM Holy Spirit Province, Australia, in 1946. They began the Franciscan missionary endeavour in the West Sepik Province. In the 1950's came the Capuchin Friars in Mendi and the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Aitape. Then the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Maternity also came to Aitape and two Congregations of Franciscan Sisters also began to work alongside the Capuchins. These various groups of Sisters were the first Third Order Regular Franciscans to begin in PNG. The first Third Order Secular Franciscans began as isolated Tertiaries in the late 1950's or early 1960's. The first enduring local Fraternity was not established till 1987.


When I wrote a report on the SFO in PNG for the 2002 Provincial Chapter in Aitape, I began by saying that the SFO was established in Aitape by Fr. Salvator Dougherty about fifteen years ago. In response to that, Fr. Colin Kenway, OFM wrote the following note:

The history of the SFO in the Aitape Area dates back at least to the very early 1960's. When I arrived to work as a lay-missionary for the then Franciscan Mission, there were two lay members of what was then known as the Third Order of St. Francis working on the mission. They were known as Brother Bonny Lissai, from Sissano, and Brother Eric Veith, who was an expatriate lay-missionary. (Ed.: It seems that these were received and professed by Fr. Martin Schumack, OFM.)

In the early 1960's Fr. Benedict O'Donoghue OFM formed a Third Order group at St. Anna. A number of lay-missionaries joined the group and some of them were professed in the St. Anna Church and were given religious names, as was the custom.

I was one of those professed and took the name of Joachim. After Vatican II, I became a lay minister of Holy Communion and used to wear my Third Order habit when functioning as such. Another member was Ann Hodgen, a lay-missionary who later married Dr. Leo Hoy. All of us lived and worked as isolated Tertiaries, but came together when possible, to meet as members of a Fraternity. Signed: Colin Kenway OFM

In the SFO files, I discovered a letter written by myself, in November 1999, to Mr. Clement Arino, informing him that according to an old record he was received into the Third Order on 29 November 1968. There is, however, no record of his profession till 1988. But it does indicate that throughout the 1960's there were starts made with the Third Order both for lay-missionaries and for New Guinea members. The only indication of the Third Order in the 1970's is Fr. Greg Bourke's story of his professing a lay-missionary Jenny Gibson as a tertiary about 1976. She returned to Australia to continue as an enthusiastic member of the SFO and she assisted in writing the history of the SFO in Australia.


Further research into old files came up with another interesting beginning, which predated Fr. Salvator's efforts. In 1984, Fr. Godfrey Arsuffi OFM, an elderly Italian friar, who came to PNG late in life, was chaplain at the Raihu "Haus Sik". He gathered a group of candidates at the Raihu. On February 24, 1985, he began receiving them. Four groups totalling 33 were received between February and October 1985, and a fifth group of seven was received in March 1986, 40 in all. These were mainly students from the school of nursing and came from all over the East and West Sepik, including Vanimo and along the Sepik River. A few were leprosy patients.

I discovered a small undated report, which appears to have been written by Fr. Salvator, concerning this group after the departure of Fr. Godfrey and possibly after his death in June 1986. He says that on 25 March 1986, thirteen were professed and six are now left. (Most of the others returned to their home provinces or villages after completing their nursing training!).

He notes their "Novitiate" training: - meeting once a month, - story: life of St. Francis and life of Franciscan saints, - stressed prayer but did not teach any method, - do works of charity, - collection: 20 toea. After profession, a Council to be elected.

The fraternity met only once more, so Fr. Matthew Darby refused to profess any more and the fraternity quickly faded out of existence. Some of the original members did reappear in later fraternities.


Fr. Salvator was convinced about the value of the SFO and that it was time to start in earnest. He started in his determined and organised way with the recruitment and formation of the SFO candidates. The Friars who worked with him in particular in establishing fraternities and arousing the interest of others were Fr. Leonard Tarai in the Lumi area, who notably assisted with seminars, and Fr. Eugene Teglia, who did the monumental work of translating the Ritual, Rule and Constitutions, and later "The Three Companions", into Pidgin English, between 1988 and 1990.

Assisted by Fr. Salvator, a Fraternity began in Aitape in 1987. The first profession was of Maria N'Drowou in 1987 and four more in 1988. By 1989, there was a group of enquirers in Sissano, and also in Lumi. In 1989, Fr. Salvator was conducting courses at St. Martin's for more than twenty enquirers. His work was cut short by his illness the following year and his death in 1991.


Aitape: As already noted, the history in Aitape goes back to the early 1960's. The Fraternity begun by Fr. Salvator in 1987-88 was canonically established by the Provincial Austen Crapp OFM in 1992 as the St. Salvator Fraternity, meeting at St. Didacus Friary with Br. Paias Teke as the Assistant. It grew in membership up until 1994. For various reasons, attendance of meetings began to flag towards the end of the 1990's and the Ministers began to call fewer and fewer meetings till it became dormant. In 2001, the Provincial Tom Ritchie OFM became Assistant and attempted to bring it back to life with the help of the appointed acting President, Catechist Noel Sabiken, from the Wassisi Fraternity, until his sudden death the same year. Then Catechist Patrick Wanik, of the St. Salvator Fraternity, was appointed as acting President. After much discernment over more than one year, the Fraternity was split into three emerging fraternities:

One is at St. Anna and now has five professed, 12 enquirers and 10 junior enquirers.

Another, at St. Francis Chapel at the Raihu, has three professed members and about 10 enquirers and 53 "Franciscan Children". They are using the room formerly used by Fr. Godfrey's group. The third is in Aitape town, with five professed members, and has yet to decide when and where or if they will meet.

There are about 16 people on Ali Island who have declared they want to become enquirers.

Sissano: Brother Bonny Lissai, believed to be the first secular Papua New Guinean to be professed in PNG, came from Sissano. In 1987, professed member Maria N'Drewou (of Manus) wrote to Fr. Salvator to say "We held our first meeting on Sunday, 6th August 1989, with 16 enquirers, eight from Sissano and eight from Warapu. In our second meeting, on 3rd September, eight new enquirers brought the total to 24." She then asked for more books.

There is a record of a visit by the then Provincial, Austen Crapp, in July 1994. He reports that eight out of 12 have kept coming to meetings for ten months since the reception by Anne Keino in November 1993. No attempt has yet been made to revive the Fraternity since the tsunami disaster in July 1998, which disrupted the Fraternity and destroyed the records.

Port Moresby: There is a letter, dated 30/10/88, from Fr. Henry Tapi to Fr. Salvator stating: "This is to let you know that I have started today with the group after a long wait. Today was really an introduction." The Port Moresby fraternity continued to meet mainly at Franciscan College, and sometimes at St. Mary of the Angels, Sixteen Mile. It grew gradually. On 24th October 1993, the first nine professions were received by Anne Keino, of the St. Salvator Fraternity. It should have a total of twelve professed members, as three more were prepared for profession. It has met monthly with some constancy and has had a good supply of Assistants. However, it has not expanded, but has gradually lost members because they have moved away from Moresby, or no longer attend meetings, so that now it claims only six members.

Lumi: In the Lumi file is a letter from Fr. Salvator to Fr. Leonard Tarai, dated June 1989, congratulating him on making a fine start with the SFO at Lumi and saying that he was forwarding ten copies of the SFO Rule, Life of Francis, Prayers, and Reception Lotu. Further, he says, "If you follow the programme "Fully Mature..." you will be ready to receive them after the third Session. He then mentions that he will send copies to Sr. Rosella, who was presumably the Animator. Lumi Fraternity has continued on with big lapses between meetings and poor attendance. It still exists, but has not flourished.

Wassisi: A letter from Fr. Salvator, dated 16 February 1990, congratulates Fr. Eugene for starting the SFO at Wassisi, and thanks him for his translation of "The Three Companions". Fr. Eugene remained their Assistant, but often from a distance, till Fr. Gianni became their Assistant in recent years. On the feast of St. Francis, 2000, 22 members from Wassisi were professed. They had begun as enquirers under Fr. Eugene in January 1999. There are now 36 professed members of the fraternity, including 12 in temporary profession.

Fatima: Clement Arino and his wife, both professed in Aitape, were foundation members of the Fraternity, which began on Saturday, 25 July 1992, when three more were professed. We have the following record of professions:

29-03-08, at La Verna Church - 10.

04-10- 99, at Lumi Church - 1.

10-12- 2000, at Fatima Church 6.

So there is a total of 22 professed.

The Spiritual Assistants have been MFIC Sisters: Sr. Rose Wooden, Sr. Mary Paropet, Sr. Thecla Siata, Sr. Nualla and Sr. Jeanette Gaudet.

Wati: In April 1997, the SFO fraternity was erected, with five members professed. In 1998, there were nine new members. In 1999, there were again nine new members. In 2000 there were five new members. In 2001 there were five new members, making a total of 33 members. Fr. Gianni has been the Assistant of the Wati Fraternity throughout this time. Fourteen members of the Wati Fraternity walked all the way to Aitape and provided a traditional Singsing for the visit of the Minister General, Giacomo Bini OFM, in 2001. They are active in ministries in the parish, especially in promoting devotion to the Eucharist.

Wabag: Simon Sopial of Enga Province became a Health Extension Officer and was living for a time at Six Mile, Port Moresby, about 1993. He had developed a love for St. Francis, and when he heard about the Secular Franciscans he had a keen interest. He attended some meetings in 1994.He made enquiries about how to begin the SFO. He went back to Wabag and became involved in Franciscan prayer groups. At one time there were almost 100 people involved in nine groups. He had contact with the Capuchins in Mendi to provide some support for the groups. He travelled back to Moresby to see Fr. Tom Ritchie, to find out more about the S.F.O. and how it could be organised in Wabag. He obtained the books required for formation, and Fr. Jonathan Williams OFM Cap. agreed to be the Assistant, with the Poor Clare Sisters at Par providing a formator.

On November 15, 1999, the first twenty members including Simon Sopial and his wife Kathy made their first profession. By March 2000, there were 50 more enquirers. In 2003, nine more have been professed, and there are 40 in initial formation. Interest in the SFO has spread in the Diocese of Wabag and also is spreading in the Mendi Diocese. The members are active in ministries in the diocese.

Lae: Pius and Rose Kafur, professed members of the Moresby Fraternity, moved to Lae in the mid-1990's. Gradually, Pius gathered a group of interested people around him in St. Michael's Parish, Lae. They wanted to know more about the SFO and how it could be established in Lae. Fr. Geoffrey Lee, diocesan priest (ex-Anglican Franciscan), agreed to be the

Assistant. The opening meeting of the emerging Fraternity of St. Michael's was held January 1997, with two professed members and eleven enquirers present. Now in 2003, there are still two professed and there are six prepared for profession.


The OFM friars who came to PNG after the Second World War to establish the Franciscan Mission came with an experience of the Third Order as a sort of prayer group for older pious Catholics. Some tentative beginnings were made from the early 1960's. A deeper understanding of the SFO, with the new Rule and Constitutions, encouraged Fr. Salvator, in 1987, to make the beginning which has now expanded into ten Fraternities or emerging Fraternities, that extend from Aitape, to Lae, to Moresby and into the highlands, with around 200 members. The recent expansions into Lae and Wabag have come entirely through the initiatives of lay people. Some Fraternities are not strong, but some are developing strongly and have dedicated members who are very active in a variety of ministries. The SFO is just beginning and has the potential to become a powerful lay movement of the Church in PNG, and is already a vital and integral part of the Franciscan Family in this country.