Tom Ritchie OFM


In considering SFO ministries, we will look first at the principles on which the call to exercise ministries is based, also the call to act in collaboration with our Franciscan family. Then we will examine what the situation actually is with regard to our ministries and our working as a family. Finally, we will consider what are the possibilities for SFO ministries in collaboration with the Franciscan family here in PNG.


The members of the SFO are called to be apostolic people by their very baptism. Our promise to live the Gospel as our way of life (Rule #2) makes it even clearer that we commit ourselves to be people who bring the Word to others. But our first responsibility is to do this by living to the full, according to the gospel, the life to which we are already committed. "Let them faithfully fulfil the duties proper to their various circumstances of life" (Rule #10). "They should go forth as witnesses ...proclaiming Christ by their life and words"(Rule #6). "In their family, they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity and respect for life" (Rule #17).

Within the witness of daily life, and also by activities beyond normal duties, the individual members and the Fraternities should promote: respect for all creatures (#18), peace, harmony, dialogue and forgiveness, (#19), family values and the love of Christ (#17). When we are already carrying out these fundamental ministries, first in our personal life and then in our fraternity we can ask, "What more can I do, Lord?"

Together with the Franciscan family: "in life-giving union with each other, the various members of the Franciscan Family intend to make present the charism of their Father Francis in the life and mission of the Church" (Rule #1). Many friars, Franciscan Sisters and SFO members have not been aware that we are called on to work together as a family with other Franciscan Family members. It is only in recent years that we are becoming more aware that the charism of St. Francis is alive, not just in one branch of the family but most properly in the Franciscan Family as a whole, and especially when the family is witnessing to its unity by working, praying and enjoying life together. So we look now at the ways in which we are already involved in ministry as a family, and how we can develop this spirit and practice in the future.


My experiences have made me aware of the power and the wholeness of the family to which I belong. Now it is a joy to me to see the ways in which we are already working together. Many SFO members are actively working together with friars or Franciscan Sisters on an individual basis, or because they are working with various departments of the Diocese of Aitape, where Franciscans are involved. These are nurses, such as nurses at the Raihu and at health centres where our Franciscan Sisters also work. Also there are SFO Catechists who work with friars, such as Matthew Tomi at the Raihu. Lucy Keno has been engaged in the area of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation for many years, working closely with a number of friars, especially Peter van Hees and Jude Ronayne-Forde, on the logging issues. Maria Samgur has been cooking for the friars for most of her life. It seems that many of these SFO members are conscious that it is a value for them to work with members of the Franciscan Family, and some of them clearly express their desire to work with Franciscans and their satisfaction in being able to do so. Fr. Gianni's project of the musical "Francesco" has been a wonderful opportunity for some junior SFO people to work together with a friar on a truly Franciscan project. And I believe that in many cases the friars or Sisters have been happy to have SFO members working at their side. But for some, we need to make conscious the value of this Family collaboration and the importance of the witness and mutual support that it gives.


As far as I know, we do not have any projects deliberately started as special cooperative ministries between the SFO members and the Franciscan Family. But I see that there are a number of areas where this could be very beneficial.

One of these areas is working with youth or young people. This was suggested by the General Minister, Giacomo Bini OFM, when he was here last year, and two of our Fraternities in Aitape acted on it immediately and began to attract youth and children to our SFO meetings, and to involve some of them in projects directed by the SFO, e.g., the growing of vegetables for the patients at the Raihu Hospital. There are important possibilities of Franciscans working together for youth.

Another area is working against violence for peace. The MFIC Sisters are already committed to building up a network of trained people to spread the message, "Say no to violence." Friars and Secular Franciscans could easily be included in this.

The AIDS project begun by the friars that is now developing at two centres in Moresby gives many opportunities for collaboration. There is the Simon of Cyrene Centre for education about AIDS and for receiving, counselling and caring for individuals, families and children suffering the effect of AIDS, personally or in their families. And there is the AIDS Hospice project, and possibly soon an AIDS Orphans project, both at Sixteen Mile, where managers, nurses, carers, etc. are needed. There are plenty of opportunities for collaboration between the members of the Franciscan family. Some SFO candidates who are nurses at the Raihu have expressed an interest.

Collaboration working in the area of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation has a precedent in the work done already by Lucy and friars, and it needs to be developed.

The Fr. Antonine Services for the Disabled is another project begun by the friars where there is some collaboration but also many opportunities for further collaboration in many areas of work.

The Tsunami Trauma Counselling Service, that developed into Wok Sambai Senta or Psycho-Social Support Centre, began initially through the collaboration of Fr. Tom Ritchie and Sr. Elaine Morzone MFIC. It is now involved in counselling, training people for counselling, art-therapy workshops for healing, educating people about avoiding abuse of drugs and alcohol, overcoming violence and abuse of women and children, etc. There is plenty of opportunity for Franciscan collaboration in areas that are very appropriate for our charism.

Some other ideas are:

- Developing music or drama projects similar to "Francesco".

- Outreach to Catholics who have left the Church formerly but now "stap nating".

- SFO lay-missionaries assisting in apostolates with other Franciscans, such as cooking and cleaning at Banaule.

- Dealing with environmental problems and logging, e.g. in Diocese of Aitape.

- Working together in vocation promotion work - SFO, Sisters, and friars.


Ministry is part of the calling of all, including the SFO. For Franciscans, there are special ministries which are most fitting to show our charism. Ministry for the SFO working together with other members of the Franciscan family is an important and appropriate way to have mutual support and to witness to the Franciscan charism. There are many practical ways for us to do this in PNG. What we have been able to do so far should encourage us to continue and to do much more.