Welcome to the website of our fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS – Ordo Franciscana Seculara) in the United States of America. Thank you for visiting us electronically. We hope and pray that we might one day see you in person, God willing!
The Secular Franciscan Order, formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, is an official canonical order within the Catholic Church, established by St. Francis of Assisi himself early in the thirteenth century.
Ordinarily, we do not live in community; rather, we live with our families and perform our jobs out in the world, gathering in fraternities on a regular basis. By profession, we promise to follow a Rule of Life approved and confirmed by Pope Paul VI in June of 1978.
The Rule and Constitutions might be a good place for you to begin your online inquiry. You might like to read more about St. Francis from numerous websites or you may pick up your phone and call 1-800-Francis for more information. You might click on this list of Regions and Fraternities across the whole United States (http://www.nafra-sfo.org/regions.html) and see if you can find a fraternity near you to visit. You might email the Regional Minister for more details.
In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Spirit, strive for ongoing daily conversion, to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel. We seek, with and only with God’s grace, perfect charity in our secular state, helping one another in this journey closer to Christ, following in the footsteps of Sts. Francis and Clare.
The SFO in the United States is structured into 30 geographic regions; the Minister of each Region is a member of the National Fraternity Council, as are the members of the National Executive Council and four members of the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants, one from each of the four Friar Obediences. The National Fraternity is represented at the International level (headquartered in Rome) by an International Councilor, our Minister General, Encarnacion del Pozo, OFS. There are approximately 700 local fraternities with approximately 14,500 professed members in the United States, world wide there are over 400,000 members. Each fraternity has a Spiritual Assistant, who is usually a First Order, or Third Order Regular, Friar, but could be a religious, diocesan clergy, or a certified lay Secular Franciscan.
Is God Calling You?
Origins of the Secular Franciscan Order
Francis the Evangelist
St. Francis of Assisi and his first companions were inspired by the Holy Spirit to live the gospel as a fraternity group, and following the example of Jesus and his apostles, they traveled through cities and countryside to preach the holy gospel and ask the people to live a Christian life more in keeping with the message of salvation.
Many people were moved by the living testimony of Francis, the “Poverello” (the Poor Man) and wanted to follow him. They wanted to behave as he did faithful to Christ and to the word of life in the gospels.
Popular Enthusiasm and Followers
Francis welcomed everyone as a gift from God. The men who followed him became Minor Friars; young ladies became the Poor Ladies or Poor Clares. Francis also inspired many men and women who did not enter into religious service.
They remained in the outside world and continued their normal activities. This movement evolved into the Franciscan Third Order of Penance, known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.
Origins of the Third Order
The Third Order movement began in the autumn of 1211, expanding during the spring of 1212 and enjoying a prodigious growth in both area and numbers over the next ten years.
The Rule of Evangelical Life
Francis offered his followers a Rule of evangelical life, giving the Tertiaries three precious documents: The First Letter to the Faithful Penitents in 1215, the Second Letter to the Faithful Penitents in 1221 and the “Memoriate Propositi” in 1221.
In 1289 the First Franciscan pope, Niccolo IV, wanted to recognize the Third Order of St. Francis in an official way. He gave explicit approval to the Order of Penance, which had already been commended by many Popes, and reissued the “Memoriale Propositi”, the Rule of 1221 in more juridic form. Those Penitent Franciscans who remained in their homes (marrying or not) and who held a professional post constituted the Secular Third Order (TOS), which since 1978 has been call the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS).
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