"This is a very significant moment in the life of the order."
In offering that remark during the opening prayer session at the Alma Kraus Memorial Regional Formation Workshop, Spiritual Assistant Richard Trezza, OFM, summed up the critical emphasis that the International and National Fraternities are placing on initial formation of prospective members of the Secular Franciscan Order.
Held at Christ the King Retreat Center in Syracuse Oct. 14-16, the workshop introduced the new national manual for formators -- formation directors and teams -- to use as a guide in providing initial formation for inquirers and candidates.
Some 50 people participated in the workshop, representing all fraternities but one, Regional Minister Mary Frances Charsky noted.
She referred to it as the "FUN" manual, an acronym for part of the title, "For Up to Now: Foundational Topics for Initial Formation." The words, For Up to Now, come from a charge by Francis of Assisi: "Let us begin, for up to now we have done nothing."
The new manual doesn't mean formation teams need to replace the formation books they are using, she said. It does mean they need to make sure that key subject areas outlined in the new manual are covered.
Thus, the purpose of the new manual is to ensure proper in-depth formation for all prospective members of the Order, regional leaders explained.
The leaders introduced some key topics, and offered suggestions on how to teach the material and how to take advantage of resources on an accompanying CD.
One of the highlights was the emphasis on the significance of Secular Franciscan profession -- which, while different, is of the same import as religious profession, Father Richard noted. It's a public, church-witnessed consecration of one's life to God -- to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis.
- Mary Frances Charsky, regional minister, who gave an overview of the formation manual project.
- Cathy Feheley, councilor, who discussed discernment of a Franciscan vocation.
- Kim Marks, vice minister, who spoke on what formation is and pathways to profession.
- Catherine Koscinski, councilor, who gave an overview of basic catholic doctrine.
- Richard Trezza, spiritual assistant, who discussed ecclesiology and formation.
- Marie Meyer, councilor, who discussed vocation, mission and charism.
- Joanne Lockwood, secretary, who spoke on St. Clare.
- Mary Stronach, formation director, who briefed the assembly on Franciscan theology.