Thoughts from our Regional Formation Director – December 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

December 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you!  May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Saint Francis, Saint Clare and the Franciscan family in imitating Jesus and Mary.

It is hard to believe but after looking through my files, this will be a full year that I have been sending you my thoughts and it has caused me to reflect on mile-stones and anniversaries which in turn has caused me to contemplate a very special anniversary we all share!  The fortieth anniversary of the approval of our rule of life.  I can almost laugh to myself some times when I hear a sister and brother say “Our New Rule” or “the New Rule”.  Almost all the Secular Franciscans I know have known no other rule!

This rule of ours is a precious and most loved gift from our Order and from the Church.  It has brought us back to the foundations of our origins, brothers and sisters of penance and ongoing conversion.  It truly reflects the spirit of the Second Vatican Council in  LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) where our Holy Mother Church redirects our thoughts to the original intent of “Church”  and mission.


“Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk. 16:15), it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church. Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament–a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men–she here purposes, for the benefit of the faithful and of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission. The condition of the modern world lends greater urgency to this duty of the Church; for, while men of the present day are drawn ever more closely together by social, technical and cultural bonds, it still remains for them to achieve full unity in Christ.”[1]

I encourage all of you to re-read the Second Vatican Documents, but especial Lumen Gentium.  And as you do you should see a striking commonality in tone and form with the Rule approved in 1978, and like the rule the constitutions and statutes.  It is intended to bring us back to our roots and original mission.

In my discussion with many of you I hear a frequent question.  What do we do for ongoing formation?  I can understand the question.  Our materials and guidelines for Initial Formation are very clear and abundant.  But at first glance not so much for ongoing formation.  Just like our rule is a return to our roots, I would suggest the same thing for formation.  Take the rule one paragraph at a time along with the reference material like the constitution and the “Franciscan Journey” and spend your ongoing formation time reflecting and discussing or “Re-Discovering” the most precious gift of our Rule of Life!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director


[1] LUMEN GENTIUM ( Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), The mystery of the Church, par 1

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – October 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

October 2018

 Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! Blessed Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. May the peace and joy of our seraphic Father be yours in ever greater abundance as we journey with Francis in imitating Jesus and Mary.

I know I said in my last letter to you that we would start the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process. But something important has come up that I feel needs to be discussed. That is what do you do when a really nice person that seems to be a strong, loving Catholic with strong social convictions is in formation but there is that nagging sense that “maybe they should be part of the Dorothy Day group” the Blue Army or some other catholic organization. The Franciscan Order is one way of approaching God. As our rule of life says: “The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God — laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi. In various ways and forms but in life-giving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.1

An example of this really “Nice Person” could be a simple one. As stated above, they are good Catholics, very involved in many things. Holy and noble things like the Rosary society, the Blue Army, maybe the Saint Vincent DePaul Society, AA, NA2 and so on. So much so that they have a hard time committing to the process, committing to Fraternal Life and the life of the region and national fraternities.

In the Franciscan Journey3 it says: “Initial Formation (Inquirery / Candidacy) prepares you for permanent profession as a Secular Franciscan. Our way of life MUST TAKE PRIORITY in your life. When choices must be made between SFO requirements and other groups, SFO takes priority”

Now, if a person seems to be in this situation and is willing to put those other “Holy” things aside for the Order, no problem. But if not, they may need to make a difficult choice. And if they can’t or will not, the council must make the choice for them. Fraternity and the Order must take priority. Obviously there are exceptions for Family Life and special occasions. But even family life can be a concern. If a person has a spouse that is not participating and not supportive there can be problems. The spouse could start getting upset if their partner is fully engaged in the order and they don’t like it!

Another good example is a person has a strong personal devotion to a noble Saint or other aspect of the faith, could even be something like “Fatima”. And that person tries to proselytize the fraternity and has them commit to the same devotion. So someone might say “how can that be bad?” In the “Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order”4 it explains that as Franciscans we are bound to liturgical pray. It lists the approved forms of prayer we are to use focusing on the Liturgy of the Hours. The Rosary and Franciscan Crown are suggested to be said in May and October5.

When someone who is a “really Nice Person” and even a good Catholic has a hard time complying with any aspect of the rule, constitutions, statutes and other governing documents there is a very real possibility they should not be professed. This is hard, I know. It is not like someone who obviously shows signs that they have no vocation. But this needs to be done to protect the fraternity and actually the individual. Next month we will continue the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process. I promise!

Pax et Bonum Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS SKD

Regional Formation Director


1 SFO Rule, Chapter One – Rule 1

2 Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous

3 The Franciscan Journey, Chapter One, Page 2, last paragraph

4 The Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, Appendix II, Pages 103 & 104

5 The Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, Appendix II, Page 104, number 7

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director
September 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. All peace and good be with you! As summer comes to a close, and school starts again we enter into another cycle of change! Soon we will see the leaves change color and the air start to get cool and crisp. And so as the seasons change so do we. We grow and learn all our lives. It should never stop.

As we said in August’s “Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director” we were going to continue the discussion concerning the Inquires and the interview process. We had said that there should be no doubt in the minds and hearts of any of the council and formation team before a person is moved on into candidacy. That does not mean that the discernment process is over by any means. All it means is that there are no obvious concerns that the person is not ready or does not have a possible vocation!

When there is some objection by one of the council and or formation team this must be resolved before any action is taken. So, now that we have an individual or several individuals voicing some concern, what do you do? A lot of talking and even more listening. The council and formation team must explore the objections or concerns in a loving and charitable way but also focus on truth. A very good tool to use are the two lists in the resource “The Franciscan Journey i called “Signs that may indicate the presence of a vocation to the SFOii” and the invers, “Signs that may indicate that a vocation to the SFO is not present”. The council and the formation team should prayerfully go thru those lists and ask if any of the signs of vocation are there and if any of the signs that a vocation is NOT present are there.

Now, any one of us could read the lists and look at the signs that a vocation is not present and apply some of them to our own lives. After all we are all human and in need of grace ourselves. The question should be, does an individual live in those signs or perpetually act them out, not occasionally fall into one or two of them. After a  thorough discussion and evaluation another vote should be taken. By the way, only the council votes, that is the Minister, Vice Minister, Formation Director, Treasurer, Secretary, Spiritual Assistant and any elected Councilors at Large. If any members of the formation team are not elected, they do not vote.

In all cases, if there is still any doubt, the person should not move to candidacy. The next thing to do is ask “What Now?” Should the individual be asked to continue some other form of initial formation? If the individual lacks basic Catholic understanding, maybe they should be asked to attend a local RCIA program, then come back. It may be a simple although hard, as to honestly discuss with them why the council voted the way they did and give them the opportunity to correct their behavior. But do not leave it to chance thinking that they will “get it” in candidacy. That only hurts them and the fraternity.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Candidacy, the Rite of Admission and tips on progressing thru the process.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Director

iPages 15 ‐ 18
ii SFO is now referred to as OFS “Order of Franciscan Seculars”

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – August 2018

August 2018 

 Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. 

 All peace and good be with you!  It is hard to believe summer is half over!  I was in the car with one of my granddaughters yesterday and as we passed her school she said how much she missed school and wanted summer to end.  Music to a grandpa’s heart… I said it is wonderful that you love to learn.  She said in her adorable way “Grandpa, I don’t like learning, I miss my friends!” as it should be.  The same is true with our fraternities, we are friends, we are family we should love to gather and be together.  Including just having fun!   

As you know we took a short break from Initial Formation in July’s letter to discuss ongoing formation.  Well, it is time to get back to initial formation.  As you know we were discussing Inquiry and using the Pathways to Profession Chart1 to bring order and constancy to our journey and the exploration of Secular Franciscan spirituality.  Everything we do and teach should be based on this concept and founded in the FUN Manual and the Regional Guidelines.  If we do this we will know we are on the correct path.   

So, when we left off in June, we were discussing Inquiry.  Inquiry is the first true step in initial formation for the Secular Francians.  Orientation is important but is just that, it is meant to give a person some terms and a basic understanding of what will be happening.  But by now your “Inquirer” should have had time to get familiar with some of the language we use (in orientation) and you, the formation team and the members of the fraternity should be getting to know the Inquirer.  And please note I called them an “Inquirer” not Postulate or Novice.  Since regionalization and the adoption of the new rule (forty years ago) the correct terms are Inquirery and Candidacy or Inquirer or Candidate.  While we are on that subject, the Minister or president of a fraternity (at any level) is no longer referred to as a Prefect, it is either minister or president, more places use minister.  But I digress, I apologize. 

Back to the Inquirer, by now you should have collected all of the Spiritual Inventory, sacramental records and other important documents.  There should have been at least one formal interview and possibly two.  In my fraternity we frequently have a BBQ or Picnic with the inquirers and the council instead.  This make the situation much less threatening.  As your Inquirer nears the end of the inquiry phase, they should be invited to request Candidacy (in writing) including why they feel called to a Franciscan vocation.   

Once that is done, the formation team and the fraternity council should review all the documents including the home work where appropriate and have a discussion as to whether they see a vocation in the individual.  Once discussed a council vote should occur and there should be no doubt the individual should continue.  If there is any doubt, a further discussion needs to happen.  What do we do now? 

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.   

Pax et Bonum 

Peace and all Good 

 Ted Bienkowski, OFS 

SKD Region Formation Director 


Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – July, 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

July 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! Well summer is here! It is only 8:00 AM here in Summit Hill and it is 80 degrees already! Hot and humid, but watch, come December we will be saying it is too cold!

I would like to take a short break from Initial Formation for July. Those who know me will know how important I think Initial formation is! It is the bedrock on which our order is built and stands firm. But ongoing formation is also important and needs our attention. Just like initial formation, ongoing formation should be for seculars by seculars. What do I mean by that? Great question.

What that means is that that since regionalization in the 70’s we are intended to be an order true to ourselves and governed by ourselves. Therefore formation of all types should primarily be led by the seculars at a local fraternity level, a regional fraternity level and so on. Does that mean there is no place for our beloved First, Second and Third Order Regular Brothers and Sisters in formation? Absolutely not! They just should not take the lead nor should they be giving formation on a regular basis. That is the job of the Council and Formation Director at all levels.

This might seem like a daunting task, but just like with Initial Formation, there are incredible tools out there. You are not alone! What I have found is that an occasional journey back to basics “The Franciscan Journey” is always a good thing. Take one of the chapters and break it down to 15 – 20 minute small group discussions and then summarize at the larger fraternity level. This is good for several reasons; first, there is always room for refresher and renewed commitment to our rule. Secondly, there are sisters and brothers out there that for one reason or another didn’t necessarily get the best initial formation. This process helps them grow.

Besides the Franciscan Journey, there is a lot of material right on our Regional web site1 under formation resources. Just remember, we should keep it Franciscan. What I mean by that is there are a lot of good and noble Catholic things out there, but we are distinctly Franciscan. We should focus on Franciscan Spirituality. Another good guideline, use only material approved by the Church.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and tips on progressing thru the process.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 under formation resources

Thoughts from Your Regional Formation Director - June 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! It appears that spring has actually arrived and we are now heading towards summer! It is time to pick up where we left off in April, our discussion about Initial Formation and in particular, Inquiry. » Click to continue reading “Thoughts from Your Regional Formation Director – June 2018” »

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – May 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

May 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you! It finally looks like spring has arrived. NEPA, north of the tunnel, hasn’t had snow or ice for several weeks and our flowers and trees are blooming praise God.

On April 22, 2018 Holy Cross Fraternity had the privilege to profess two candidates1. It was a wonderful experience and a joy filled time for all! But it got me thinking, along with some other events, about profession and the deeper meaning. It got me thinking it is time to remember what profession means and what we all actually did during that priceless Mass.

I want to start with something I know you all are familiar with but is always worth repeating. That is Father Cangelosi words, “Indeed, most people have foggy ideas2 on the value of Profession in the Secular Franciscan Order and because of this many Secular Franciscans do not live the “grace” of Profession for what it really is. A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Christ3 aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.4”

We must work hard to not let our Fraternities be “Foggy” places or not fully embrace all that profession is; “A true nuptial alliance with Jesus Chris aimed at a further consecration to God and at accomplishing a closer bond to the Church to reach the perfection of love and the realization of Saint Francis mission.” As Father Cangelosi said, we have been professed into a nuptial relationship for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God and by that relationship firmly bound to each other, the Church and all that the church is! We are not alone, nor are our fraternities. We are all bound together and journeying together.

As a reminder to what we actually say during our profession is important, all of it is important, but here I will focus on the actual “words of profession”.

“I, (Name), by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state, I promise to live all the days of my life the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Order of Franciscan Seculars, by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our holy father Saint Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.5”

Those words are powerful and full of significance. What does it mean to consecrate oneself?

{Verb (used with object), consecrated, consecrating6. 1 – to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: to consecrate a new church building. 2 – To make (something) an object of honor or veneration; hallow: a custom consecrated by time. 3 – To devote or dedicate to some purpose: a life consecrated to ministry. 4 – To admit or ordain to a sacred office, especially to the episcopate. 5 – To change (bread and wine) into the Eucharist.}

In our case number 3 is the definition to use. We promised to dedicate ourselves to the church, the order and the rule. We made that promise to each other, to the Church thru the ecclesial witness and to those participating other than our sisters and brothers. We should never forget we are family and an ecclesial order bound to each other and our higher fraternities by our promise!

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director

1 Media presentation available on the HCF web site: or on the HCF You-Tube Channel:

2 Emphasis mine

3 Emphasis mine

4 Emphasis mine

5 Taken directly from the “Ritual of the SFO”

6 Modified from the New Catholic Dictionary (On Line) Emphasis mine

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director 
April 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.
All peace and good be with you! In my March letter I was optimistic and said as
we say “goodbye to winter and hello to spring”, well here we are on April 2, 2018, the
day after Easter and old man winter just dumped at least six inches of snow north of the
tunnel! Praise God it wasn’t on Easter Sunday.

Last month we started talking about what we do with all the paper we collect!
And we discussed the chart “Pathway to Profession(i)” as your road map to proper Initial
formation. At the risk of repeating myself, we will continually return to that document as
a guide! And as we said last month the reason we gather all this documentation is to
assist in the discernment process for the council and the individual. It is the local
council’s responsibility to decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession(ii)
and they need all the help they can get!

This month we will focus more on the start of formal initial formation with Inquiry.
I have been asked why we say initial formation doesn’t formally start until Inquiry, I like
to say that orientation is just that. We are helping a person to get to know the
“Franciscan” language and some of our customs. The real meat of the matter starts in
Inquiry and never ends! By this time, the individuals should have made their written
request to enter formation, and that request should have been discussed among the
formation team and then with the council. If no issues arise that would prevent
continuing the person is invited into Inquiry starting with the “Ceremony of Introduction
and Welcoming(iii)” this simple ceremony marks the beginning of a life’s journey and
should not be overlooked or thought of as unimportant.

During Inquiry, it is essential that all of the “Admission Documents” be collected
and reviewed with the formation team and council. The documents are listed in the
February 2018 letter. If there appears to be any anomalies, these should be discussed
privately with the individual with recommendations for overcoming the anomaly. At
times this will require clerical intervention. If the anomaly appears to be a true
impediment such as unresolved Divorces and remarriages, lacking evidence of full
initiation into the Catholic Church (sacramental records), belonging to unapproved
organizations like the Free Masons or just plain not being Catholic (even if they are in
the RCIA[iv] program), they should be asked to resolve those issues with their Parish
Priest before starting Candidacy. Although, I usually don’t wait that long.

I have mentioned several times that the “Formation Team should discuss” I
understand that not all fraternities have an actual team. The Formation Director is it. If
that is the case the process is the same just discussing with the council. I do highly
recommend that all fraternities work towards building teams.

Next month we will continue the discussion on Inquiry and beyond.
Pax et Bonum
Peace and all Good
Ted Bienkowski, OFS
SKD Region Formation Directo

i Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or‐content/uploads/2014/07/pathwaytoprofession.jpg  ii Pathway to Profession chart
iii The {Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order} St Anthony Messenger Press, 1985, Page 9  iv Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director – March 2018

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

March 2018

Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you as we say goodbye to Winter and hello to Spring, at least that is what I am hoping for!  But for those of us that live in North Eastern PA, old man Winter can linger well into late March.

In my last letter to you I said we would start talking about what we do with all this paper we collect!  So here we go. To start with, several letters ago I directed you to the chart “Pathway to Profession[i]”; you will find we end up there a lot.  It is a great resource and lays out what has to happen. The reason we gather all this documentation is to assist the potential candidate and the local council in determining if an individual has a vocation to the Franciscan Secular life and rule.  In smaller fraternities it is easier in most cases for everyone to get close to each other, in larger fraternities this becomes difficult at times.  The letters, homework, sacramental records and interviews all help the individual express their thoughts and feelings but also help the local council and formation team to truly get to know them.  It is ultimately the council, including the Spiritual Assistant if you have one, that will decide to accept or not accept the individual into profession[ii].

This can be a daunting task, but if done a little at a time will make it much easier.  In addition, no individual in the process should be surprised at the outcome.  What do I mean by that?  No one should get thru candidacy and then the council questions their vocation.  The Formation Team or Director should be reporting progress, issues or concerns to the council right from the start.  According to the Pathways Chart that would be the first interview.  The first interview is very telling; is the individual forth coming or reluctant to share information?  How do they respond to very personnel questions about marriages, clubs and other organizations they belong to?   This interview becomes a part of their permanent record.

Once invited to participate in orientation, the home work starts and is also collected.  Depending on the dynamics of the individuals and as I get to know them, I will either assign homework questions from the Franciscan Journey Book or I will let them chose.  If I see they are selecting the easier questions I then start to assign them.  They are told to review all the questions, but to give a written response to at least two questions and always the last question concerning the scriptures.  Then the entire chapter and supporting documents are discussed.

During the various stages of initial formation, this homework is presented to the council for them to review if they chose to do so. Once an individual is either professed or withdraws, the home work is returned to them so that they can look back and reflect on what they experienced.  Something like Mystagogia[iii] in the RCIA.

As Orientation comes to an end, the formation team discuss their impression of the individual, and then invites the individual to apply for Inquiry.  I ask them to write a formal letter to the council sharing some of their experience and why they feel lead to Inquiry and the start of formal formation.  I do have to share with you that our council has had to make the hard decision at times not to invite a person to continue although it is normally a mutual agreement.

Next month we will discuss some of the documents and process for Inquiry and beyond.

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director


[i] Regional Formation handbook, second section, page 43; or

[ii] Pathway to Profession chart

[iii] Greek word that means to reflect upon the mysteries

February 2018 - Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

Thoughts from your Regional Formation Director

February 2018


Greetings to you my sisters and brothers in Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

All peace and good be with you as we say farewell to January and move into February and the Lenten season.

As promised, we will start discussing how the fraternity council and formation team use the Interview Form, Letters of Reference and Sacramental documents, and how to organize formation files.  As mentioned in previous letters, all documents must be saved and properly stored.

I will start with what should be saved and filed as part of the fraternity’s permanent records:

  • Any letters received concerning the Candidate
    1. A letter from the Pastor (mandatory)
    2. A letter from the spiritual director if different than the pastor (optional)
    3. A letter from a third person “not Clergy or family” who knows them and their Catholic faith expression well (optional)
    4. And lastly, a letter from the spouse, if he/she is not in the process with them (optional)
    5. The Candidates’ own letters requesting Inquiry, Candidacy and Profession
  • Initial Formation records
    1. Attendance records
    2. All sacramental records
      1. Baptism
      2. First Holy Communion
      3. Confirmation
      4.  Marriages – All Marriages and Annulments
      5. Holy Orders
      6. If the individual was a member of another third order or religious order, a letter releasing them from their prior professions or vows is required
      7. If any of these records cannot be produced, the individual must not be professed until they can be found or resolved thru their local pastor and Bishop
      8. These documents should be produced before the individual starts Candidacy. Sometime during Orientation or Inquiry.
      9. Interview forms
  • Profession Record normally a journal, although I also record this information in the Initial formation attendance records, that includes
    • Date
    • Place
    • Minister Receiving the candidate
    • Ecclesial witness
    • I also include the Formation Directors name (Optional)
  • Other Documents such as transfers, correspondence concerning correction, withdrawal or dismissal from the order

So, what do you do with all this paper?  Great question, you have to keep it.  My fraternity invested in a fire proof safe.  About the size of a large micro wave.  We keep our original Member Register in there along with our ecclesial formation documents and so on.  As formation director for my local fraternity I keep all other records in a file.  But, I also digitize them (scan) and save to a computer file.  That file is also saved to a disk that two members of the fraternity keep.  The secretary and one other council member hold copies.  This helps preserve records in case of a fire or other disaster at my house.

I also have what I call a temporary file.  In this file I keep all the homework and special assignments the individual turn in over the course of the three years of initial formation.  We do return that file to the candidate after profession.

Next month we will talk about what the Council does with all this paper, including the homework!

Pax et Bonum

Peace and all Good

Ted Bienkowski, OFS

SKD Region Formation Director