Conference on Franciscan Spirituality

Conference on Franciscan Spirituality

Did you know that there is a rich Franciscan Intellectual Tradition?

The Franciscan Friars of the Custody of St Anthony (Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei) are pleased to be able to offer in April an opportunity to learn from Friar Wayne Hellmann OFM Conventual, a distinguished Franciscan academic and scholar.

Friar Wayne Hellmann OFM Conv

Friar Wayne will speak about his latest insights and scholarly research on Franciscan Spirituality in Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.

We invite you to come and listen with your head and with your heart, to learn how Franciscan Spirituality can impact your life of prayer and your perspective on faith and living.

Loving God the Franciscan Way

Loving God the Franciscan Way

Fifteen young men joined the Franciscan Vocation Discernment Retreats held in Singapore and Kuching last November and December. The aspirants accepted the invitation to Come and See Franciscan spirituality and the Franciscan way of life for different reasons, but they all shared the same desire: to seek the will of God in their lives.

Friar Giacomo Bini OFM, former Minister General of the Franciscan Order, said, “Nowadays, fraternal holiness is more effective than personal holiness.“ Inspired by this wisdom, the retreat was planned to help the aspirants learn more about God and about themselves through a fraternal living experience.

Over four days and three nights, they prayed, reflected, ate and shared as a fraternity. It was a safe space where everyone could be open and honest in sharing. The aspirants came as individuals, but it did not take long for each to feel a sense of belonging to the fraternity they formed during the retreat.

Eight aspirants (from Singapore and West Malaysia) at the retreats in Singapore (3-6 November and 15-18 December) and seven (from Sarawak, East Malaysia ) at the retreat in Kuching (1-4 December).

The new “fraternity” in Kuching was even inspired to compose a song together. They titled their song “Panggilan Hidupku” (My Vocation).

The aspirants left the retreat grateful for the brief experience of Loving God the Franciscan Way. Some expressed interest in discerning more intensively about a vocation to the Order in the next few years. Others said that the experience had opened their eyes to new possibilities and would help them make more informed decisions.

The friars involved too were grateful for the retreat experience. As Friar Robin Toha, who is part of the Vocation Team, said, “It is a joy to share life with the aspirants. Often, their stories inspire me and renew my commitment and desire to love and serve God and others as a friar.”

We ask for your prayers for these young men as we continue journeying with them, that they may discern the will of God for their lives.

Building Community as Franciscan Friars

Building Community as Franciscan Friars

Unanimous. At our Custody Chapter last October, the friars voted in unison to adopt the Fraternal Life Project for all our communities. This was a dream come true for me, as I feel that my call as Custos is to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood by the grace of God. From this lived authentic relationship with one another, we can strengthen the way we reach out and serve God’s people and creation.

The inspiration for fraternity comes of course from St Francis of Assisi. In his Testament, which he dictated before he died, Francis said, “the Lord gave me some brothers”, thereby making the point that his radical way of life includes living and serving with brothers – brothers not of his choosing, but “given” by the Lord.

A Franciscan document on building fraternity entitled “You Are All Brothers” (2004) states, “to say that the brother is a present from the Lord, is to say that the brother is not without purpose, is not cost effective or productive, or functional or negotiable. The friars are to love the brothers more than a mother loves her own son or daughter. So the friars are there to give birth to other friars.”

This is a very profound insight of Francis: that being a brother to one another is to give birth, to give life to brothers.

The document says this form of fraternity is “to proclaim that the centre of all is in the interpersonal relationship of the friars among themselves. It is to underline that the friars are brothers if they have relationships amongst themselves and in the measure that they have them. It is to state that reciprocity is the constitutive principle of the fraternity, understood as relationship between brothers”.

In simple terms, a Franciscan Friar who is not committed to relationships with other friars in community is not a true Franciscan Friar.

However, this brotherhood is not an end in itself. The long-held motto of the worldwide Franciscan Order is “fraternity-in-mission”. This means that this bond of brotherly love is meant for mission. When we go forth on our missions, we do so by the spirit of our brotherhood, by the way we love, forgive, connect, empower, purify and attune.

In the last decade, an adjective – “contemplative” – was added to this motto. This emphasis reminds us that without God, we are nothing. If there is no vertical connection with God through contemplation, then there will not be any authentic and graced internal connection amongst brothers, nor will there be a horizontal connection with the people we serve. This contemplative dimension echoes the top priority of the Franciscan Order – prayer and devotion. As St Francis told St Anthony of Padua, “it is wonderful that you are teaching the brothers theology of this kind, but never extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion”.

Reviewing the trajectory of the life and history of our Custody, and discerning where the Lord is prompting us to journey forth, we have seen the signs and connected the dots and we feel compelled to go back to basics – relationship with God and fraternity.

As the document “You Are All Brothers” beautifully says, “Fraternity is our way of being in the world and in the Church.” The Franciscan life does not exist except as fraternity; our vocation is to be brothers; and our basic law is that of love. On the other hand, the basis of our fraternal life consists of opening ourselves up, of comparing ourselves, of accepting ourselves and of dialogue; these are instruments for enlightening, strengthening and putting our common gospel project into action; these are the conditions for the birth of new motivations that would stimulate creativity and help us to recover confidence in ourselves and in others.

“Gift and task, the fraternity is received but is also constructed. Divine call and human reality. As a divine call, fraternity is fed on prayer, listening to the Word, the Eucharist, pardon and reconciliation. As a human reality, the fraternity has its own laws, demands and means; authentic relationships, familiarity, friendship, joviality, courtesy, service …”

So, as we receive the wonderful gift of brothers from the Lord, we need to work at building relationships with our brother friars. This requires structures and plans, which is essentially what
the Fraternal Life Project is. In practical terms, the Fraternal Life Project is simply discerning and deciding together how and when we pray and eat together, how we celebrate brotherhood in our recreation times, how we intend to share struggles and dreams in the midst of discussing finances and maintenance issues etc. It is very basically drafting our fraternal hope into concrete plans and then from time to time, evaluating the plan and discerning refinements.

We ask for your prayers as we work at building fraternity with all our brothers. In this New Year, let us unanimously commit ourselves to relationships – with God, with fraternity-family, with all around us!

OFM Custos,

Custody of St Anthony

(Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei)

Franciscan Friars continue to shepherd Risen Christ Church

Franciscan Friars continue to shepherd Risen Christ Church

AIR ITAM, Penang: Parishioners of the Church of the Risen Christ (RCC) hosted a dual get-together on December 30, 2022 at the parish hall to thank outgoing parish priest, Friar Arul Mariadass OFM, and Postulant Director Friar John Soh, OFM. The event was also to welcome the incoming parish priest, Friar Esmond Chua OFM, and assistant priest, Friar Crispus Mosinoh, OFM.

The change comes with Friar Arul completing his two-term (six-year) tenure as parish priest at RCC. The evening began with a thanksgiving Mass presided over by Friar Arul, with Friars Esmond and Crispus concelebrating.

In the speeches by the PPC chairman, Senior Citizens group, and the Mandarin Apostolate coordinators, it was evident how Friar Arul captured the hearts and minds of parishioners across all ages. His down-to-earth simplicity and immense grasp of the scriptural teachings in dealing with the realities of Basic Ecclesiastical Communities left a lasting impact on the community.

During his stewardship, parishioners grasped a better understanding of the principles and tenets of the Franciscan way of life, which is to proclaim the Gospel of life through an intense life of prayer, penance, and poverty. One prominent aspect is the practice of community living, a life focused on togetherness in brotherhood and communion and existence for one another.

The speakers also thanked Friar John for his tireless contribution and unconditional service to the parish. In his departing speech, Friar Arul thanked the congregation for their loving support throughout his tenure and added that this gives him the impetus to move on and accomplish his new mission in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The event ended with a sumptuous dinner and parishioners mingling with the friars. Christ’s love was felt everywhere.

Friar Esmond last served as the assistant priest at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, Singapore.

Source : Herald Malaysia

Carols of the Bells (Christmas Carol)

Carols of the Bells (Christmas Carol)

As we prepare for Christmas, we give thanks for the blessings that God has given us and the challenges that in the end have made us more creative and faithful to God.

This Christmas, we would like to share with you “Carols of the Bells” – featuring the Franciscan Friars.

Wishing you and your family a Blessed Christmas filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

We thank you for your continued prayers and support of our life and mission.

May the Lord bless and keep you in the new year. May His countenance shine upon you. May He give you peace and rest.

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Safeguarding: Creating a Culture of Respect

Safeguarding: Creating a Culture of Respect

Friar John-Paul Tan is part of the Commission for the Safeguarding of Minors and Vulnerable Adults and have just attended the Commission’s meeting held in Rome from 21 to 23 November 2022.

Friar John-Paul Tan, second from right.

The Order of Friars Minor has taken the issue of abuse to heart. Since the 2021 General Chapter, “this was our fourth or fifth meeting as a Commission since we were appointed after the General Chapter. Most of these meetings have been held remotely because of the pandemic. So this is the first time we have all met in person”. So says Br Aidan McGrath, member of the Order’s Commission for the Safeguarding of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, after the Commission’s meeting held in Rome from 21 to 23 November 2022.

Br Aidan also shared the role of the Commission, which is to “help all the entities of the Order to become aware of the importance of safeguarding and to know how to deal with the problems that arise. It has two aspects: one is prevention, in the sense that we want to create awareness of risk and danger for the youngest and vulnerable adults so that we do not behave blindly; the other is that if there is a problem, we must know how to deal with it and what to do”. 

Br Joe Cavoto, another member of the Commission, said that the three-day meeting was a time of sharing among the members. “We learnt from the Minister General, Br Massimo Fusarelli, the desire to build a culture of respect within the Order; respect among brothers and respect for the people we are privileged to serve”. And he concluded by saying that “safeguarding is not just words but must be our modus operandi for how we live our minority”.

To give a concrete response to the question of abuse, “UCLAF (Union of the Conferences of the Latin American and Caribbean Provinces of the Franciscan Order) has responded to the Order’s invitation by sending two friars from each Conference to the course organised by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome,” said Br Daniel Fleitas Zeni, member of the Commission and Minister Provincial of the Province of St Francis Solano, Argentina. “When these friars return to their own Conference,” concluded Br Daniel, “formation and prevention will be expected from them and, in the case of reports of abuse, they will be able to intervene and act in close contact with the Commission of the Order”.

This meeting was attended by Br Albert Schmucki, Definitor General and Director of the Safeguarding Office, Br Aidan McGrath, Br Theophil Czarniak, Br Joe Cavoto, Br John-Paul Tan, Br Daniel Fleitas Zeni, Br Frederick Odhiambo, Br Alvin Artemio Paras and Br Byron Antonio Chamann, as Secretary.

Source : ofm.org