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SSF in Sweden

Micael Christoffer N/SSF

Jan-Eric Jonsgården TSSF (FTO)

Christer Säll TSSF (FTO)

 Franciscan brothers arrived in Sweden quite soon after Francis had died.  The first house in Sweden started in Visby in the year 1233.  Since then more houses were to follow (Söderköping, Skara, Uppsala, Enköping, Stockholm etc.)  In Scandinavia the developments were divided into three periods.  During the first period (1230 – 1300) 34 houses were established.  In the next period (1300 – 1400) no new houses were built, but in the third period (1400 – 1500) we had fourteen further houses in the area.

The earlier development in Scandinavia was in a high degree connected with the royal families, who supported the Franciscans before other religious orders at that time.  King Abel of Denmark for instance gave one of his palaces (in Slesvig) to be used by the Franciscans, and King Valdemar of Sweden was a good friend to the brothers.  During his time as king the Franciscans established their house in Stockholm (1268 or 1270; we do not know the exact year).  The next king in Sweden, Magnus Ladulås, was held as the biggest favourer of the Franciscan movement in Sweden.  Via donations from King Magnus a cloister for the nuns of St. Clare was built in Stockholm in 1286.  One of his daughters became an abbess of the Poor Clares.

So you could say that the good relations with the royalty made it easier for the Franciscans to grow.  On the other hand the Swedish kings in the sixteenth century closed this movement, and all other religious orders.  Poor Clares had to leave, among the first.  The reformation made it impossible to be part of a religious order.  By law you could no longer even live in Sweden and at the same time be a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

In the twentieth century it was possible once again to start religious orders in Sweden, and now the establishment of the Franciscan movement within the Swedish church started also.  The back-ground you will find in the Diocese of Västerås.  The director of its diocesen house at Rättvik (Stiftsgården Rättvik) was inspired by SSF First Order brothers to build the first real retreat house in Sweden, at St Davidsgården in 1962.  The friendship with SSF also resulted in First Order brothers coming to take part in the youth holidays at Stiftsgården Rättvik during the summers in the 1960’s.  Some of the Swedes who met the brothers became interested to learn more about them and SSF.

In December 1971 Brother Michael as the Provincial Minister of SSF, and Brother John-Charles SSF were invited to hold a conference at Stiftsgården Rättvik about Francis and the SSF.  This conference resulted in twelve people who wanted to test their vocations as members of the Third Order.  So, in the same way as the Third Order started in England with a close contact with the First Order, so the Third Order in Sweden started with First Order brothers as novice-counsellors to the tertiaries.  Brother John-Charles was the first brother to take responsibility for the Swedish group.  After two years he was succeeded by Brother Giles.  In the autumn of 1974 six novices were life-professed in front of Brother Giles.  The Third Order of SSF (TSSF) within the Church of Sweden was established.

At the same time, in the beginning of the 1970’s, two young Swedes tested their vocations to become First Order brothers in SSF in England.  During their novitiate they moved back to Sweden with the intention to start a First Order house in Sweden, outside Gothenburg.  But in the end they came to the conclusion not to be in the First Order, so they started a community of their own within the Church of Sweden.  Some years later, in 1983, they decided to convert to be Roman Catholics and are today Third Order Regular.  They still have their convent outside Gothenburg, at Jonsered.

With the help from the brothers at Jonsered three women started in 1979 to test their vocations as Franciscan sisters.  When the brothers decided to convert, the sisters stayed within the Swedish Church and are now located at Sjövik, outside Gothenburg, as the Helige Franciskus Systraskap (Klaradals kloster).  Their spirituality can be likened to that of CSF.

TSSF in Sweden is today an Area within the European Province.  It has almost 50 tertiaries and is growing.  The tertiaries are divided into local groups in five places:  Stockholm, Gothenburg, Falun, Linköping and Uppsala.  The local group in Gothenburg has good contacts with the brothers at Jonsered and with Klaradals kloster.

The work within the local groups is quite similar to the other areas in the province.  But there are of course some special things we do in Sweden.  For instance the local group in Stockholm is responsible for morning-prayers each Wednesday morning in one of the big churches in the city.  These prayers are quite popular for people to attend before going to their jobs.  Most people attending are not Franciscan.

The tertiaries in Sweden are spread over a rather big area, from Lycksele in the north to Ystad in the south; a distance of about 1,300 km between those two towns.  Therefore, since the start of the Third Order in Sweden, each year they have a chapter when all the tertiaries come together for a weekend.  You might call it a general chapter/ meeting because we see it more or less as an obligation to take part.  It is a good opportunity to get to know each other, despite the long distances between us.

We try to have these meetings in different places around Sweden, but at least every second year we are at St Davidsgården Rättvik, where one of our tertiaries is director and another one president of the Board.

Nowadays we always invite one or more of the sisters from Klaradals kloster to join our annual meetings, because they are in the same church and we have lots in common.  Three of our tertiaries have moved to Sjövik to be able to be close to the sisters and their life.

It is interesting to note that we just now have two Norwegian postulants, living in the south of Norway.  They belong to the local group of Gothenburg and the intention is that both of them will be noviced at the beginning of 2013.  In that case this will be the start of establishing SSF within the Norwegian Church.  There is also a small group of SSF tertiaries now in Finland.  f

Micael Christoffer

Micael Christoffer

Micael Christoffer is a novice and is currently living at Glasshampton. He began his Franciscan life in the Third Order in Sweden.