The wider picture
Into all the world
The European Province of SSF is not the only Franciscan witness within the Anglican Communion. The Order of St Francis was founded in 1919 at Merrill in Wisconsin, USA moved to Long Island, New York in 1928, and amalgamated with the SSF in 1968 to become the American Province; today there are houses of brothers on both east and west coasts of the continent and a sisters’ house close to the brothers in San Francisco. There are many people seeking to join and new houses in other parts of North America are planned.
In 1959 the brothers in the UK responded to persistent calls from the Church in Papua New Guinea to send brothers to establish the Franciscan life in that country; four brothers, led by Brother Geoffrey, sailed from England to found houses, first in Port Moresby and then in the diocese of Popondetta. Five years later brothers moved to Brisbane, Australia; foundations followed in the Solomon Islands and New Zealand. Today, there are two separate brothers’ provinces of Australia/New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, and there are moves towards dividing the later into the Province of Papua New Guinea and the Province of the Solomon Islands, both of which are expanding steadily.
The story in Africa has been more difficult; a foundation was made at Fiwila in Zambia in the early 1960s followed by another later in the decade at Dar es Salaam in Tanzania; neither of these led to the establishment of an indigenous expression of the Franciscan life. At present there is a small indigenous Franciscan order, known as the Community of Divine Compassion at Nyanga in Zimbabwe, which is in a ‘covenant relationship’ with SSF; despite the very difficult conditions in that country at the present time the call to live after the example of St Francis is being heard, as it is also in other parts of the world, where there are new Franciscan communities in South Korea and in Brazil.
(l-r: Brothers from the Province of the Americas, Brothers in Brazil; Br Daniel from the Australia New Zealand Province and Br Thomas from the Province of the Americas; Br Samuel and Br Hugh with the Community of the Divine Compassion in Zimbabwe).
Besides the First Order brothers and sisters, there are two other orders within the Society of St Francis which reach back to the inspiration of Francis and Clare.
The Second Order, known as the Order of St Clare, is a community of sisters living an enclosed life in the village of Freeland, outside Oxford; they are committed to a life of regular prayer and manual work within the convent and run a guest house, separate but next door to the community.
(Sr Joyce with Tertiaries in Ghana)
The Third Order consists of men and women, married and single, from all walks of life, who live under a Franciscan vow with an individual rule of life according to their particular circumstances; those who become ‘tertiaries’ as they are called, undergo a novitiate formation period under the guidance of a novice counsellor before making a vowed profession which is renewed annually, and meet regularly with other tertiaries for fellowship, prayer and worship, study and service.
Companions are those who wish to associate themselves with SSF, and to support the life of the order with regular prayer and friendship.
Although SSF remains a totally separate organization from the numerically much larger and more widespread Roman Catholic Franciscan orders, there is often close association and friendship between members of the two communions. This is particularly so at Canterbury where SSF brothers and sisters, as well as SSF tertiaries, often attend the Franciscan International Study Centre for courses on Franciscan theology and spirituality, and also in Assisi, where SSF maintains a small presence in the city which is ‘home’ to the whole Franciscan movement. While accepting the constraints of historic division of the Christian Church, Franciscans seek to reach out to each other in love and fellowship and to witness to the fundamental unity which exists in Christ.
In the links page you will find links to many of these Anglican Provinces of SSF, and also to Roman Catholic Franciscan communities. Br Clark Berge SSF (the Minister General of SSF) delivered a paper on Anglican Religious Life at an Ecumenical Symposium in the Vatican City the text of which may be found here.