Answering the call leads to lifelong commitment to the Gospel way of life
Mora Devitt, (from left) Chris Bouska and Joan Hollingshed prepare soup at the St. Malachi Church soup kitchen in Chicago. "It's a very spiritual experience even just preparing a simple meal along side these awesome Missionary of Charity sisters. It's not just charity, but your work becomes a beautiful prayer," said Deacon Paul Krilich, minister of the St. Mary of the Angels fraternity of the Order of Secular Franciscans. (Provided photo)
by MARLENE A. ZLOZA
Northwest Indiana Catholic
Is God calling you to shine your light in the world?
The National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order can help you flip that switch.
There are three local fraternities of the Secular Franciscans in Northwest Indiana that are part of the Our Lady of Indiana region: Our Lady of Lourdes in Cedar Lake, St. Mary of the Angels in St. John and Little Portion of St. Francis in Valparaiso, and all welcome new members who, “moved by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves through profession to live the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis, in their secular state,” according to that national fraternity’s website.
“Are you really called?” asked Deacon Paul Krilich, minister (leader) of the St. Mary of the Angels fraternity hosted by St. John the Evangelist parish. “It may not be God speaking words in your ear, but an idea that keeps popping up, little signs that you keep noticing. . .it may be time to investigate.”
The formation process includes three formal steps, Orientation, Inquiry and Candidacy, and Deacon Krilich said those who take the journey will develop relationships in the fraternity as they begin an in-depth study of St. Francis and St. Clare and share in the Franciscan prayer life. Orientation is a time for determining a person’s interest, eligibility and disposition, Inquiry involves learning the charism and history of the Order and if a vocation is discerned both by the individual and the local fraternity, the inquirer in received into the Order. In the candidacy stage, students prepare for their lifelong commitment with immersion into fraternity life, helping their OSF brothers and sisters serve the community.
“It takes almost two years before you profess the Rule and make a permanent commitment,” added Deacon Krilich. “We have a group of eight now who will profess in October, which is why we are looking for new members. We hope to get some young people involved, some 18- to 20-year-olds, but it takes time and prayer.”
Little Portion of St. Francis fraternity meets after 11 a.m. Mass on the second Sunday every month at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Valparaiso. Minister David Dieringer, an OSF since 1989, is also formation director for the Our Lady of Indiana region. “It is a lot of work, but I am truly blessed,” he said.
With 26 members spread over 10 parishes from Lake County to South Bend, the fraternity supports individual apostolates of its members, and as a group provides financial support for the Missionaries of Charity in Gary and the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Kokomo by tithing. A call out is planned later this year; call Dieringer at 309-4978.
Joy McCullough, Our Lady of Lourdes formation director, a married mother of seven grown children from Munster, called the OFS vocation “a calling by God to intensify the meaning of your baptism. In the first reading from Isaiah last Sunday, it talked about reaching out to the poor and how that’s how your light will shine. Secular Franciscans don’t want to hide our light under a bushel, we want to shine it on others.”
While members of cloistered religious orders “live away from the world,” added McCullough, “We are about living in the secular world.”
Our Lady of Lourdes fraternity and minister Kathy Dominguez has as its main apostolate operating St. Clare’s Kitchen, a weekly supper from 5-6 p.m. Tuesdays at Holy Name of Jesus parish in Cedar Lake. A hot meal and fellowship is offered to everyone and “a lot of our members volunteer there, while members also volunteer at St. Joseph Soup Kitchen on weekdays in Hammond, and we volunteer at the Franciscan hospitals, visiting the sick, distributing the Holy Eucharist and just being there to comfort people,” McCullough said.
St. Mary of the Angels fraternity, said Deacon Krilich, began as a ministry at The Port – a shelter and soup kitchen in Chicago founded in 1985 by Friar Augustin Milon. After his death, and with more members from Indiana, the fraternity moved to St. John the Evangelist, a “very good place and a growing parish,” said Deacon Krilich, an OSF since 1990 and a deacon since 2009.
Members still travel to Chicago “to work with the Missionaries of Charity at their soup kitchen one Saturday a month, preparing and serving food,” explained Deacon Krilich, who also works Tuesdays with the Missionaries of Charity in Gary - collecting toiletries, distributing food, praying with the sisters and holding Bible Study sessions for the women who shelter there. “We are working to develop a local ministry, but we want to get our membership up first,” he added.
Also in Northwest Indiana, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Associate Community, based in Donaldson, has a West Region led by co-Core Team Leaders Marilyn Kessler, of Crown Point, and Diane Rockhill, of Portage.
A year of study precedes a non-vowed commitment by baptized, single or married adults “for mutual spiritual enrichment, development of community and the promotion of service.”
The West Region associates meet monthly on the first Monday at 6 p.m. at Ancilla Systems, Inc, 1419 S. Lake Park Ave., across the street from St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart. “This month we reflected on Blessed Catherine Kasper, our foundress,” noted Kessler.
The Region collects “Change in our Pockets” all year long to donate to local families in need, the Sojourner Truth House and other charities, and annually prepares a Night at the Movies basket filled with a handmade afghan, gift cards and treats for a basket raffle held by PHJC in Donaldson.
Kessler, a PHJC associate for six years, first learned of the community while on a retreat at Donaldson. “We have more than 20 members, some who have been members for 20 years or more, and we are very happy to have the Poor Handmaids in our lives,” she said.