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Facing Our Future With Hope:
The Life and Work of the Friars of Saint John the Baptist Province

For more than 800 years, Franciscan men and women throughout the world, in imitation of Saint Francis of Assisi, have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the 13th century, St. Francis sent his friars from Assisi to the neighboring countries of Europe - France, Germany, and Spain.  Their important assignment was to carry the light of God's truth to the minds of people, to inflame their hearts with a love of God that would make them willing to take up their crosses and follow Christ in order to enjoy the peace of His Kingdom.  These objectives have been the guiding principle of all Franciscans to the present day.

The first Franciscan mission in the New World was started on the island of Haiti in 1493 by two friars who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage.  Later, Father Junipero Serra built his "Kings Highway" of missions in California.  This began a 200-year history of the friars' labor among the Native Americans of the Southwest.

At the invitation of Bishop John Baptist Purcell, in 1844, Franciscans came from Saint Leopold Province, in Tyrol, Austria, to Cincinnati to administer to the spiritual needs of the large influx of German-speaking immigrants. These pioneers ministered in parishes and schools, preached the Word and started an apostolate of the press. The witness of their lives attracted men in this country, a seminary opened in 1858, and in 1885 they were recognized as a Province. Their zeal carried them to people of various cultures throughout the central United States, to Native Americans, Hispanics and Anglos in the Southwest, and to China and the Philippines.

Today, friars of Saint John the Baptist Province, in fresh and creative ways, continue the various ministries of mission-spirited and courageous pioneers and also respond to new needs of various groups - especially the poor, the alienated and the sick of our society.

Seeking God

The brothers should be mindful that they have been created in the image of God's beloved Son. Let them praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the company of all His creatures and refer all good to the most high and supreme Lord God and thank Him for everything.

As sons of Saint Francis, our life with God is primary. We believe that God speaks to us In our time and in the cultures where we minister. We continuously seek to listen more faithfully to God and to Invite others to join us In turning more completely to Him.

Our Christian and Franciscan life constantly calls us to conversion and to communal and personal prayer. We praise God, Intercede for others and nourish ourselves through the Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, days of recollection, annual retreats, and other times of solitude and contemplation. In keeping with the Order's rich contemplative tradition, we support each other in growing in prayer - personally and as a community .

Living as Brothers

Every brother is a gift, given by God, to the brotherhood. Brothers differ in temperament, cultural background, customs, abilities, gifts and specific traits.
They should accept each other as they are and as equals. The whole fraternity then becomes the privileged place for encountering God."

Humbly and joyfully we claim that Christ is enfleshed In our caring for each other as brothers. Each of us fully participates in the prayer life, ministries, decisions, daily responsibilities and joys of fraternity. We support each other In seeking to fulfill, through our life together, our needs - spiritual, physical, psychological, social and recreational.

Realizing that health, wholeness and holiness are interrelated, we encourage a way of life that promotes physical, psychological/emotional, psychosexual, moral and spiritual health and maturity. In fraternal love for each other, we are alert to the signs of addictive behavior. Through regular exercise, spiritual direction, support groups, medical and other professional care when needed, we strive to reach a maturity that is fully human, Christian and Franciscan.

All of us desire to serve our brothers who are sick or elderly just as we would wish to be served ourselves. Local ministers take the lead in showing loving concern for them, visiting them, helping them in their spiritual and temporal needs and expressing thankful appreciation to them. When needed, we provide outside help to care for our sick brothers.

We share our community life and spirit with others, most especially our Franciscan family - friars, Poor Clares, Third Order Religious, Secular Franciscans and Secular Institute members. With simplicity and joy, we seek to be hospitable and welcoming, sharing with others, especially the poor, the spiritual and material gifts with which we have been blessed. We strive to make our lives as brothers in Christ Jesus a leaven to promote community among all men and women.

Learning from the Poor

The brothers should adopt the lifestyle of people considered unimportant in society, and live among them as lesser brothers.

As friars minor, we commit ourselves to the materially and spiritually poor, the oppressed and marginated. We want to live among them, learn from them and stand with them.

We work to liberate ourselves and others from racism, sexism, violence and oppression of all kinds. We promote justice, peace and the respect and care of all creation.

Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working should do their work faithfully and devotedly so that, avoiding idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy prayer and devotion. 
Our work and ministry flow from our life with God. We are God's instruments in serving others. We work, not as individuals, but as a community of brothers, who join the effort of all men and women of goodwill in promoting the reign of God.

Witnessing to the Gospel

Just as the Son was sent by the Father, all brothers, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, are sent to the whole world to be heralds of the Gospel and to every creature. They are sent to give witness to God's voice in word and deed and bring everyone to recognize that no none is all-powerful except God.

We are "heralds of the Great King." Our basic goal, no matter where we live or work, is to be evangelizers. For followers of Francis, evangelization is more than a program. It is an attitude of reverence for others and for the way God is working in their lives; of learning, sharing, Inviting, welcoming people into the joy of communion with Jesus Christ and His Body - the Church. Communicating the Gospel demands of us enthusiasm, zeal and a passionate desire to help others fall in love with Jesus and commit themselves to Him forever .

Sharing Brotherhood

When we gather as brothers to pray, celebrate and tell the stories of the reign of God, the Spirit of Jesus recreates us and renews our call to evangelize. Our ministry flows from and is Integral to our life In fraternity. We encourage and help one another, sharing responsibility. In making personnel assignments, the Provincial Council will give priority to promoting fraternal life.

We recognize that all baptized persons are empowered to build up the kingdom of God. As we evangelize we wish always to invite women and men to Join with us and to use their gifts for teaching, administration and works of charity . The Council will evaluate a friar's ability to work with others - lay and clergy - as an important factor in appointing pastors or other ministers.

We encourage new and inclusive ways of working with laity, diocesan clergy , other religious, and especially with Franciscan women and men of all three Orders.

Discerning the Will of the Lord

Through the charity of the Spirit, the brothers should voluntarily serve and .obey one another' and together search for the signs of the Lord's will" 

In choosing where we will minister as a Province, both ministers and individual friars will discern prayerfully the call of the Gospel and our Franciscan Rule at this moment in history . Final decisions are made by the Provincial Chapter and ministers, who give serious consideration to the needs of the Church, local and universal, as expressed by the Holy See, the General Minister, local bishops, and all of God's people.

Among the ministries open to us, we give preference to those which reflect our charism and are consistent with a communal way of living.

As our corporate commitments we have chosen: Word, parochial, missionary , education and the internal ministries of administration, formation and the care of our senior friars.

Responsible and accountable ministry does not mean that we limit ourselves to present corporate commitments. We may have to discontinue some of them when, in the judgment of the friars, ordinaries and/or provincial administration: a) the needs of the people have greatly diminished; b) friar-ministers are unavailable because of diminishing numbers, age or health; c) others can assume our responsibilities, freeing us to move where we are needed more; d) or the place of ministry so totally isolates brothers as to make participation in friar-gatherings difficult.

In all of our ministries, we will strive to empower our coworkers and share with them our Franciscan vision and mission. If we withdraw from a ministry, because friars are no longer available, we will seek other ways to continue our service, for example, by membership on boards.

In addition to corporate ministries, we affirm the work of friars, who together with their ministers, have discerned a call to serve the Church through an Individual ministry.

When there is a good reason for one of us to live and work apart from his brothers, the ministers and the friar himself must work out ways for him to participate, as often as possible, In the life of a local fraternity.

The Provincial Council makes known, to all the brothers, specific needs and opportunities for ministry. If, In response to these needs or for other reasons, a friar wishes to initiate a change of community or ministry , he seeks guidance through prayer and In dialogue with his ministers, confreres and others. In consultation with the friar, and respecting his gifts and needs, the Provincial Minister gives him an obedience. In moving to a different community and ministry, we strive to be open and willing to invest ourselves in new relationships and to leave behind former ministries with freedom of spirit.

Our Franciscan brothers from Tyrol heard the Lord ask, "Whom shall I send?" With generosity and enthusiasm they responded to that call. In that same spirit, we friars of Saint John the Baptist Province today declare:

LIVING AND PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL IS OUR GOAL. 

WE DO SO

AS BROTHERS TO EACH OTHER AND TO THE WORLD

LIVING WITH AND FOR THE POOR

PROMOTING JUSTICE, PEACE AND THE CARE OF CREATION

WORKING WITH ALL WOMEN AND MEN OF GOOD WILL, INVITING THEM TO SHARE OUR FRANCISCAN SPIRIT

"Facing our future with hope, we echo Francis of Assisi who said, "Let us begin again."

Adopted May 23rd, 1996, by the Provincial Chapter

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