Register of the St. Louis Fraternity, Third Order
        of St. Francis, St. Benedict's Church
Dates: 1878-1971
Accession Number: 20070928F
Donor: St Rose of Viterbo Fraternity, Secular Franciscan Order,
        St. Joseph's Catholic Church
Description: Ledger book

History of the 3rd Order of St. Francis/Secular Franciscan Order

The Secular Franciscan Order is an official order (organization) within the Catholic Church, and was established by St. Francis of Assisi early in the thirteenth century as the Third Order of St. Francis. Unlike cloistered monastic orders, members live their everyday lives in the world and take an active part in society. However, members gather together (meet “in fraternity”) on a regular basis. By profession, they promise to follow a Rule of Life approved and confirmed by Pope Paul VI in June of 1978. It was in 1978 that the Order's name was officially changed from “Third Order of St. Francis” to “Secular Franciscan Order”.

In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, led by the Holy Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state.  At their profession they pledge themselves to live the gospel in the manner of St. Francis by means of this rule approved by the Church.

 The SFO in the United States is structured into 30 geographic regions; the Minister (president) of each Region is a member of the National Fraternity Council, as are the members of the National Executive Council and four members of the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants, one from each of the four Friar Obediences. There are approximately 741 local fraternities which have a total of approximately 15,000 professed members, and there are approximately 1400 people in formation. Each fraternity has a Spiritual Assistant, who is usually a First Order, or Third Order Regular, Friar, but could be a religious, diocesan clergy, or a certified lay Secular Franciscan.

 The process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan involves a commitment of from 18 to 36 months of formation. The extent depends on the guidelines of the particular Region. The average duration of a monthly formation meeting is approximately two hours. At home study is expected. Initial formation is divided into three stages: an Orientation stage, an Inquiry stage and a Candidacy stage. The Orientation stage is a time for determining a person's interest, eligibility and disposition to enter into the rest of the process. The Inquiry stage is a time of learning about the Franciscan charism, Franciscan history, etc. and is a time of discernment to determine if the inquirer has a vocation to the Order. If vocation is discerned, the inquirer is received into the Order. The goal of the Candidacy phase of formation is the candidate's profession to live the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. Profession is a lifetime commitment.

 The Rule calls Secular Franciscans to four Apostolic areas: Ecology, Family, Peace and Justice and Work. National Apostolic Commissions promote apostolic action in these four areas. There is a National Youth Commission which promotes the Franciscan Charism among youth, and a National Formation Commission.

Content and Scope of Collection

This collection consists of a ledger book recording the membership status of the members of the St. Louis Fraternity of the Third Order of St. Francis from 1878 to 1971.  The St. Louis Fraternity consisted mostly of laywomen from St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Terre Haute.

In 1978, because of declining membership, the St. Louis Fraternity merged with the St. Rose of Viterbo Fraternity at St. Joseph University Parish Church The ledger was found in the offices of the St. Joseph University Parish Church in 2001 and was brought to the library in 2007 by Sandy Cline, president of the St. Rose of Viterbo fraternity.

The following information is recorded: