Letter from the Second National Meeting of the Franciscan Lay Brothers

We, seventy brothers of four Franciscan branches (OFM, OFM Cap, OFM Conv and TOR), met from September 7 to 10, 2017, in the municipality of Vila Velha – ES.  The objective of this Second National Meeting of Franciscan Lay Brothers was to promote a fraternal spirit among the brothers of Brazil and to reflect on the Consecrated Religious Life in its process of transformation, from the perspective of the Franciscan lay brother.

Taking up once again the reflections and propositions of the previous national meeting, held in 2015, we feel the need to know ourselves more fully as brothers of a larger family, one that is beyond our own obedience or branch.  It is a family in which brothers of different names rediscover and help one another, draw up common plans, divide up work and take joint action.  This helps us promote the process bringing together the four branches of the Family, realizing that being a brother and a minor has a profound meaning for the Consecrated Life and for the Church, as well as a prophetic force in the world today.

In this context, in line with the Final Letter of the CFFB 2017 Chapter of Mats of Aparecida and taking into account the disruption of the political and institutional fabric of our country (which is based on lies created and disseminated by the media), we, brothers and minors of our time, want to proclaim along with all the poor and social movements: “no to the loss of rights.”  Water is a creature of God and must belong to all sons and daughters of God, not to be given to the “god” money. Life is sacred and, especially in the indigenous struggles, it has been threatened and massacred.

Friar Luiz Carlos Susin, OFMCap, provided us with an historical summary of aspects of Consecrated Religious Life, including that of clericalism in our midst.  He encouraged us to return to the “mysticism” of being Friar Minor, and reflected with us deeply on four verbs: GO BACK TO THE SOURCES, REGENERATE, SET OUT ANEW and REQUALIFY.

As a result of our time together we encourage all to:

  • EMPHASIZE in vocational promotion and initial formation the essential and prophetic dimension of being a brother as the foundational identity of the Franciscan charism, using this insight to prepare common materials for all branches;
  • AVOID use of hierarchical pyramidal models and encourage the participation of lay brothers in decision-making. Meetings of the brothers should be encouraged;
  • HIGHLIGHT ministries that go beyond traditional spaces, creating new perspectives and broadening horizons so that we can be promotors of peace and integrity of creation, encourage itinerancy and be in solidarity with the cause of the poor and excluded;
  • CREATE an executive team composed of brothers of the four obediences with the following functions: send our proposals to the administrations of the various obediences and prepare the next national meeting; create and maintain social media; promote the production of materials.

In conclusion, we reaffirm our belief in this inter-obediential meeting as a unique space of mutual help, unity and protagonism of the Franciscan lay brother.

We ask the blessings of Our Lady of Penha so that we may continue to be faithful to our vocation, following in the footsteps of Jesus as his younger brothers.

Vila Velha (ES), September 10, 2017.