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Happy Feast Day August 11, 2011

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan, Provincial Chapter, Resources , add a comment

Dear sisters and brothers,

Today, the Feast of St Clare, is a joyful day in our calendar. I invite you to rejoice in this humble and enduring saint of Assisi, who took the vision of St Francis and made it concrete in her situation.

St Clare inspires to live more generously, to love more unconstrainedly, to sing God’s praises more warmly, and to walk bravely with Christ.

To mark today’s feast, I offer this hymn for you to use as you wish in celebrating St Clare. The hymn is here: http://wp.me/pI7Dl-1L

Peace, joy and love,

Ted Witham.
Minister Provincial

The Provincial Minister Reports – on French Knitting! May 29, 2011

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan, News, Provincial Chapter , 7comments

ENQUIRIES

When I was a child, I remember fads for French knitting, sometimes started in the Witham household and sometimes from Tambellup School. If you don’t know this craft, you take a wooden cotton reel, hammer four thumb tacks around the central hole, then loop woollen thread around the tacks and feed the leading threads through the long hole. If you have threaded correctly, a woven woollen rope appears at the bottom hole and grows and grows. This rope is then used to make pot holders and dressing gown girdles, and pot holders and … well; actually the dressing gown girdles are not much good, because they stretch out of shape quickly.

But French knitting is the sort of craft that keeps you occupied for hours. It whiled away the long 90 minute school bus ride. You could pick it up after tea and keep going for hours. I was always fascinated with the process, watching these four thin threads go in the top and re-appear as a beautiful woven lanyard.

Let me liken this process of French knitting to the way in which we reach out for new members. At the top are enquirers, each of them a single life, usually seeking something more in the Christian journey. At the bottom are the newly-professed, beautiful woven as new Franciscans and ready to be put to work in an appropriate ministry.

For the moment we don’t see the important work that happens between the top and the bottom, but I will come back to that. At the time of your Reports, most Regions in Australia report regularly that they have four or five enquirers. Let’s take the upper figure, because you may not be reporting the enquirers earlier in the year. There are seven Regions, so 35 Enquirers a year. I have been fielding about one Internet enquirer a month, so each year nearly 50 enquirers come to us.

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Flooded by grace January 27, 2011

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There’s a dark conversation going around Australia at the moment. People are imaginatively measuring their homes for flood. In Busselton, for example, we live on the ‘delta’ of the Vasse River, so despite the drained, reclaimed land and the channels taking excess water out to sea, we are still vulnerable to flood. And, speaking of the sea, because we are only centimetres above the sea level, a tsunami would crash its way kilometres ashore.

We keep these conversations dark because our focus shouldn’t really be on ourselves but on the plight of those whose homes, livelihoods and lives have been affected by the real floods – not the ones in our imaginations.

As concerned Christians and Franciscans, we should be looking for ways to be better informed, generous in praying and giving money and offering practical help where possible (all expressions of love). (The best appeal I can find is the Premier’s Appeal at www.qld.gov.au/floods. If you specifically want to help Anglican parishes get back onto their feet, give to the Australian Anglican Primate’s Appeal. You can give electronically to: Arch­bishop’s Emergency Relief Fund; A/C BSB: 704-901; A/C No.: 00014858.)

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Provincial Newsletter Updates December 11, 2010

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The Newsletter button at the top now takes you to the updated page with links to all available Newsletters.

The Advent 2010 Newsletter has just been published.

Enjoy.

Franciscans International and the Society of Saint Francis December 5, 2010

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Report from the Board Meeting of FI in New York. November 2010

by Averil Swanton tssf (representing the three Orders of SSF)

As on previous occasions the three-day meeting was grounded in the worship and faith-sharing at the start of each day. In addition to this, a Eucharist was celebrated on the Friday evening to honour the work of two volunteers, Mary Theresa Plante FMM and Bernadette Sullivan SFP, who have been working from the New York office of FI for many years, tracking events at the UN and working with other NGO’s.

One of the achievements of the past months for FI has been the appointment of all three Regional Directors in Geneva, New York and Bangkok. As well as being responsible for their own regions, Europe and Africa, the Americas and Asia/Pacific each of these will take the lead in advocacy. This means that the Executive Director will be able to fulfil the task of taking global responsibility and co-ordinating all three offices, which will have some degree of autonomy. All three, Markus Heinze OFM, Mike Lasky OFM Conv and Mateus Tuniewcs recently net up with Denise Boyle fmdm, the Executive Director, and she reported a high level of energy and co-operation between them all.

Work continues with great attention being paid to the UPR, The Universal Periodic Review, whereby every nation in turn is scrutinised on the issue of human rights. FI sees its role as helping with presentations and following up with proposed action from the UN. Member of the New York office had recently gone to Brazil to meet with JPIC reps and Provincials and also grass roots to help with their presentation for the Review of Brazil in 2012.

Other ongoing work consists of training sessions and as we met, Mateus and a team from the Bangkok office were working in the Solomon Islands with Clark and other Anglicans. From early reports of this venture, I gather it was a great success, with several notable firsts, namely not just the first co-operation with Anglicans, but also the first time FI had trained in the Pacific and the first time that all the Anglican communities had got together to train. I understand that a common declaration was made and a press conference held.

This kind of training work is a core part of the service that FI can offer. Foundations are keen to give funds, including set-up costs, so this very valuable work can be funded. Elsewhere within the organization there is great concern about funds. As with so many at the current time, donations have dropped considerably and the excellent scheme of urging people to give 5$ or £5 a month has not taken off as much as was hoped. Various cost-cutting exercises were proposed, but there is real concern that core work should not be threatened. One of the main issues is spreading costs globally. There is strong feeling in some quarters that money raised in one are should be spent in that area. (A feeling that I encountered when I wrote to other Third Order Provinces.) This however ignores the fact of administrative and other support from Geneva or New York to other offices. Attention has been paid to establishing the offices according to local laws with at least semi-autonomy, but funds will continue to be an issue. Denise Boyle herself feels that the Franciscan way is to share and support those in need as and when they need it. Geneva has already halved its office space to cut costs.
A new initiative set up by a new member of the New York office, Heather Metcalf, is ‘Hear it from the Experts’. Each month an evening meeting is held at St Francis’ Church on relevant themes. The evening before the Board Meeting we all went to a talk, Islam in the 21st century ,given by Fr Elias Mallon SA, who also works from the New York FI office . It was extremely good and based on his years of study and experience and the evening was well attended. Fr Elias is coming to the UK next year and will speak at Hilfield and Canterbury. He is well worth hearing. I much admired his sense of humour and his way of dealing with questions from those who still hold 9/11 close in mind and sympathise with those who object to the building of a so-called mosque near the site.

We went to the UN for a briefing on the various women’s groups at the UN and the recent amalgamation of them into one body under a high profile leader. Two of the sisters from St Anthony’s Convent where I stayed also came to this briefing and I became aware of how much work at the UN is done by individuals tracking and following up evidence of human rights abuse on the ground. I particularly like the definition of FI as having one foot in the UN and one foot in the grass roots.

Active advocacy work by FI in the US as it faced its own UPR included issues on homelessness and the right to adequate housing; the rights of migrant workers who have been illegally detained; human trafficking and the impact of mining on indigenous peoples’ rights to clean water and food.

We were reminded of the valuable role of the Clares who pray and support FI and I was wondering how I could engage with the Sisters at Freeland. Can I approach them direct or should I make a point of going to see them and ask for their help? Would Sr Helen Julian be able to act as an intermediary?

We covered a lot of ground and worked hard, but there was time for some marvellous American hospitality and as always time for much laughter.

I am more than happy to give talks to publicise the work of FI and am due to go to a Third Order Cluster meeting next May in Norfolk. Any requests would be appreciated.

I did intimate to the Board that, having discussed the matter with Dorothy it was very likely that I would not expect to serve a second term of 3 years on the Board of FI. If the process follows the same course as it did for me ,I would expect any nomination, together with a CV, would need to go to the Franciscan Family, ie the four Heads of the Franciscan Orders, when they meet in October of next year for appointment the following year. The date of the following FI Board meeting would be 19,20,21 April 2012.

Averil Swanton
December 3 2010

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and W.A. November 17, 2010

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan, Spirituality , add a comment

Here in Western Australia, we hold St Elizabeth of Hungary in special love and esteem, because of the presence here from 1928-1957 of the Anglican Sisters of St Elizabeth who worked in the south-west of this State.

Tertiary George Harvey grew up near their mother house in Bunbury and recalls the huge influence the Sisters had on him: as a server, he was particularly conscious of their devotion to worship. We would probably now regard their style of worship as old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic, but for George and the Sisters then, this worship was rich and redolent of God’s presence. That atmosphere still permeates the little chapel dedicated to St Elizabeth and pictured below.

The Chapel of St Elizabeth, Bunbury, Western Australia


Alongside their rich life of devotion, the Sisters devoted themselves to the care of the Group Settlers, English people who were brought to Western Australia to open up dairy farms and populate the forest country south of Bunbury. The Sisters lived in the same struggling pioneer communities in Busselton, Margaret River and elsewhere.

Those of us who live in this region know that behind the picturesque vineyards and glorious beaches lies a history of hardship, as newcomers came without farming skills to an environment that can be quite harsh and unforgiving. Huge karri and jarrah trees had to be cut down, or killed by ring-barking, thus delaying any income that the pioneers might derive from the land. And even when the land was ready for cattle, prosperity was still not to be found. It is only in recent years that better ways of living in this country are being found, as the harvesting of old-growth forests has been slowed, and tourism established as the main industry.

Back in the 1930s, the group settlement farms were isolated from one another and their communities. Families lived first in primitive shacks, and then in basic cottages, so everyday living was a struggle. The Sisters gave themselves to ministering in this poverty and remoteness and in the process wore themselves out.

Their story is told eloquently in Merle Bignells’ 1992 The Little Grey Sparrows.

The contrast between the poverty of the Sisters’ external lives and the wealth of their internal lives strikes me as one authentic way to be Franciscans: being poor, we discover ourselves, like St Francis, to have inherited the enormous wealth of creation.

In St Elizabeth’s life this contrast also shone forth: she who was a princess became poor to help the poor. But, like St Francis and her other mentor St Clare, Elizabeth did not give up the wealth she had inherited – not the wealth of her husband’s dominions (which she did forego), but the wealth of worship, the wealth of intelligent ministry to the poor, the wealth of creation and people.

For the Tertiaries of Western Australia, the plucky “little grey sparrows” have become part of the richness of our life, and we give thanks for their sacrificial service in this place. We gladly share this story with the wider Franciscan family.

Ted Witham
Minister Provincial

Feast of St Elizabeth AD 2010

Brother Douglas – September 7 August 31, 2010

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Brother Douglas Downes was one of the key founders of the Society of St Francis. He was an academic and a priest concerned about the homeless wayfarers in Depression-era England. Each summer, he would go on the road to minister to them. Eventually he set up the farm at Hilfield to provide work in the context of a Christian community. He was the first Minister of the Society.

Brother Douglas died on September 7, 1957.

Our Province has provided readings to celebrate his life. They are printed in the Manual, and are online here

Brother Francis’ memoir of the life of Brother Douglas is here on the Australian First Order Brothers’ site. .

A prayer on the feast of St Clare August 11, 2010

Posted by Ted Witham in : Franciscan , add a comment

“Wait in silence for God, my soul,
for from Him comes my hope.”

We might take as a theme song for the next few days Psalm 62, set for Morning Prayer for the feast of St Clare.

The heart of the Psalmist’s spirituality, his “soul”, has three parts: waiting, deep silence, out of which grow an expectation that God will make known to us the divine presence.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

We human beings are not good at waiting. People today scoff at the idea of waiting. We want it all, and we want it now. This impatient greed throws our common life out of kilter. Those who insist that they should have a new, four-bedroom house, with LCD TV screens – you know the scenario – skew the market so that housing in our country is further out of the reach of the poor. There are too few simpler, cheaper houses.

If, in our life with God, we cannot bear to wait, we will cheapen our prayer-life, and cheat our souls of growth. If, in our life with God, we cannot bear to wait, the strength that comes from bring rooted in community will simply pass us by.

St Clare in Assisi placed waiting at the heart of her life: she knew that there is a right time when we receive God’s gifts. She waited, presumably for quite a time, until it was right for her to leave her home on Palm Sunday 1212 to present herself to Francis as a potential member of his community.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

Silence is also counter-cultural. In a world of continuous entertainment through our different screens and the sound-track of our MP3 players, we have forgotten to nurture silence. It was obvious to our forebears that silence is the language of prayer, and we have crowded it out. Silence always has its coming out: as with light, the silence speaks into the noise, and the noise does not overwhelm us.

Quite.

Quiet.

St Clare would have preferred a more “active” life than the one allowed her by Francis and by the Pope. However, the secluded cloister at San Damiano resounded to a nurturing and empowering silence. Clare made silence her friend, and her sisters in the Poor Clares, and in the Anglican Community of Saint Clare, have continued to make space for God in their choice for silence.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

Waiting, silence, God: three elements of a spirituality. They continue to resound in my soul. In them are my hope and my salvation.

Let the Lady of Assisi sing in your heart over the coming days.

Wait in silence for God, my soul.

Site migrated July 11, 2010

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As of 10/07/2010, tssf.org.au has been migrated to a new server. Users should not see any significant changes. Please report any issues to webadmin.

Reprint of Franciscan Gold April 10, 2010

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The first print run of Franciscan Gold sold out earlier this year, and so we have arranged for a reprint. Copies can be ordered online using the link on the resources page at the reduced price of $20 plus $5 postage anywhere in the world.

Franciscan Gold is the history of the 50 years since the first member was admitted in Papua New Guinea in 1959, written by Denis Woodbridge.

Alternative payment by cheque in Australian Dollars payable to TSSF (WA) may be sent to The Provincial Secretary, TSSF, 5 Mandora Way, Riverton, WA 6148.

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