Franciscan lay associates gather for world-wide conference

MERIDEN, CT (07-15-2013) - Franciscan lay associates, known as Franciscan Apprentices, gathered at the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist for a world-wide meeting from July 11-15, 2013. Religious sisters and brothers, priests, deacons and apprentices numbered 130 participants. The conference theme, "Rebuilding the Church," focused on the Church's call for lay leadership in the New Evangelization and the Franciscan charism of "rebuilding."

The opening address by Mother Shaun Vergauwen, Mother General, titled, "What Kind of People Are We?" traced the development of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and the Franciscan Apprentices over the past 40 years since the founding of the Community in 1973, highlighting the influence the recent Popes have had on the Church and on the formation and growth of the FSE mission, namely, Pope Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Mother Shaun challenged her audience to move confidently into the future as faith-filled Catholics in the spirit of St. Francis.

Most Reverend Robert Deeley, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, presented on "The Role of the Lay Faithful in the New Evangelization." He encouraged the Apprentices to be witnesses in their communities and families of the many gifts they have been given. The conference followed from three regional conferences held last September at the Franciscan centers in Idaho, Michigan and Connecticut on the theme of the New Evangelization.

The Very Reverend Douglas Mosey, President and Rector of Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Connecticut, spoke of the urgent need for the lay faithful to be the "good Samaritans" in our culture today - to be willing to take on the challenge of what is injured, what is being thrown by the wayside and discarded, especially in terms of the values of life and religious liberty. He pressed the participants not to be fearful, but to take action.

Apprentices from each Franciscan center shared their past year's work on the phases of Franciscan spiritual development as a life-long process. Their writings will form a part of the spiritual documentation for future Apprentices.

The conference included time for large and small group discussion, prayer and meals together and socializing. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was held in the evenings at the Sisters' outdoor altar. Each day was centered by the Eucharistic Liturgy and the Liturgy of the Hours. The Sisters' chapel could not accommodate 130 people so Mass was held in a temporary chapel made from tents connected to a multi-purpose room. During the weekend, the Apprentices participated in the ground breaking ceremony for a new chapel.

The Franciscan Community has held two previous world-wide conferences for Apprentices in 2000 and 2007 at the FSE motherhouse. Due to increased costs and the financial strain such a gathering demands, the Community sought contributions from friends and organizations. The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, New Haven, Connecticut, provided generous funding to help defray expenses "in a spirit of solidarity with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist." The Franciscan Community - Sisters, Brothers and Apprentices - is deeply grateful for the support of the Knights of Columbus and others who provided financial and in-kind assistance, including donations of food, discounted hotel rates and rental items.

Click "play" arrow to see photos of the Apprentice world-wide conference.