The tight family of Secular Franciscans in the Jefferson City diocese has grown by three.
Deacon Joseph and Mary Ann Puglis of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia and Rebecca Bouck of Our Lady of the Lake parish in Lake Ozark made their profession this summer in the Secular Order of Franciscans (O.S.F.).
They did so on July 27 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City.
Steve Geldmacher O.F.S. of St. Louis, regional minister of the Secular Franciscans, on behalf of the Church and the order, received their profession into the Joyful Servants Fraternity (family).
Profession is the culmination of over three years of initial formation.
Each of the three new members promised to follow the Rule of Life of the Secular Franciscan Order, and to live out the Gospel in the manner of St. Francis of Assisi by means of that same rule.
Path of lifelong conversion
The O.S.F., formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, is an official order within the Catholic Church, established by St. Francis early in the 13th century.
There are approximately 12,000 members of the O.F.S. in the United States.
St. Francis himself wrote the first Rule of Life for members of the order. That Rule has been updated since the Second Vatican Council but remains true to the vision of the founder.
This Rule calls Secular Franciscans to live out their calling to Franciscan life in a particular way — in their homes and families, at work, in their parishes and in the world.
Members are single or married laypersons or diocesan clergy.
The brothers and sisters of the O.F.S., led by the Holy Spirit, strive for perfect charity in their own secular state.
They gather on a regular basis for prayer, ongoing formation, ministry and fellowship.
Secular Franciscans join a local fraternity — a living active Christian community — and truly become a spiritual family.
As brothers and sisters, they help one another in living out their call to the Gospel life.
Admission to the order does not require people to show themselves to be perfect imitators of Christ. Rather, conversion and conformity to His way of life is a lifelong process, carried out daily because of human frailty.
The Rule of Life and the support of the fraternity are of great assistance to Secular Franciscans seeking to follow Christ in the way they are called.
A closer walk with Christ
Ms. Bouck said she has been profoundly humbled and blessed in making her profession as a Secular Franciscan.
“I am very thankful for those who helped and encouraged me on this journey,” she stated. “I encourage anyone who has felt the call to the Secular Franciscans Order to visit our fraternity. I am so happy that I did!”
Mrs. Puglis said St. Francis is inspiring her to follow more closely in the footsteps of Jesus and bring His Gospel to life for her and for others.
“The humility of Francis goes against all that we see and hear in this world of ours,” she stated. “He knew Jesus intimately, but did not let it go to his head.”
“God so loved”
Deacon Puglis, who assists the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, observed that common knowledge about St. Francis varies widely from person to person.
Some think of a “little bald friar with a bird on his shoulders — a lover of animals,” said Deacon Puglis.
Other think of the “Make me an instrument of your peace” prayer that has been apocryphally attributed to him.
“Those who know Francis a little deeper will think about the Portuncula, the wolf of Gubbio, the first Nativity scene at Greccio, his daring encounter with a Sultan, and his stigmata,” the deacon stated.
“Others will remember the great love Francis had for Jesus, his service to the poor and lepers, his restoration of a Church, discovery of the Cross of Damiano, and his first female follower, Clare.”
What struck Deacon Puglis when he was first exposed to Franciscan spirituality several years ago was St. Francis’s understanding of the Incarnation of Jesus.
“St. John wrote in the third chapter of his Gospel that most-familiar quote: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life,’” (John 3:16).
Deacon Puglis pointed to a passage from the Franciscan formation manual:
“It is our belief as Franciscans that God’s LOVE is what prompted God to send Jesus to earth to be with us. Sin is NOT what influenced God to send Jesus.
“Whether we had sinned or not,” the manual continues, “Jesus would have come among us because God’s love seeks to be with us. That love is made visible in the humanity of Jesus, the Christ. Only secondarily did this love rescue us from our sin and unfaithfulness.
“Hence one theological truth of faith for Franciscans is that God’s love finds expression in the Incarnation. God chooses to come among us BECAUSE God loves us. And Jesus shows us what that LOVE looks like in everyday life.
“Jesus is at the heart of ALL we are. Jesus IS the love of God made flesh.”
Deacon Puglis said this understanding, which Franciscans refer to as Incarnational Spirituality, is one of the many reasons that his profession as a Secular Franciscan means so much to him.
Family of families
The Joyful Servants Fraternity, based in central Missouri, is one of several O.S.F. fraternities that are active in the Jefferson City diocese.
The three recent professions bring the membership of this fraternity to 14 professed members.
Another five people are in the inquiry or candidacy stage of discernment.
The Joyful Servants Fraternity meets on the fourth Sunday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Contributing to this article was Maureen Gray O.S.F., a member of the Joyful Servants Fraternity of the Secular Order of Franciscans.