Our diocese received a new bishop last fall, one of the first things Bishop Rhoades did was to move a group of Franciscan Brothers to Fort Wayne. The brothers moved to a closed parish and are in the process of repairing the church building, they live in the old rectory. The brothers all wear homemade, traditional franciscan robes - a long brown robe made of rough fabric - they do not wear shoes and go barefoot most of the time. The church building is in rough shape, it is usable so the brothers are "rebuilding the church"; how Franciscan is that ??? The building is old, when the parish closed the pews were removed and taken to another parish, the stained glass windows are beautiful and appear to be in good shape, the floors are solid but rough and the paint is peeling everywhere. The brothers do NOT accept money, but will take food donations, using what they need and re-donating elsewhere if they do not need the items. Pretty COOL!!
Today the brothers started the first of First Saturday Devotions - it was attended by about thirty people. This simple, prayerful time, started with Mass, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, some quite time for personal prayer and adoration, recitation of the rosary, followed by a reflection on the mysteries of the rosary, then benediction and dismissal.
When I arrived the brothers were waiting in front of the church and in the parking lot to greet visitiors and direct us inside. How very joyful and excited the brothers were to welcome us to this first, of hopefully many, devotions.
When I walked into the church there were no pews, just a hodge podge of benches and folding chairs, I quickly spotted my franciscan brothers and sisters from Holy Family Fraternity, and sat with them. I was impressed by the brothers, some young, some old, all seated together, all dressed in brown robes, most with long beards, all with bare feet.
Afterwards the brothers gathered outside to visit with us. I spoke with Brother Lawrence Mary Guadalupe, he has been with the brothers for eight months, prior to joining he was a carpenter and handyman. A pleasant young man originally from rural NY. Based upon the amount of repair/carpentry work to be done Brother Lawrence will be busy for a long time! Some brothers are college/university educated, some are not, all are joyful and happy to part of the community.
As an SFO (secular Franciscan order) I am a very excited that we have this group of Franciscan brothers living in our midst - I will definitely be attending the First Saturday Devotion on July 3!