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A religious vocation as a lay person

Heather Kennett  |  08 May 2019

Discovering an order devoted to living the Franciscan charism, without giving up hopes for marriage, family and a career, struck the right note for Tony Bozicevic.

The private music teacher says a ‘St Paul’s moment’ during a conversation with a priest about the Secular Franciscan Order has paved
the way to deep spiritual fulfillment.

The Secular Franciscan Order was founded by St Francis of Assisi in 1221, providing a way to live out Franciscan values and charisms in worldly professions and homes.

Originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, Secular Franciscans are a recognised order within the Church, with a rule revised most recently by Pope Paul VI.

LARGEST SINGLE LAY ORDER

Today it is the largest single lay Order in the Catholic Church, with around 400,000 members worldwide.

‘St Francis of Assisi established the Order himself almost 800 years ago precisely for married couples who desired to follow Christ in the spirit of St Francis’, Tony, 42, says.

‘St Francis composed a Rule of Life for the laity in which they could remain in the secular world while living according to the spirit of St Francis and the early Franciscans.’

As professed members, Secular Franciscans join a canonically established Order of the Catholic Church, becoming full members of the Franciscan family.

‘The Church recognises each member as equally Franciscan as the Friars and Poor Clare nuns, even though we are lay people.’

Tony admits he was inspired when the priest first introduced him to the order in 2013 upon his return from Papua New Guinea, where he served as a lay missionary with Palms Australia.

TEACHING MUSIC IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

While teaching music for three years in Tapini, PNG, Tony now sees that God was slowly calling him to realise his call to live the Franciscan charisms through the gospel values of simplicity, poverty and joy.

Working in PNG was an incredible, eye-opening experience, he says.

‘It was a wonderful experience and every single day there were moments that you would never see in Australia. Through this experience I developed a lot personally.’

On his return to Australia Tony desired to continue living these values.

After discovering the Secular Franciscan Order, he saw that the Franciscan spirituality was something he was able to live as a lay person in everyday life, even here in Australia.

‘Back in Australia, when the priest explained the Secular Franciscan Order to me, I knew that was what I was searching for during my entire time in PNG – it was my St Paul’s moment.

‘Luckily, there was a fraternity in Canberra meeting that Friday, and after attending my first meeting I knew that this was where God was calling me. I was not leaving.’

LIVE IN THE FAMILY HOME

Unlike the religious Franciscans, Secular Franciscans live in the family home and care for their families as normal.

The Canberran said many Secular Franciscans are married couples, but some were single like him.

Tony says he finds it easy to follow his vocation while balancing his career and a busy and rewarding life.

‘The real beauty of being a Secular Franciscan is that we are able to live

an ordinary life, without giving up hopes for marriage, family, and careers, while at the same time living the Franciscan charism in our homes, workplace and in secular society.’

He said members don’t wear the long brown robes as do the religious friars and nuns, instead they simply wear a symbol of the Franciscan Order, such as a Tau cross.

DIFFERENT LIFESTYLES

‘We all have different lifestyles. Some members are married and have children. I’m single so I have more time to devote to ministries and helping the community.’

Tony says encountering the Secular Franciscan Order enabled him to join a fraternity where he was able to deepen his Franciscan spirituality and become more Christ-like.

‘One major joy of being a Secular Franciscan is that we have the opportunity to meet regularly with other professed members in fraternity.  ‘Usually once a month the fraternity comes together where we pray, have a discussion usually about Franciscan spirituality, and help one another in our ongoing spiritual journey.’

A youth retreat is being planned for later this year, he says. It would be the first one especially for young people held in Australia.

Tony says the fraternity becomes the member’s spiritual family and was a continual celebration of their Franciscan identity.

‘Many of us feel that our fraternity meetings “recharge our batteries” and gives us the energy to go out and live our charism for another month.’

Tony says it was a lifelong commitment being a secular Franciscan, as ‘once a member, always a member’.

‘To become a Secular Franciscan, we make a profession to God where we promise to live the Rule of our Order for the rest of our lives.

‘Profession is not a vow, but rather a serious commitment to living in union with the Catholic Church and our Franciscan fraternity.’

For more information about the Secular Franciscan Order, or to enquire about becoming a member please visit their website www.ofsaustralia.org.au

Images (from top to bottom):

1. Tony spent three years in Papua New Guinea as a lay missionary, an experience which aided his progression to becoming a Secular Franciscan. 
2. In the spirit of St Francis, Secular Franciscans are always ready to go out and help those on the peripheries in society. Tony often spends time assisting the Missionary of Charity Sisters feeding the less privileged in Canberra.
3. The profession into the Secular Franciscan Order is always a joyful celebration for the entire fraternity. On Tony's profession he was joined by members of the Canberra fraternity, as well as family and friends.

 

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