We are all brothers
In honor of the inaugural Religious Brothers Day May 1, friars answered what it means to be a Franciscan brother.
Br. Mark Ligett, OFM
(Mark works in Retreat & Fraternal Ministry at St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, Pa., and is Regional Fraternal Animator.)
When I entered the first grade of St. Mary Elementary School in Middletown, Ohio, I came face-to-face with the first nun I had ever laid eyes on, Sr. Mary Dorothy Spaeth. Dorothy was a Sister of St. Francis from Oldenburg, Ind. On that day I fell in love with the "Oldenburgers" and with St. Francis. She taught us a song entitled Are We Not Franciscans All with the refrain, "Oh, how privileged! Oh, how wonderful! To be children of St. Francis." I knew then, at that very early age, that I wanted to be a happy, joy-filled person like Dorothy.
I continued to be taught by the Oldenburg Sisters, but it was not until I was in the fifth grade that I first met a friar, and that was newly ordained Ric Schneider…Fr. Theodoric, back then! He visited our parish and school and I saw in him the very same joy I had seen in the Oldenburg Sisters. My desire to be a Franciscan continued to grow, but I did not believe God was calling me to priestly ministry. It was about then that another Oldenburg Sister, Sr. Rose de Lourdes, told me about the life of the lay friars, and I realized that was the life for me!
Now, many years later, I have come to see that whether priest or lay-friar, we are all Franciscan brothers. Being a brother to one another and to everyone we meet is the heart of our vocation. Oh, I have heard the stories of how many of the early lay-friars experienced Franciscan life as "second-class citizens". I lived in some of those times myself; but I also know that our province of St. John the Baptist was a leader in advancing the life of the lay-friar by providing quality formation and bringing about an end to "classes" within our Franciscan family.
And the grade school song still rings in my ears to this day: It is wonderful and we are privileged to be children of St. Francis. Yes, we are Franciscans all!