Saturday, October 27, 2012
SFO Elections - and the uncertain future
Last night's fraternity meeting left me with mixed feelings.
It was good to see everyone and to pray together again. A member who had not been attending also came - I gave him a hug.
The meeting got off to an mildly awkward moment, however, when I arrived with my guitar, music, and song sheets prepared because our minister had asked me to do so as our regular music provider would not be there - and the music provider WAS there and had already distributed song sheets she had prepared. I quickly stowed the guitar behind some chairs and said nothing.
That was okay; it was just a minor mishap. And then we got into reading St. Clare's writings and evening prayers. All good.
However, I felt a bit concerned when the minister talked about the upcoming chapter elections. He is stepping down due to health issues. He's the only minister I've known at the fraternity, so I was a little sad at that news. But I also understand his health is more important.
He then announced the lone "official" candidate for minister (there will have to be another candidate, but that other person would be just a name - the official candidate will be elected). The woman he named is a dear lady, who is intelligent and deeply spiritual. But she is elderly, has multiple health issues, has a hard time even walking, and is extremely hard of hearing - we often have to repeat what we say for her.
She will likely be a fine minister - but I look at`our fraternity, and at 57 I'm one of the youngest members. We are not attracting young people, or even middle aged people. We are thinking of moving our meeting site to one that's more handicapped accessible because of the number of senior members who have a hard time walking.
Meanwhile, our officers will all basically be the same people who've held leadership positions before, with a little reshuffling of titles.
When I got home, I updated our fraternity blog. In preparation, I read the National Minister's message and some national SFO news. The National Minister in his annual report noted that the number of professed SFOs and people in formation were both down - a trend he observed that has been going on for several years. In addition, some fraternities had ceased to exist. In the news, I learned that at the October national meeting, basically the same leadership team that has been directing the order during the decline was reelected.
This is not to criticize any of those people. I don't question their commitment to the Secular Franciscan Order or their spirituality. But if we are not growing now, if we are not attracting people already, how can we expect to do so in the future with the same people in charge? Perhaps they have something in the works? I hope they do.
The same questions popped into my head about my local fraternity.
What about our future?
I don't have any answers. I know: If I'm so concerned maybe I should put my name in for a leadership position, but, to be honest, I don't know what I'd do differently.
What worries me is that given the age of our fraternity members and how few new member we are attracting, is there a chance in a few years we will become one of those fraternities that ceases to exist?
I pray that is not the case.
Pax et bonum