By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
INDEPENDENCE — The easy part was a couple of years of discernment, study, prayer and spiritual preparation and formation.
Now comes the hard part.
Thirteen new members of the Fraternity of the Holy Eucharist pledged before Bishop Robert W. Finn on Sept. 25 that they will live the rest of their lives according to rules set down by St. Francis of Assisi himself for the Third Order of Secular Franciscans.
“I just needed a deeper commitment to the Lord,” said Tess Moore, following a Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist.
And, Moore quickly added, she wanted what the Franciscan sisters who mentored her into the Third Order seem to have in abundance.
“They are always so happy, laughing and cheerful and I wanted to be like that,” Moore said. “The sisters are a big influence on me.”
The sisters also influenced married couple Albert and Sylvia Ridge to take the big step toward deeper spiritual formation in the Franciscan charism. And it was Sister Josephine Boyle, who spearheads formation for the fraternity, who invited them in her inimitable way.
“We had been volunteering with the sisters for quite a few years, and Sister Josephine said we’re Franciscan already, so we might as well commit to it,” Albert said. “This is just another way for me to serve.”
Sylvia said it is great for their already great marriage.
“It is something we have in common,” she said. “It sharpens the spiritual sword, and it helps you check and double-check with the Lord.”
Sister Josephine said the Fraternity of the Holy Eucharist, which was officially established in 2009, now has 74 committed lay members.
“There are some who made their profession here, but have moved to other states,” Sister Josephine said. “They have joined other fraternities where they live.”
Working with the Our Lady of Sorrows Fraternity at Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, the Independence fraternity began formation in 2004 and heard its first commitments in 2006.
In his homily during the Mass, Bishop Finn expressed his admiration for the newly committed, and for those who remain true to the spirit of St. Francis.
He also reminded them of the true source of their commitment.
“This profound call to live in Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, is possible only because of the power of his grace,” Bishop Finn said.
“His life must be alive in us, and anything we find contrary to Christ, we must be ready to lay aside,” he said.
Bishop Finn told the newly committed that their journey has just begun, and there could be stumbles along the way. But God is always there to strengthen anew.
“Upon examining our conscience, we must sometimes admit that we have not lived as fully as possible the spirit of our vocation with joy,” he said.
“How we rely on God’s grace, the grace of our calling, and the grace of continuing conversion, to get up again when we have failed, to grow daily in love and prayer, to become ever more fervent in the giving of our heart,” the bishop said.
“We could never undertake these commitments on our own if it wasn’t for the fact that God calls us,” he said. “This is our true vocation. God strengthens us. It is his desire that we fulfill the promises we make before the church. It is also true that, within the church, we receive that help that, without which, we could never hope to persevere.
“Asking forgiveness and changing our lives, with the help of God’s grace, must be part of our growth in his life and love,” the bishop said.
Bishop Finn told the newly committed to keep trusting Jesus.
“Say yes to him, not just today but every day of your life,” he said. “Ask also our Blessed Mother to help you. Mary watches over every act of giving ourselves to Jesus, and desires to see us please him and live for him.”
The bishop offered a prayer to “Father Francis.”
“Sing a song of praise in the hearts of these your daughters and sons who are ready to give themselves,” Bishop Finn prayed. “Intercede for them that they may know ‘peace and all good things.’”
In addition to Terisia Marie Moore, Albert Alphonsus Ridge III and Sylvia Susan Ridge, others who were called and committed on Sept. 25 were: Janet Marie Battin, Helen Mae Dasta, Loretta Rose Donnici, Maria Christina Epperson, Yvonne Marie Ann Ferron, Richard Gregory King, Maryann Peale, Dianne Nicola Sicola, Donna Marie Yeager and Christopher Russell Yeager.