Dear Friends of St. Francis of Assisi Church –

I’m the Minister of St. Benedict the Moor Fraternity, one of over 600 fraternities in the Secular Franciscan Order in the U.S., with many more worldwide. My Fraternity was founded here, at our Church, in 1965, and has been blessed by the many volunteer opportunities our community offers. Never heard of the Secular Franciscan Order? Not a problem! Here’s a capsule history. In the early 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi established three orders. The first was the Order of Friars Minor and the second was the Order of St. Clare. St. Francis also saw the need to establish a third order, the Secular Franciscan Order, for people who wished to live Franciscan lives in the secular realm.

My fraternity has thirty professed members, women and men who observe the Gospel by following the example of Saints Francis, Clare, and Benedict himself. The formation process leading to Profession takes three years and is divided into three phases: orientation, inquiry, and candidacy. In our Church, members of St. Benedict the Moor Fraternity volunteer are ministers of hospitality, Eucharistic ministers, lectors, and other volunteers. Some of the most important contributions of Secular Franciscans, however, are perhaps the most discrete – they preach not with words, but by example, in their workplaces, with their families, and among friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

St. Benedict the Moor’s parents were taken as slaves from Africa to Sicily, where they became devout Catholics. Benedict was born in 1526 and became a Franciscan at age twenty-one. His spiritual erudition far outweighed his lack of a formal education, and Benedict became Master of Novices and then Guardian of his Friary in Palermo. He died in 1589, having spent his entire life in Sicily. His life of servant leadership is an inspiration for us all. I hope by now you have seen the new statue of St. Benedict the Moor, which was donated by my Fraternity. Carved from lindenwood and finished with oil paints by artists in northern Italy, the statue was dedicated at Sunday Mass on January 15th, 2023, on the eve of Martin Luther King Day.

One of our Church’s most beloved artworks is the Great Mosaic, which includes five Secular Franciscans: St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Louis of France, St. Frances of Rome, Christopher Columbus, and Dante Alighieri, poet laureate of the Franciscan Order. Interesting company! Can you find them?

Paul Francis Beelitz, Minister, St. Benedict the Moor Fraternity (SFO)
Volunteer Lector, Eucharistic Minister,
and Livestream Studio Operator