Regional Fraternities of NAFRA- USA

The Map of the Regions of the OFS in the United States

 Interactive Map of Local Fraternities and Regional Contacts

Willian Wicks, OFS, gives us a complete history of Regionalization – moving to geographical structuring and governing away from friar provincial jurisdictional structuring – in A History of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States. These volumes will be available for purchase at the Q 2022.

Presented here are only excerpts copied directly from Vol. III, Chapter 12, pages 277- 316.

No one can tell the story better than William Wicks.  The rest of the story, the details which mention talks dating back to “1934 and probably before,” can be found in these volumes.

Chapter 12


The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into fraternities of various levels:
Local, regional, national and international
Rule of 1978, para. 20

The process of Regionalization began at the 1987 Directive Board meeting. At that meeting, five friars recommended that the process of Regionalization be revisited, which led to the forming of a Regionalization Committee. Regionalization was completed ten years later, a relatively short time span for such a challenge: the restructuring of the SFO in the United States.

So, what is Regionalization? Regionalization is a process of restructuring the Secular Franciscan Order such that divisional boundaries are written according to geography in place of the previously arranged friar provincial jurisdictional structuring.

This restructuring was called for by the SFO Rule promulgated in 1978 [1] the Ritual,[2] published in 1985, and is detailed in the International Constitutions,[3] promulgated in 1990.

A foundational argument for a move to break away from the provincial jurisdictional structure was presented very well by Fr. Terence Pescatore, O.F.M. Conv. Excerpts of his treatise are presented here. Perspective on Secular Franciscan Order Autonomy Terence Pescatore O.F.M. Conv.

“… The Secular Franciscan Order is one by decree of the Holy See, since 1978 [Re: the Rule of the SFO]. Its members cannot be identified as Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventuals or Friars of the Third Order Regular.

“… the Secular Franciscans do not derive their charism from the friars. Their charism is not even mediated to them through the friars. By their God-given Franciscan vocation, they share the charism of St. Francis, which is mediated to them through the Roman Catholic Church, through their Rule approved by the Holy See. The friars assist them to develop the Franciscan charism.

“Consequently, we cannot distinguish different Franciscan charisms among the Secular Franciscans. They share one charism only, regardless of who assists their fraternities spiritually. There is no question of a representation of different Franciscan charisms in the fraternity councils, especially when the ‘difference’ is being determined by the different obediences or orders of friars involved in assisting the Secular Franciscans.

“I feel that we friars do a grave disservice to the Secular Franciscan Order by introducing a distinction among the secular members which is based on the distinction between the four Orders of friars. Such a practice belongs to the past, before 1978, when the Third Order of St. Francis was structured according to its Rule only in local fraternities. That practice is inadmissible in the Secular Franciscan Order with the Rule of Paul VI, which has introduced the structures of regional, national and international fraternities and councils.

“The Secular Franciscans are free to elect into office those members whom they judge to be best qualified to fulfill the offices, regardless of which Order of friars happens to assist the candidates in their local fraternities within the regional, national or international fraternity.” [4]

Back to the Future – The 1968 Proposal

Nineteen years before the Order “officially” began the process of Regionalization, a Committee was formed to revise the National Constitutions. One of the recommendations was a restructuring of the Secular Franciscan Order based on geographic boundaries, not province juridical boundaries. That “quest” was thwarted in 1968 by members of the Directive Board.

“As part of the presentation given by the Constitution Committee, the Board members were polled on the matters recommended by the Committee to those Board members. The vast majority were in favor of juridical autonomy of the Third Order organization [ideally and eventually], as opposed to the present provincial jurisdictional organization. The organization of the Third Order by geographic regions was unanimously recommended.

Virtual Rejection of the Committee Conclusion

“Fr. Sigmund [Hafermann] of the New York Capuchin province objected to Jerry’s report as being too subjective, lacking objectivity, which in my [Fr. Philip Marquard’s] estimation totally misunderstood the effort.

“A beginning of the failure [of the recommendation to restructure] occurred at this point, when the assembly voted to accept the report with thanks, but to refer the recommendations to a Resolution Committee to refine and present them for definite action.” [5]

Excepts Taken from the 1968 Lemont Meeting [6]

A Negative View: “Although Third Order leaders have been talking about this being a laymen’s Order since 1934, and possibly before that, it has just been in the last few years that the concept of Juridical Autonomy has really come to the fore. Here again there isn’t complete agreement on this issue, as indicated by the following statement: ‘I believe that the question of complete juridical autonomy is grossly misrepresented and misunderstood. Is it possible? I believe it is not possible and still remain Franciscan, Catholic. Much study of this problem is needed before coming to a workable solution.’

“But there is no question that the vast majority of us believe that, eventually, Juridical Autonomy must come.”

Positive Views: “We think Fr. Brendan’s [Mitchell, O.F.M.] comment defines the type of Juridical Autonomy desired: ‘I think the T.O. should have the same or similar kind of juridical autonomy that other religious congregations and associations of the faithful within the Church have. They should be free to constitute and formulate and conduct their own community, responsible radically neither to First Order superiors nor to bishops, but to the Holy See.

There is almost complete agreement that eventually all traces of jurisdictional lines or distinctions should be eliminated in the N.A.F. and in the entire Third Order.

“. . . Fr. Ulric’s [Buening, O.F.M. Cap.] comment: ‘would be wonderful’ reflects the feeling and thinking of all of us.”

The 1968 proposal for Jurisdictional Autonomy was not approved by the North American Federation; it was an idea whose time had not yet come. But in 1978, the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, and the International Constitutions that followed, validated those forward thinking Constitution committee members who had proposed this idea at the Lemont meeting in 1968.

Regionalization — Resurfacing in 1987

“At the October 22-24, 1987 meeting of the Directive Board of the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States, a request was presented from five friars asking the Directive board to re-open the dialogue on the topic of Regionalization. After some discussion, the board members, working in small groups developed a list of the pros and cons for structuring the National Fraternity into geographical regions. A charter was then developed for a Regionalization Committee.

Unity Days

Unity days were an important event in the process of forming a sense of community among the various local fraternities that were to become invested in a particular Region. The separation of fraternities, and members, that was inherent by virtue of the Provincial structure had to be addressed, and alleviated.

In time, the sense of being rigidly attached to a friar province was alleviated which, in turn, led to a better understanding that the Secular Franciscan Order was one Order, dispelling the notion of the four branches that the Provincial structure presented. However, it should be emphasized here, and this was stressed during the Unity Days event, that the Secular Franciscans were not severed from their First Order and Third Order Regular connection; the need for this connection remained vital.

In the paragraph below, Fr. Benet Fonck, O.F.M., explains Altius Moderamen, as applied in Article 303 of Canon Law (1883), as it relates to the relationship between the Secular Franciscan Order and the First Order and the Third Order Regular.

“The fourth characteristic, the phrase used to describe this special relationship with the religious institute is ‘sub altiore eiusdem instituti moderamine.’ At first glance this seems like quite a negative, restrictive and authoritative concept, but this is not really so. ‘Moderamen’ is a broadly used and open-ended term. It is not just the intervention of ‘direction’ of the government of the Third Order. Nor is it just juridical supervision. Rather, ‘moderamen’ means the vital participation of the secular members in the religious institute’s fulfillment of this spirit and charism and the guarantee by the religious institute of an authentic and faithful sharing of the seculars in such a charism by an official connection to the religious institute. Here we have the delicate balance between ‘autonomy’ and ‘co-responsibility,’ This is the interaction between self-governance on the part of the seculars and guidance on the part of the religious. It is the same concept that is woven throughout the SFO Rule, especially in articles 1, 2 and 26.”[7]

Regionalization Completed

What was begun in 1987, what was originally proposed and rejected in 1968, was completed in 1997. The Secular Franciscan Order in the United States was restructured such that the divisional boundaries were written according to geography, in place of the previously arranged friar province jurisdictional structure. This was a glorious moment for those, both friars and Seculars, who understood the benefit of this autonomy, to the Order and to the Church, as it was in the beginning.


[1] ‘Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, approved by Pope Paul VI, promulgated in 1978, paragraph 20

[2] Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, International Franciscan Liturgical Commission, Benet A. Fonck, O.F.M., General Spiritual Assistant, Chairman and Editor, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 3

[3] The General Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order, 99(), Ordo Franciscanus

Secularis, Consilium International, Chapter Ill, Article 29

[4] Loose Papers, Terence Pescatore, C).F.M. Conv., (believed to be from “Letter to the Assistants” circa 1989)

[5] Report of the Constitution Committee

[6] Ibid

[7] Fonck, Benet A., O.F.M., Loose Paper, SFO Archives, St. Bonaventure University.

Chronology of the Establishment

of the Regions in the United States

[“For those of you who are unaware, the reason for starting at 50 …was to avoid confusion with the numbering that belonged to the provincial structure for which we were moving.” Jan Parker, National Minister]

Date Established Region, States included, Number assigned
October 1991 ‘Ohana ‘O Ke Anuenue (Hawaii) 50
October 1992 Troubadours of Peace (Oregon, Washington, Idaho) 54

Queen of Peace (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa) 55

Five Franciscan Martyrs (Florida and Southern Georgia) 51

October 1993 Bl. Junipero Serra (Northern California, Nevada) 53

St. Francis (Southern California) 52

St. Thomas More (Arizona, Southern Nevada) 58

Divine Mercy (Michigan) 56

St. Joan of Arc (Louisiana, Mississippi, Eastern Texas, Southern Arkansas) 60

St. Margaret of Cortona (Virginia, Delaware) 57

October 1994 Blessed (Saint) Katharine Drexel (Eastern Pennsylvania) 69

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (Northern New York) 71

Brothers and Sisters of St. Francis (Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama) 61

Franciscans of the Prairie (Illinois, not including Chicago area) 63

Holy Trinity (Southern Ohio, Kentucky) 64

Lady Poverty (Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia) 68

Los Tres Companeros (Central Texas) 67

Maximilian Kolbe (Northern Ohio) 70

Mother Cabrini (Chicago and Environs) 59

Our Lady of Indiana (Indiana) 66

Santa Maria de los Montanas (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah) 72

October 1995 La Verna (upper Michigan, Wisconsin) 65

Our Lady of the Angels (Northern New Jersey, part of New York) 77

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas (West Texas, New Mexico, Eastern Arizona) 75

Our Lady of the Rockies (Montana and North Central Wyoming) 73

St. Clare (Greater St. Louis area, Missouri, Arkansas, Southwest Illinois, Southwest Indiana) 74

October 1996 Juan de Padilla (Kansas and Oklahoma) 80

St. Elizabeth of Hungary (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont) 78

Solanus Casey (Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island) 76

October 1997 The Tau Cross (New York [Long Island, Queens, etc.]) 79