Franciscan Footprints

Sisters of the Third Order? What does that mean?

Statue of St FrancisOne of the most frequent questions I'm asked, after I tell someone I'm joining the Sisters of the Third Order in Peoria, by folks familiar with vocation "options" for lay and religious, is, "Wait.  I thought Third Order Franciscans were a secular group.  Will you not be consecrated then?" I initially thought the same thing.  And when I started digging into the answer, it quickly became very complicated.

Here's the brief history lesson of the Franciscan communities to lead you to the answer.

There are three main orders of Catholic Franciscans, with their subdivisions.

The First Order of St. Francis or the "Order of Friars Minor" are often called the "Franciscans". The modern organization of the Friars Minor comprises three separate family or groups, each considered a religious order in its own right. They all live according to a body of regulations known as the Rule of St Francis. These are the main branches today:

The Second Order of St. Francis, most commonly called Poor Clares in English-speaking countries, consists of religious nuns, meaning sisters who are solemnly professed and cloistered.  Hear are some main branches:

The Franciscan Third order, known as the Third Order of Saint Francis, has many men and women members, separated into two main branches:

  • The Secular Franciscan Order, SFO, originally known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance or Third Order of St. Francis, or Franciscan Tertiaries, try to live the ideals of the movement in their daily lives in the world, outside of religious institutes.
  • The Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis live in religious communities under the traditional religious vows. They grew out of the Secular Franciscan Order.  Different congregations of Third Order Regular Franciscans use different initials, TOR and OSF being among the most common.
    • The Third Order of St. Francis, were people who desired to grow in holiness in their daily lives without entering monastic life. After founding the Friars Minor and seeing a need, Francis created the Secular Franciscan Order.

All that being said, the Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis of East Peoria are a Third Order Regular of St Francis community of sisters which also fall under the categories of a Congregation, a Lay Institution, a Lay Religious Congregation, and an Apostolic Community

Sources include:

http://www.religious-vocation.com/differences_religious_orders.html#.VwQcInl0zcs

Thank you to Sister Rose Therese for helping me with this lesson on the Franciscans!

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