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As the first person who communicates with

those making inquiry, Byrd said the three things he usually makes clear are: “We’re not monks, we’re friars—brothers and sisters. We’re not cloistered. And we’re not celibate—we make a vow of chastity.” They do wear habits, depending on their

vocation. Byrd wears his when at his job as a spiritual director at the local prison and to teach. “I don’t always wear it to the grocery store,” he said with good humor. Markert, director for evangelical mission with

the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, came out of the Order for Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF). The OLF is “ecumenical in spirit,” he said, joining with other Franciscans and Christians whenever possible. The Lutherans also draw from similar orders in

the Roman Catholic and Episcopal traditions, but they claim the ELCA Confession of Faith. Markert’s vision of what the community could be was shaped by living at an Episcopal priory with Benedictines and at the Philadelphia Motherhouse of Deaconesses. After being with the OEF, he began to wonder

why there wasn’t an authentically Lutheran voice at the Franciscan table, as existed among Roman Catholics and Episcopalians. After sharing his concern with fellow Franciscans and discovering that Lutheran orders have existed for decades in Europe, he felt called to lead the movement that included a general rule, bylaws and an affiliated relationship with the ELCA. These documents and objectives were approved by that first gathering of the community in New Orleans. The order’s four foundations are to accompany

the poor and marginalized, build ecumenical bridges, care for creation and provide spiritual renewal in the church (a majority of the brothers and sisters are spiritual directors). “ ‘What do you Lutheran friars do?’ is a question

we often get,” Markert said. “But it’s not the right question. It’s not about what we do, but about who we are. Our Franciscan calling flows from our baptismal calling. We are seeking grace and celebrating grace in our lives. … Moving back into simplicity, walking with the poor as children of God, celebrating the church beyond who we are as Lutherans, caring for creation, finding beautiful and bold ways of being Christian.”

Seeking, searching When she entered the door to the New Orleans gathering with the others, Sister Heather Ryniker had been searching for an ELCA congregation that was the right fit. What she found at the meeting was a community that keeps her grounded and shares her values.

“The Franciscans provided enough of a

community that, although I may not have someone next to me doing daily prayer, I know that somewhere there’s someone doing daily prayer in my community,” she said. Ryniker is in charge of the order’s finances and

works as director of finance and business at Good Samaritan Community Services in San Antonio. She entered the Franciscan “life profession” stage three years ago. Religious orders have much to offer modern

society, she said, because we’re rife with individualistic nature. “That’s why the new monastic movement has become popular,” she added. “Having a rule of life is beneficial to me,” she

said. “I need that consistency and order. Life around me is changing. The rule I follow keeps me grounded, reminds me that I’m not in charge.” Ryniker was attracted to the Franciscans because

of what she learned in formation: “St. Francis didn’t just sit around and analyze or form a committee— he just went out and did it.” Byrd has much to say about St. Francis (and

Clare of Assisi), as well. He believes the OLF is part of the current “great upheaval” described by theologian Phyllis Tickle, who wrote that Christian reformation is a pattern that occurs every 500 years.

Those in the OLF:

• Are active members in an ELCA congregation.

• Make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as interpreted by the order.

• Pray the Daily Office. • Receive communion weekly.

• Have a spiritual director or faith coach.

• Make individual confession at least twice a year.

• Attend chapter and provincial convocations.

• Financially support the mission and work of the order and the church.


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