ca 14 01aSarah Peter, Reuben Springer: first “Associates”During the General Chapter of 1980, in the wake of the Leadership Team’s proposal, the Congregation wishes to respond to some requests submitted by lay women and men linked to the Charism of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. Thus it is decided to launch the program “Extended membership.” The decision was based on a reflection and a study carried out in the mid-seventies on different lay associate programs launched by other religious Congregations. The idea retraces the steps of Francesca Schervier who, through a special letter, connected many laypeople of good will to the Congregation so that they could contribute in spreading the Charism and the mission of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. The Congregation thus wishes to promote the request of the Second Vatican Council, especially the development of a fruitful dialogue with the world.

ca 14 01Associates in USThe proposal of “Extended membership” calls for the development and trial of a program, open to women and men, married or not, who wish to share in a formal way the life and ministries of the Congregation. The relationship is based on mutual support and enrichment, inspired by the Franciscan and Clarian tradition. It is ratified by a written, temporary covenant that can be renewed.

ca 14 02Associates in ItalyThe Leadership Team is in charge of the development of a program that uses the Chapter’s recommendations and that consults other religious Congregations. The Leadership elected by the 1980 General Chapter becomes, therefore, the first team that welcomes and develops the program, the procedures, the forms, and the process to be followed in the relationship with lay women and men.

On June 13, 1981, in Warwick, New York, the first Associates are welcomed. They are mostly members of the Sisters’ families or people who work and cooperate in the different ministries and who know the Charism very well: Jim Flynn, George and Anne Raab, Dick Ryan, Vivian Gonzalez, Betty Vesci, Kay Weadock, and Mary Ellen McMorrow. Some days later, Evelyn Magdaleno also joins this group. On November 14, 1981, at St. Clare Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mary Dahlinghaus, Mary Hoying, and Carol Sheer make their first covenants as Associates.

ca 14 03Associates in SenegalEach Associate commits through a formal covenant, signed by the Congregation as well. Their reception is ritualized in a prayer service and the covenant is renewed periodically during the following years.
In the 1984 General Chapter Report, the outgoing Leadership recommends continuing the program, having assessed the progress and the value of the experience.

Since the number of Associates increases progressively, some Sisters (called “sponsors”) are in charge of personally following the relationship and of the training of the individual people. The Associates are involved in the life of the different communities and invited to join regional assemblies. In this way, they have the opportunity to gain better knowledge of the Congregation’s life and the Charism. The spirit of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor’s charismatic family reaches families, neighborhoods, parishes where the Associates live and work, according to the methodologies chosen by each person in her/his covenant: through prayer, hospitality, and support or direct participation in ministries and projects.
In 1986, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the program, a survey is conducted and a pin is created for the Associates along with a brochure. A publication is also printed that includes a picture of each Associate and a short statement.

ca 14 04Associates in BrasilDuring these years, Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle participates in meetings aimed at studying and analyzing programs with laypeople in collaboration with other religious Congregations in the New York–New Jersey area. In 1988 she is appointed Director for the Relationships with the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in the United States and is entrusted with the development of an Orientation Program for those who wish to start cultivating this relationship.

In these years the program is also promoted in the other Regions of the Congregation. In 1984 the first Italian Associate, Maria Bianca Faostini, signs the covenant for two years. Being the only Associate in Italy, she decides not to renew her covenant upon its expiration. In 1988 a specific Commission is established, under the leadership of Sister Tina Ventimiglia, and in June 1989 the Italian Region welcomes the covenant of Dorotea (Dora) Virruso, followed in May 1991 by Mario Vitale, Gianni Scotto, and Maria Bonaccorso.

In 1990 in Senegal, in Parcelles Assainies in the suburbs of Dakar, a group of laypeople interested in a better and deeper knowledge of the Charism begins its journey, supported by Sister Francesca Antorino. In 1992 the first covenants of Robert Ndiogoye and Yves Cassian Sagna take place.

In Brazil, the first covenants of the Associates date to 1991: Thome Flori, Terezinha Justino Flori, Dorcilio de Oliveira, Luzia Ines Oliveira, Roque Henrique Corandin, Irene Goncalves Corandin, Ione dos Santos Canedo, and Regina Lucia Santana. Silvio de Oliveira, who moved from Brazil to the United States for a long period of study, signs his first covenant in May 1991, during the Congregational Assembly celebrated in Cincinnati. Back to Brazil in September of the same year, he continues his relationship as Associate.
In 1995, standards, procedures and criteria for the permanent covenant are developed and approved: the first laypeople who associated themselves permanently with the Congregation are Bob Reis in the United States and Antonio Cama in Italy.

In 1999 Sister Karen Hartman replaces Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle as director of the Relationship with the Associates in the United States.
In 1996 for the first time, two of the Associates in the US join the General Chapter that takes place in Maria Stein, Ohio. In 2002 Associates from Italy, Brazil and the US participate in the Congregational Assembly in Mariottsville, Maryland. At the General Chapter in 2004, taking place in Ariccia, Italy, a delegation of Associates from each geographical region of the Congregation is included.

Wherever the Congregation is present, we offer the Associates the opportunity to join the area assemblies, periodic formation meetings offered in the communities, moments of prayer, reflection, life-sharing moments, study of the Charism, and celebrations. We support each other in moments of suffering, manfesting how we all belong to the same charismatic family.

The commitment of each Associate is rich and varied, as an answer to God’s call to live the healing Charism, according to the personal conditions and gifts that each person can offer. 

ca 14 05Associates in the Philippinesca 14 06Associates in the PhilippinesThere is wide participation in the ministries for the poor, in collaboration for youth, family, and social ministry, and in the fundraising initiatives for the Congregation’s programs and ministries. In 2015 the first group of Associates in the Philippines is born in the young mission of Dumaguete City. They are Biena Marieta Cabuso, Fortunata Costanilla, Gelacia Lagrito, Maria Sol Quiambao and Glenda Yee. In 2017 they are joined by Enrile Paulita and Flores Partlow Mary Judalyn.

In 2017 the Congregation has 154 Associates in the United States, Italy, Brazil, Senegal, and the Philippines.


Published: November 30, 2017