One of the core values of Franciscan religious life is fraternal life, life in community. Our Constitutions state, “As Franciscan sisters, the communion we share with God impels us in a special way to be a sister to one another in community” (Constitutions 4). Our life of community derives from our communion with God, who is a community of persons, and leads to a life of communion with one another and with the whole Church. We are empowered to be sisters to all by knowing ourselves as daughters of the Heavenly Father and sisters of Christ our Brother, united in the Spirit who is Love (cf. Constitutions 66). It is only in knowing ourselves to be thus loved that we can love others in turn.
By living in self-sacrificial love for one another, we seek to imitate Christ Crucified, who enjoined his disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:12-13). Our Constitutions add, “As sisters, when we help to carry one another’s burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ and learn from one another the true meaning of our charisms of crucified love and mercy… As sisters in the Spirit, we embrace one another as family in unconditional love and forgiveness, manifest our love in deeds, and show great tenderness in the care we give to one another” (Constitutions 67). Our care for one another and the witness that our love offers is, in fact, an essential part of our mission in the Church and in the world. It is within community that we learn how to live our charisms of crucified love and mercy in order to bring them to a world in need.
Community life is built up by praying together and for one another, spending time together regularly and on special occasions, and by sacrificing for one another. We ordinarily eat dinner together and have recreation twice a week, have opportunities for recreational exercise, as well as time set aside for small-group sharing. During Advent, we have an opportunity to intensify our prayerful support of one another by offering prayers and sacrifices for a particular sister. Additionally, we take time to pray over and celebrate each sister on the occasion of her Feast Day and birthday, thanking the Lord for the gift she is in our lives.
We also rejoice to be a part of the larger Franciscan family, and seek to be an active part of her life. To this end, we take advantage of opportunities to minister with and dialogue with other members of the Franciscan family, following our Rule, which states, “whenever they meet each other, they should show that they are members of the same family” (T.O.R. Rule 23).
In our fraternal life, we seek always to answer the Church’s call to religious to be experts in communion, while acknowledging that it is Christ’s power in us that allows us to respond to that call. We trust that our faithfulness to maintaining an environment of charity, forgiveness, and communion in our own houses will be fruitful in building up the Body of Christ throughout the world.