Important background information is needed to give the context of this common venture. Three of these congregations had a common, USA foundation in 1849. In 1995, they articulated their desire for an inter-congregational celebration of gratitude for their 150th anniversary. Preparations for the celebration involved honoring their founding energy. It also included honoring an1873 separation in their communal life as well as a 1973 separation. Three independent congregations evolved from these two separations. To foster the intent of their joint 150th anniversary, a commitment was made by the three congregations to engage in a common ministry venture that would address systemic change.
Concurrently, the Cameroon Province of the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis, located in what is casually referred to as the arm pit of Africa, was soul searching what it means to be African and Franciscan from their experience, namely, of European colonization.
The first conversation between the USA and African congregations of the Franciscan Common Venture was in May, 1997, at the International Franciscan Conference in Assisi, Italy. The conference goal was to promote inter-religious dialogue through companion relationships between Franciscan congregations so as to move toward global communion. It is in this context that doors opened between the USA Franciscans and the African Franciscans.
On March 25, 1998, the four congregations committed themselves to a companion relationship for a minimum of five years. The relationship was to be characterized by mutuality, solidarity and conversion. The initial 1999 mission statement was adopted as follows:
- to companion the Tertiary Sisters as they seek to give voice to their African sense of the sacred
- to provide the USA congregations with a new consciousness, one that challenges them to understand their vocation as Franciscan Catholic women in today's multi-cultural world. (This was revised in 2002)
Since 1998, Tertiary Sisters have traveled to USA to experience the heart beat of the other three congregations. Eight of the Tertiary Sisters and four of their lay partners have engaged in extensive study in USA . In turn, USA Sisters, out of their continuing inter-congregational dialogue, and, along with their lay partners, have been facilitators and reflectors with the Sisters in Cameroon in the areas of community life, in healthcare, culture, education, theology, Franciscanism and mission effectiveness.
The four congregational leadership teams have met regularly for visioning and global sistering in USA, in Brixen and Rome, Italy (Generalate of the Tertiary Sisters), in Assisi, Italy (to present the common venture experience to the International Franciscan Conference Assembly and in Shisong, Cameroon. This common venture experience has been so fulfilling that the five year commitment has been extended. The common heart beat of these four congregations is gift and is making movement toward conversion, mutuality in relationships and global solidarity.
- Read about Sister Xaveria and TSSF history in her 2007 Assembly speech (.pdf).
- Learn more about the 150th anniversary of the common founding and this commitment to a common ministry in this presentation.
Originally submitted by Marla Lang, FSPA on Dec. 15, 2005
Information updated on Oct. 5, 2010