Posted on May 5, 2017 

36 lay brothers from six entities of the East Asian Conference gathered for the historic First Lay Brothers Gathering in Asia held at Sungsimwon, Sancheong, South Korea last April 3-7, 2017.
The gathering was convoked to provide an opportunity for the lay brothers in Asia to share their Franciscan life and vocation experiences in order to support, strengthen and inspire one another.
Furthermore, the gathering is in response to the Order’s call for an intensification of ongoing formation among the lay brothers through communal reflection. Finally, the gathering wish to provide concrete suggestions for the Plenary Council 2017 which will discuss the role of the lay brothers to the contemporary world.
Among the proposals made by the brothers during the gathering is to support the General Curia’s move to reclaim the novelty of our Franciscan vocation as a MIXED INSTITUTE. They also made a recommendation to the General Secretariat  for Formation and Studies to come up with an Animation Guideline or policies following the recommendations of Br. Bill Short, OFM where a more intensive common Franciscan formation will be made after the novitiate that is not purely academic and with no assurance of ordination.

We, 36 lay brothers from six entities of the East Asian Conference, gathered for the historic First Lay Brothers Gathering in Asia held at Sungsimwon, Sancheong, South Korea this April 3-7, 2017 rejoice in the gift of vocation and brotherhood that we have all received from God. In the midst of our diversity of language, history and culture we were made united in prayer, reflection and study during these past five days of our gathering. With the psalmist we all say: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)

Brothers in Our Time
The inputs of Br. William “Bill” Short, OFM, our Keynote Speaker, Br. Siniša Balajić, OFM and Br. Lino Gregorio Redoblado, OFM made us all aware of the challenging times that we brothers find ourselves in today. A survey of our history as an Order made us appreciate the vision of our Seraphic Brother where all are called to be brothers, with no distinction of cleric or lay, who are all called to share the common task of preaching penance with their life and words (RnB 17).
We are inspired by the shining examples of notable lay brothers in our history like Br. Diego de Alcala, Br. Bernardino de Laredo, Br. Pedro de Gante, Br. Juan Clemente and many others who are models not just of holiness and charity but also of wisdom and great learning.
We are also made aware of the fact that universally, there is a general decline in the number of friars in the Order especially among the lay brother. The same truth holds true in the East Asian Conference. The sharing of the brothers saw the decline in the number of brothers opting for lay brotherhood as caused by numerous factors. Externally, the socio-economic and cultural factors played a big role especially in societies where religious men are almost always expected to be priests. Internally, the order has increasingly become a clerical order (82.3% priests and 17.7% lay brothers). There is also a seeming dichotomy of our concept in one’s vocation as either lay or cleric rather than being a friar. It was observed that the present set up in formation is too clerical in its approach, where there is a seeming inequality in opportunities for Ongoing Formation specialization and further studies among the lay brothers.
Nonetheless, we can all see a silver line of hope. During the sharing, most of the lay brothers in EAC are happy and contented with their vocation. Many of the brothers in the EAC are active in various ministries where they share their unique talents and gifts. Brothers were also given opportunities of leadership in their entities as Definitors, guardians, administrators of institutions and formators.

Brothers who know how to read the psalter…
The beautiful sharing of Br. Bill Short, OFM also made us cognizant of the importance of intellectual formation of the brothers. As has been stated in the Regula Non Bullata, brothers who can read the Psalter may certainly do so, whether they be cleric or lay.
Unfortunately, a close analysis of the problem points into a worldwide tendency to see the vocation of the lay brothers as intellectually inferior to that of the cleric brothers. This distinction is made evident in the selection of more intelligent brothers to become priests and those with lower level of education as lay brothers. This present set-up is very far from the vision of St. Francis. The decline in the number of lay brothers has alarmed our most recent Ministers General and thus they called for a radical change of mentality (Giacomo Bini, Report to the General Chapter 2003).
In order to do this, we must all be made aware once again that there is only one vocation, that is, to be a friar minor. Being a lay brother or a cleric is a means of living out our life as “lesser brothers”. The role of vocation animation and a well-founded initial Formation are critical in this realization. In the context of present realities, special interest in assisting brothers who opt for lay brotherhood should be emphasized, particularly in animating and accompanying these brothers to crystallize and see the importance of one’s decision.
A brother who opts for lay brotherhood must see his Franciscan vocation as an important contribution to the authentic living out of our Franciscan charism. He should be helped to realize that his vocation is a unique gift from God, to be shared to the fraternity. This should be nurtured and appreciated.
We also realize that the challenge to respond to new forms of evangelization and mission are rich areas for the lay brothers, widening our horizon to carry out the uniqueness of our identity as well as our capacities as lay brothers.

United as Brothers
Thus the brothers in this gathering make these proposals:
For the Order
• To reclaim the novelty of our Franciscan vocation as a MIXED INSTITUTE, we commend and strongly support the continued efforts of our brothers in the administration in finding ways for this to be approved by the Holy See.
• To recommend to the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies to come up with an Animation Guideline or policies following the recommendations of Br. Bill Short, OFM where a more intensive common Franciscan formation will be made after the novitiate that is not purely academic and with no assurance of ordination.

For the EAC Conference
• To continue the triennial lay brothers gathering as a venue for sharing and collaboration in mission among the lay brothers.
• To come up with a website/publication for the lay brothers of the EAC.
• To encourage lay brothers to participate in the English language program organized by the EAC Secretariat for Formation and Studies.

  For the Entities
• To create a concrete guideline on vocation animation and Initial Formation Program that takes care of a candidate opting for lay brotherhood which emphasizes our primary vocation to become a friar minor.
• To create more venues for the lay brothers to gather and animate one another, to share and nurture one’s experiences and challenges as lay brothers.
• To give equal opportunities to lay brothers for specialization and further studies.
• To create more ministries in new forms of evangelization and missions and not only administering parishes.

Celebrating Brotherhood
In conclusion, all the lay brothers give thanks to our brother Minister General Michael Anthony Perry, OFM for his warm message and support for this gathering. We are also grateful to Br. Lino Gregorio Redoblado, OFM, the General Definitor for Asia, Australia and Oceania for presiding the Opening Liturgy and challenging us to bring a new springtime in the life of the Order.
In a special way, we thank the General Secretariat for Formation and Studies headed by Br. Cesare Vaiani, OFM who was represented in this gathering by Vice General Secretary Br. Siniša Balajić, OFM for their magnanimous support and input in this gathering.
We also express our sincere thanks to all the brothers who spearheaded the preparations for the gathering especially the members of the Province of Holy Martyrs of Korea under the leadership of their Minister Provincial and EAC President, Br. Carolo Ho Myeong Hwan, OFM. We also thank all the Minister Provincials present for the gathering. In a special way we thank all the brothers who worked hard in finalizing the details of the gathering namely: Br. Irineo Tactac, III, OFM, EAC Secretary for Formation and Studies; Br. Felix Choi, OFM, Provincial Secretary for Formation and Studies (Korea) and Br. Dexter Toledo, EAC Secretary.
We also thank all the Ministers Provincial, Custos and Presidents who sent their brothers to attend this gathering. It is indeed true that where there are religious, there is joy and we hope to bring this joy which we have experienced back to our entities where we serve as lesser brothers of St. Francis, our Seraphic brother.

St. Francis of Assisi

FRAIRS B'DAYS (November)

Charles Mathew Kolanchery
1 / November / 1947

Deepak Kumar
1 / November / 1994

Joseph Raj M.
2 / November / 1975

Charles Bernard
4 / November / 1963

Lawrence Simon
5 / November / 1949

Bala Marneni
5 / November / 1962

Singaraya A.
6 / November / 1970

Salvador D' Souza
6 / November / 1979

Clinton J.
6 / November / 1992

Hemant Xess
7 / November / 1975

Saji P. Mathew
9 / November / 1975

Augustine Pinto
10 / November / 1936

Fulgence Ekka
11 / November / 1964

Basil S. Lobo.
11 / November / 1971

Salvador Drego
14 / November / 1984

Kalyan Kumar
14 / November / 1994

Vinoth Kumar T.
17 / November / 1993

Thomas Joseph
19 / November / 1962

Irudayaraj Fernando
20 / November / 1966

Silash Panna
21 / November / 1990

Rajesh Praveen Kumar
24 / November / 1994

Gregory Fernandes
25 / November / 1930

Carlos Dias
25 / November / 1956

Tojy M.
25 / November / 1970

Belthazar Pinto
26 / November / 1960

Johnson M. V.
27 / November / 1970

Prasad Papabathuni
30 / November / 1970