On March 21-24, 2022, a formation course for members of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) was held at the St. Francis of Assisi Retreat Center in Saltpond, Ghana. The Center belongs to the Friars Minor Conventual. Fourteen Secular Franciscans participated in the course. They came from parishes run by the three families of the Franciscan First Order. Five Conventual Franciscan friars and two Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary (FMM) also attended. The course was geared toward the spiritual assistants and future formators of the Secular Franciscan Order.
During the course, Friar Alfred PARAMBAKATHU, the OFS General Assistant, lectured on several topics, including, who St. Francis of Assisi was; the 800-year history of the Secular Franciscan Order; vocations to the Secular Franciscan Order (a topic that was further explored by the OFS General Minister, Tibor KAUSER); the current Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order; OFS spiritual assistance; finances among Secular Franciscans; and how to start an OFS fraternity.
A decision was made at the end of the course to start doing formation at the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Accra, Ghana, as a study experience. It was decided to establish a six-month aspirancy program, a year-long postulancy program and a year-long novitiate program, with simple profession to follow. This formation effort is scheduled to begin the first Sunday after Easter.
The overall Franciscan presence in Ghana is rather small, in terms of numbers. The Conventual Franciscans have a Custody in Ghana with six friaries and forty solemnly professed friars. The Friars Minor and the Capuchin Franciscans each have one friary in Ghana. However, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary, a congregation founded in India, has a very strong presence in Ghana with twelve convents.
The presence of Secular Franciscans in Ghana is almost nominal. Back in 1984, some Conventual Franciscans from Italy, working in Cape Coast, Ghana, had received the profession of some Secular Franciscans, but there was no follow-up. Only three of those professed are still alive today. Thus, the Conference of Franciscan Major Superiors decided to restart the Secular Franciscan Order in Ghana. To get this underway, an opening three-day retreat was held in October of 2021, for all those aspiring to become OFS members.
Friar Alfred PARAMBAKATHU, OFS General Assistant