Tag: Society of St Francis

La Verna Friary, Hautambu

Society of St Francis – December 2020 Update

Brother Christopher John, SSF Minister General
Brother Christopher John, SSF Minister General

Reflecting on the past year for the Brothers in Melanesia

Although I haven’t been able to visit the Solomons since my return to Stroud NSW in March 2020, I’ve been in regular touch by Messenger, WhatsApp, phone and email. We currently have about 16 postulants, 21 novices, 27 first professed and 13 life professed brothers. Those in initial formation are at Hautambu in West Guadalcanal, Year 3 novices are posted to the other friaries for practical experience. We have nine friaries currently occupied with brothers. Although most friaries are thinly staffed, the brothers are always hoping to expand. Vanuatu is still on the cards.

The public events for the SSF 50th anniversary celebrations were postponed from September this year to September next in the hope that some SSF / CSF from overseas can be in the Solomons then. We’ll see! Although the celebrations have been postponed the brothers have been busy with some practical projects including building a retreat house at Hautambu.

Over the last few months a small group of 2-3 brothers, as well as a young lawyer boarding at Patteson House, have met regularly (electronically) with the Asia/Pacific representative for Franciscans International and myself. Our task has been research into the legislation concerning logging in the Solomons and the effects logging has on village life—not just environmental, but also social and religious. Brother Lent and Geoffrey (the lawyer) produced reports which went to Franciscans International. FI have now taken this information and converted it into the format and style for the United Nations. It will form a submission to the UN Human Rights Commission when Solomons is reviewed in next year’s periodic review of human rights.

Society of St Francis Brothers
Society of St Francis Brothers greeting newly admitted postulants
September 2020, La Verna Friary, Hautambu

The submission to the UN, to which the Solomons is required to respond, puts the matter into the public arena. The next stage will be to work with a variety of other organisations such as environmental and human rights NGOs and also faith-based organisations, each able to put pressure at different levels: internationally, nationally in the SI and provincially. And also there will be village level programmes for education about logging and its effects. I can see that the religious communities (and their associates, tertiaries, companions, etc) , along with groups such as Mothers’ Union and clergy can have a very useful role here since they can operate very effectively at village level and are well trusted. This relies on good communications and I’ve been working with ACoM and SSF at Patteson House to try to get SSF’s internet access improved to the point where we can have video conferencing. This is a work in progress.

  • Solomon Islands, Logging
  • Solomon Islands, Logging
  • Solomon Islands, Logging

I’m frustrated with this virus and not being able to travel and help things at a local level in the Solomons. The planned conference for formators (novice guardians, etc) in the four religious orders in ACoM, and also Visitation Sisters in PNG, is on hold. I’d made the suggestion in my visit in March of Patteson Theological College hosting a conference commemorating Bishop Patteson and looking at issues of mission, etc. today. I don’t know where this has got to, but the virus has disrupted many plans I suspect. And this virus stalks around—still hopefully only among those in isolation. I’m thankful that a number of church leaders have been promoting good practice about physical distancing. I know we’re all concerned about the potential for a major spread and the result of that.

On behalf of SSF in Solomons I wish you well. May MMUK and its supporters continue to flourish and lead to ever deepening partnership and sharing between our parts of the Anglican Communion.

Br Christopher John, SSF Minister General

Melanesian Brotherhood

The Arrival of Anglican Religious Orders in Melanesia

This year SSF and CSC were due to hold services to celebrate 50 years working in Melanesia. Postponed due to COVID-19, it is hoped to have these events in 2021. In the meantime, MMUK’s Archivist Canon Brian Macdonald-Milne, looks at the history of the religious orders in the region.

The earliest Religious Order to arrive in the Solomon Islands was the Order of Friars Minor or Franciscan Brothers who came with the first Spanish exploratory expeditions in the 16th century. They however did not stay. Other Roman Catholic Orders came in the mid-19th century. The Pope had asked the newly founded Society or Mary or Marist Fathers, with its Headquarters in France, to undertake work in the central, southern and western Pacific islands, including New Zealand. They tried to establish themselves in the Solomon Islands, but their bishop was killed on Santa Isabel and others had a difficult time on the island of Makira (San Cristoval), so they withdraw for a while. However, they returned in the late 19th century and have been working there ever since. The Dominican Order later arrived to work in the Western Solomons. The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM) arrived as well.

The first Anglican religious community was established by Mother Margaret and Sister Gwen in 1930, and they called it the Community of the Cross. They had previously worked with Indian Orthodox Sisters in India and had been invited by the Bishop of Melanesia to come and establish a Community, which Melanesian girls could join. They established their base at Siota on Gela, and then moved to Bungana island in the Gela group. After disagreements with two subsequent Bishops, Mother Margaret joined the Roman Catholic Church with most of the Sisters, and some of the Solomon Islander and New Hebridean Sisters joined the RC Daughters of Mary Immaculate, a Community of ‘native’ Sisters founded by the SMSM.

When Bishop John Chisholm became Bishop of Melanesia in 1967, he was determined to ask two Communities to come to the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Friars and Sisters of First Order of the Society of St Francis. He had seen the work of the Friars in Papua New Guinea and wanted them to work in urban areas in his new diocese as well. The Franciscan Sisters said that they did not have enough Sisters to answer his call, so instead he turned to the Community of the Sisters of the Church, which had been established in London in the 19th century to do social work, but had later extended its work to Australia, where the Bishop came from. They were now looking for new work, having decided to give up their educational work among girls in Australia.

The Melanesian Brotherhood had been established by Brother Ini Kopuria of Guadalcanal island in 1925, and there was some speculation about how the white Brothers and Sisters of the two other Orders would be received when they arrived in 1970. However, these Orders now have many professed members and novices in their Solomon Island Provinces, all indigenous. Later, Nester Tiboe of Guadalcanal, a woman catechist, became convinced that there should be a Community of Sisters along the same lines as the Melanesian Brotherhood, whose members do not usually take life vows, which the members of those other two Communities do. There are therefore now four communities working in the Solomon Islands, and the Melanesian Brotherhood and the Sisters of Melanesia also have houses in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The four Communities work together in many ways, and also co-operate when appropriate with the Roman Catholic Orders.  Some members of the Brotherhood also work in the Philippines and Australia.

Religious Life Sunday in The Solomon Islands
Religious Life – Sunday in The Solomon Islands
Melanesian Religious Orders
Melanesian Religious Orders

The Anglican Church of Melanesia has more members of Religious Orders compared with the overall membership of the Church than any other part of the Anglican Communion, and they do key work in evangelism, social and pastoral work, and community education. They need and desire our prayers and support.

Canon Brian Macdonald-Milne
Melanesian Mission Archivist

If you want to find out more about the four orders and their work, watch our films on the religious orders here – www.mmuk.net/films. If you would like to support the Brothers and Sisters, do consider becoming an Associate or Companion. Groups across the UK meet to pray for the communities, consider how best to support them in prayer and giving, and gather for services and pilgrimages.

UK Companions on their Yearly Pilgrimage to Holy Island
UK Companions on their yearly pilgrimage to Holy Island
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Do Justice: Justice is Action

Minister General for the Society of St Francis, Brother Christopher John, writes about environmental justice.

Franciscans are rightly concerned with the needs of the environment in which we live. Francis might have turned into the saint of birdbaths in popular thought, but his approach to creation was much richer than that simple image. He affirmed the value of creation and saw that God entered the world in human form in the humility of frail human flesh. And he recognised too that God continues to dwell among us in the bread and wine of Christ’s body and blood. The world we live in is a sacramental encounter with the divine. Likewise, Clare writes to Agnes of Prague that by gazing on the figure of Christ on a painted crucifix, considering and contemplating ever more deeply that image painted on wood, one is transformed by the divine.

The things of our physical world are important; in other words, “matter matters.”

Justice is a rich concept in biblical terms. More than the punishment of wrongdoing, it means giving people their rights, and especially to those most vulnerable.

If we bring environment and justice together as environmental justice, Franciscans have a powerful lens to look at the world. We love and care for the material things of creation, since they are for us signs of the divine presence. But we also hear the voices of the suffering. The poor, the marginalised, the oppressed peoples of the world. Just as we hear these human voices, we also need to hear the voices of the whole created order crying out for justice because the voices of the rivers, lakes and forests and so on, these are the voices of the vulnerable.    

But justice requires more than just listening. The biblical phrase is to “do justice”; justice is action. One group who are very active in environmental justice is the Franciscan NGO at the UN, Franciscans International, who take the voices of the vulnerable (of humans – and of all creation) and let these voices speak in the UN gatherings where policies can be set and programmes initiated.”

Our best witnesses to the cry of the environment are those living most closely to the land and sea and rivers. They see and know the daily changes caused by climate change or rising sea levels. They know what it is when their land no longer produces the crops it has for generations, or when their fresh water supplies become undrinkable.  They have no alternative supplies. Their daily food comes from the land and sea round them—or it doesn’t.

Franciscans are (or should be) the people who know intimately the needs of those living on the most vulnerable margins. We are privileged by education and status. Let us also be the people who “do justice” for all our sisters and brothers in creation. 

Christopher John SSF

Many thanks to Franciscans International for permission to republish this article by Brother Christopher John SSF 

Watch a short film from the Franciscans here Solomon Islands Self-Sufficiency – Society of St Francis

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Litany of Environmental Lament and Repentance From Melanesia

Minister General for the Society of St Francis Br Christopher John, was recently asked by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network to ask Franciscans in Melanesia to write a litany of environmental repentance. Br Chris expanded the brief and held a short workshop for all four of the Orders in Melanesia to write the piece for Ash Wednesday. The below is taken from the original, Litany of Environmental Lament and Repentance From Melanesia, and is free for further distribution.

God of the whole human race.
You have given us responsibility to care for each other. But we have exploited and hated each other by our wickedness.
We turn to you in sorrow and repentance.
Please help us to look to you and care for each other.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

O God of creation.
You have created land for us to make our gardens and for trees, animals and all living creatures on the earth.
Forgive us for our destruction of the land by logging and poisonous chemicals.
We turn to you in sorrow and repentance.

Help us O Lord to care for the land that you have given us.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

God of the universe, the ocean and of love.
You have given us the ocean for fish, shells, reefs, whales, waves, corals, and for ships and boats.

We have destroyed the ocean and everything in it, and not cared for it.
We turn to you in sorrow and repentance.
Please help us to care for the ocean, and to recognise that it is your blessing for us.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

God of the forest, in which all living things survive and engage their life and move peacefully.
You have given us wisdom, knowledge and understanding to use our resources well in a manageable manner.

We have been careless, short-sighted, and selfish and failed to share with other people throughout the world.

We turn to you in sorrow and repentance.
Please help us to think positively of your goodness and loving kindness. Please help us  to see the needs of others as you have Litany of Environmental Lament and Repentance From Melanesia seen us living in your beautiful forest.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

God of the universe, the God who created the atmosphere. By your power of creation you made the sky so beautiful, the sun to give us light during the day and the moon and the stars to give light during the night. You have given us clouds to bring rain and give life to your creatures.

Lord, we turn to you with a penitent heart for all the destructions we have caused to the atmosphere.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Merciful God, God of love and everything in this world. You have created the rain, winds, storms, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes and floods to renew your creation. Help us to understand their existence in your world.

We turn to you in sorrow and repentance. Please, Father, forgive us for the human activities which have overpowered the weather and caused destruction of our environment.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

God you are our creator, the source of all wisdom and power. You have created humans and animals and you have appointed us humans to be responsible for them.

Forgive us who destroy your creatures. We turn to you in sorrow and repentance. Help us Lord to love and to care for them as you care for us.

Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer

Written by members of the four Religious Orders in the Anglican Church of Melanesia.
Melanesian Brotherhood, Society of St Francis, Community of the Sisters of the Church, Community of the Sisters of Melanesia.

The Anglican Church of Melanesia includes 9 dioceses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It is one of the areas of the world most vulnerable to climate change  due to sea level rise

To find out more about the impacts of climate change
https://abcnews.go.com/International/solomon-islands-disappear-pacific-ocean-result-climate-change/story?id=38985469

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