In many countries where we are present, there are lay fraternities of brothers and sisters who wish to live better the Gospel in the world in the manner of St. Francis and Blessed Mary of the Passion. Under the name of associates, friends or spiritual family, etc., these fraternities share the source and a common spirit with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. This spiritual adventure, in which religious and lay people journey together while maintaining their own lifestyle, is a new gift of the Holy Spirit who invites the baptized to collaborate in the mission of the Church in solidarity, complementarity and communion.

The associates embark on a journey in which they commit themselves through promises in order to deepen the charism they share with the FMM. From then on, they meet periodically to consolidate their fraternity, share their experiences, and deepen their spiritual life. In a missionary spirit, they are generally engaged in pastoral or social activities in their parishes or communities of life. The FMM sisters, in close proximity, accompany the fraternity of the associates in their journey. (Some examples of groups of associates throughout the world: Canada, Italy, Korea, Burkina Faso, Peru…)

From the very beginning of the foundation of the Institute, Mary of the Passion thought of welcoming into her religious family FMM lay people of good will, eager to participate in the missionary work of the Institute. In 1896, Mary of the Passion wrote to her community: “It would be worthwhile for the cause of the Church that Mary also have her missionaries in the world. Little by little, it will come.”

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Colombia: Mary of the Passion, a legacy of mission for the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Lay Associates

Mary of the Passion affirmed: “It would be useful for the Church’s cause for Mary to have her missionaries out in the world also.  Little by little, this will happen.” The Seed was sown without knowing that this path would be traced initially by Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and then by Lay Associate vocations who would follow her footsteps.

Echoing Mary of the Passion’s dream to integrate the laity into the evangelizing task of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary community, the group of Lay FMM Associates of Colombia-Ecuador began in 2011. Their first meeting was in July, at Santa Rosa de Cabal (Risaralda- Colombia). For this occasion they relied on the participation of delegates from Ecuador and Colombia (Quito, Medellin, Cali, Bogotá, Neiva and Santa Rosa de Cabal).

“The laity are called by God, so that, carrying out their own professional role guided by the evangelical spirit, they contribute to the sanctification of the world and manifest Christ to others, first of all by the witness of their life. The Church needs lay people who will take risks, get their hands dirty, not be afraid to make mistakes in order to go forward” (Vatican Council II).

The lay vocation does not appear in a sudden manner, but develops from every person’s growth, his or her experience, work, maturity and stance towards life and reality. Faced with this, FMM laity seek to accomplish God’s will, making it present  in daily life, inspired by his Word as people of God fulfilling the church’s mission.  This activity is based on the presence of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary sisters, their charism, their mission; as laity we are committed to continue following them as brothers and sisters.

For nine years until 2019, we met in person at Santa Rosa de Cabal, a place which served as a shelter that welcomed us, and we always felt the affection, motivation and dedication to go more deeply into different themes of the Institute of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary: Mary of the Passion’s charism, the spirituality of Francis and Clare of Assisi, the Marian dimension of the Charism, Universal Mission,  and the Eucharist as center of FMM spiritual life; all these, approached from the biblical and ecclesial dimensions of Mary of the Passion and Francis of Assisi. We left each meeting strengthened in faith, in spirituality, and with the firm resolve to continue walking along the path of service, witness, love of God and neighbor.

In the year 2020, the dream of reuniting was not snatched away from us by the pandemic. We launched out into the experience of virtual reality, with excellent results: dynamism and creativity, in-depth discussion of the themes with which we dealt, unity in the different communities, and a sense of fraternity despite the distance.

Mary of the Passion wrote her sisters: “I give myself entirely to you, despite my crosses, my poor health, my misery.  But rise up and walk! I pray, walk in pursuit of Jesus,” and this reached us, the Lay Associates of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, like a shout rising from her vibrant being. Permeated by the charism, we allow ourselves to be attacted by her profound conviction for the Gospel. Her “walk!” signifies that there is a path, a route someone has already crossed, a listening sense to find the direction, a firm faith so as not to stagger on the road, and a destiny that is: Jesus.

To discover our path was not accidental;  it was written in God’s plan that we find ourselves in this life with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, to arise and walk together with them. And today we follow, sometimes with footprints shorter, longer, slower, quicker, but we follow as we make this pilgrimage.

Thus it is that at one of our annual meetings and as a response to this request of Mary of the Passion to arise and walk, when she revealed it by means of the deepest expression of her soul, that we said our yes, with  steadfastness to give continuity to her legacy and, above all, to her mission that we have known by means of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who are this living reflection of Mary of the Passion. As a consequence, the call has a response and, in this journey, Mary has been the inspiration for the laity by means of a hymn. We respond to her community project with these words that we share with the world, which, as she said, is also our homeland.

“Today we evoke thanks for this woman, Mary of the Passion, for the transcendence of her legacy which we have known from the charism, self-surrender, service, and witness that the sisters entrusted to all of us.  It is thanks to all of them that today we are Franciscan Lay Associates, who bear with pride a great mission, to announce the Gospel having as an example Francis and our Mother Foundress, and Jesus in the Eucharist at the center. Those are the fundamental pillars of the Franciscan Missionaris of Mary”: fragment from the Mary of the Passion song as inspiration  (Lay FMM hymn of the Colombia-Ecuador province).

Philippines: 2023 FMMLA General Assembly

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Lay Associates(FMMLA) in the Philippines held its 8th General Assembly on June 9-11, 2023 in Iligan City, hosted by FMMLA-Iligan. It was supposed to be held in 2020 but due to the covid 19 pandemic,  the gathering which is held once every two years had to be postponed. The convention had as its theme “Respond to Christ challenge! Be prophetic witnesses in the context of our country today which was expounded beautifully by the Franciscan Third Order Regular (TOR) speaker.

It was an occasion to renew friendships and share experiences among the 99 Lay associates from the 10 different FMM communities in the country. Also in attendance were 12 FMM sisters  led by the Provincial Superior, Sr. Marilen Oliva. One highlight of the assembly was the talk on the coming “Regionalization of the FMM Institut” which gave the delegates a glimpse of things to expect in the near future as far as the  FMM and lay associates are concerned. The venue for the convention was the Diocesan Center of Iligan located at the heart of the city

The attendees had a city tour which included a visit and feeding activity for the children of the Deus Caritas. This community of the FMM Iligan, is a relocation site for the victims of a devastating flood, due to Typhoon Sendong,  that hit Iligan years ago. Likewise visited was the Third Order Regular (TOR) convent up in the mountain with its statue of St. Francis, the tallest in the country, overlooking the City of Iligan.  We stopped by also at the nearby Benedictine Convent and listened to one of the nun’s talked on St. Philomen and St. Padre Pio.

The assembly would not have been complete without each LA group sharing their accomplishments and things they’ve been doing as lay associates. The fun-filled part was the traditional “Franciscan Joy” wherein each LA group got to showcase their dancing and singing talents to the delight of the audience.

As also noted in the post program evaluation, the assembly was a huge success with the participants highly satisfied and appreciative with the way it was conducted.

Joe Nadorra

 FMMLA-Iligan, Assembly Chairman