Within Franciscanism, there are three groups or "orders" - the Friars Minor, the Poor Ladies or Poor Clares, and the Brothers and Sisters of Penance - which are generally referred to as the First, Second, and Third Orders of St. Francis. We Clinton Franciscans are members of the family identified as Third Order Regular.
First Order (Friars Minor)
The existence of the Friars Minor or first order dates back to 1209, the year in which St. Francis obtained from Pope Innocent III an unwritten approbation (approval) of the simple rule he had written for the guidance of his first companions.
The order now comprises three separate bodies: the Friars Minor, the Friars Minor Conventuals,and the Friars Minor Capuchins. The two latter were constituted independent orders in 1517 and1619 respectively.
All three follow the rule of the Friars Minor, but each one has its particular constitutions and its own minister general.
Second Order (Poor Clares)
The Second Order, later known as the Poor Clares, had its beginnings in 1212. In that year St.Clare asked St. Francis to be allowed to embrace the new manner of life he had instituted. She was soon joined by several other devout women, including her mother and sister. St. Clare was the first woman to write a rule(a way of life) for her community that, following years of struggle, received papal approval, . This order includes many different monasteries of cloistered nuns professing the Rule of St. Clare.
Third Order (Brothers and Sisters of Penance and Tertiaries)
The Third Order is by far the largest of the Franciscan orders. It was created by St. Francis in 1221 because many married men and women were asking to embrace his style of life and could not enter either the first or second order. Within the Third Order of St. Francis, it is necessary to distinguish between the Third Order Regular and the Third Order Secular.
Third Order Regular
Eventually some of these tertiaries started living in communities.These later developed into a religious order professing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and now referred to as Third Order Regular (TOR). Members of these communities can be male or female but they live in community according to their gender. This branch of the Franciscan Family was officially founded in 1447 b y a papal decree uniting several groups. Today there are hundreds of Third Order Regular communities around the world, including the Clinton Franciscans.
Third Order Secular:
The Third Order Secular (or Secular Franciscan Order or SFO) includes devout persons, both men and women. Members do not live in community, but live their everyday lives in the world. However, members do gather together in community on a regular basis. They do not profess vows,but they commit themselves to living the Gospel according to the example of Francis. The process of becoming a Secular Franciscans involves a commitment of from 18 to 36 months of formation.
The Sisters of St. Francis Clinton, Iowa are affiliated with several national and international organizations which share our Franciscan charism, including:
- Franciscans International: Franciscans International is a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the UN with General Consultative status, uniting the voices of Franciscan brothers and sisters from around the world.
- Franciscan Action Network: Franciscan Action Network is designed to bring a coordinated and effective voice to matters of Justice, Peace and Care for Creation in our world. The particular focus of the Franciscan Action Network's advocacy is the U.S.Government and related Washington, DC based institutions.
- International Franciscan Conference: The aim of the IFC is to promote genuine communion within and among the Institutes of the Third Order Regular throughout the world by fostering Franciscan life and spirituality in harmony with the spirit and content of the Rule and its fundamental values which are based on the Gospel and are in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
- Franciscan Federation of Third Order Regular Sisters and Brothers in the U.S. : The Mission of the Franciscan Federation is to promote the exploration and study of Franciscan Evangelical Life and its implications for these times and for our world.