What is a Franciscan Third Order? 

 A BRIEF HISTORY
St. Francis did something few have ever done: he took the words of Jesus at face value. He actually lived the Gospel - simply, directly, completely. He followed the example of Jesus as literally as he could.
Ever since, thousands upon thousands have used him as their inspiration, drawn to him by his love of God and people - all people - and by his unique message of joy, simplicity, humility, service, brother/sisterhood, peace.
His following was so great that when Francis entered a town everyone turned out to greet him.
Some of these people explained to him that they wanted a Franciscan life whilst continuing to live in their own homes and earning their own living.
To help these people and make them a part of the whole family of Franciscans, Francis conceived the idea of the Order of Penitents, later to be known as the Third Order, or Tertiaries: women and men who wanted to live according to the Gospel in a sister/brotherhood of which Saint Francis was the inspiration and example.

 

 

Brother Charles, first friar to visit New Zealand

 

 

 

Father Francis Fennell inspired some Companions and friends to become tertiaries in 1961 

How The Third Order Began in New Zealand

Prior to 1969 the Third Order together with the Companions was the Franciscan presence in New Zealand. Every year from 1962 the Third Order and the Companions arranged a friar's annual visit to take missions and retreats all around New Zealand. In 1956 Brother Charles had made the first trip to New Zealand and admitted the first Companions. The Companions initially paid the rent of the Brothers' House in Cable Street by the London docks, then from 1959 the Companions, and from 1962 the Tertiaries, were by finance and prayer supporting the work of the Brothers in New Guinea and at the same time praying for the establishment of a religious community for men in New Zealand.

          Because of the difficulty of supervision from England, Brother Charles had concentrated on making Companions and had not encouraged a Third Order. However, when the Brothers came to New Guinea in 1959 and established a friary at Jegarata (now Haruro) in 1960, the situation changed. In May 1960 Father Francis Fennell, a welsh tertiary who was appointed the first psychiatric chaplain at Oakley Hospital in Auckland, spoke to a group of Companions and others in Auckland about the Third Order. As a result of his talk several people were interested. In 1961 Francis Fennell visited Brother Geoffrey, the New Guinea Guardian, at the recently established Friary at Jegarata. According to Geoffrey he was surprised to see "a diminutive priest in clerical collar, dressed in black from head to toe and sweating profusely." They made a plan for Geoffrey to visit New Zealand in 1962 to visit prospective tertiaries and to prepare for a full scale mission by Brother Donald in 1963.

In the arrangements for the New Zealand-wide tours Geoffrey worked very closely with the Warden of the Companions in New Zealand, Father Percy Warren. Appointed by Bishop Simkin in 1956 after Brother Charles' visit, Father Warren's care extended over the Companions' group throughout New Zealand. Geoffrey duly noviced the first eight Tertiaries in Auckland in 1962 during his one month tour of the country. When Brother Donald came the next year for three months, he took the first Third Order retreat at Simkin House, Waiheke. The following year in 1964 Brother Brian, then the Principal of the Evangelist College, and in 1965 the First Chapter was held at the retreat which Brother Geoffrey took at Kings College in Auckalnd. In 1966 Brother William took the first of the Wallis House retreats. From 1963 to 1970 the growing Third Order whose members were in Auckland, Wellington and the South Island met together every year for their annual retreat. Of these eight retreats, four were in Wellington (three at Wallis House and one at the Cenacle) and four were in Auckland.

The Brothers who had visited from New Guinea on the annual tours between 1962 and 1969 had had an important influence on the formation and growth of the Third order in New Zealand. Brother Geoffrey, the Guardian in New Guinea then Provincial Minister of the Pacific Province from 1967 visited New Zealand three times in 1962, 1965 and 1968. Brother Brian, appointed Chaplain General of the Third Order by Brother Geoffrey, visited twice in 1964 and 1967. Though Francis Fennell by his enthusiasm inspired people to test their vocations to the Third Order especially in Auckland and helped to persuade the Brothers in New Guinea to look after them, much depended on the visits of the various Brothers who talked to the Tertiaries, conducted retreats and gave spiritual direction. Geoffrey and Brian as Chaplain nurtured the fledgling New Zealand Order and Brother Brian was novice counsellor for the men. The first women novices were counselled by Tertiaries in England, notably Mary Johnson, Cecily Paget and Emma Burnside.  

The Coming Of The Brothers - An End Or A Begining?

Because of the annual retreats and the aims of the tertiaries and Companions to support the work of the Brothers in New Guinea at Koke and Jegarata, the Third Order in the 60s had a unity and a common purpose. Moreover, after the First Order had been invited to Brisbane in 1964, they increasingly looked forward to the establishment of a Franciscan First Order house in New Zealand.
After 1970, the situation was to change in two ways.
Firstly, in 1969 Bishop Eric Gowing of Auckland had invited the First Order to come to New Zealand to run the Auckland City Mission. The Third Order and Companions greeted the arrival of the four brothers, Reginald as Guardian, Michael Thomas from the United States, Raymond from Australia and Colin from Melanesia, in December 1969 with great rejoicing.
Secondly, the Third Order had grown to such an extent that after 1970 separate retreats had to be held in Auckland and Wellington.
The first factor meant that the Third Order tended to mark time in order to reappraise its purpose. The second meant that each local group was left to reshape its own identity apart from the identity of the Order as a whole.
Unsettling or creative? Those to whom the label was directed "friars' fan clubs" were the hardest hit. When the First Order came, the Third Order looked expectantly towards the brothers for leadership.
But they overlooked the fact that the friars themselves were struggling to find their own feet in a strange country and in new work and in a new community. The First Order had neither the time nor the vision nor the ability to lead either the Third Order or the Companions in a direction which was as challenging and as exciting as the common aim of the 60s.
The Friars had indeed come with high hopes, both for the church as a whole and for the Third Order and Companions. Several tertiaries and companions were already working in the City Mission and a common First Order and Third Order approach was envisaged.
 
But it was not to be. Brother Reginald from the beginning was not happy with the responsibility of running the City Mission. His gifts for music, scholarship and spiritual direction did not fit readily into its make up. Brother Michael Thomas became the only brother who worked in the Mission, and was later appointed as the Missioner. The other brothers took longer to settle. Brother Reginald in 1970 became Provincial Minister, and William, who took over from him, looked for a caring residential situation where all the Brothers could participate.
At that time, the people of the state housing suburb of Glen Innes could not afford a vicar on full stipend. Brother William went to the Bishop and offered the services of the Brothers. For the next seven years the Brothers led by William and then by Rodney lived and served in the Anglican-Methodist co-operating parish. David John, formerly the tertiary David Bindon, became Vicar, while Donald Andrew (now Donald Campbell) and Hugh Donald established a drop-in centre, organised the community centre and holiday programmes and managed the First Fifteen at Tamaki College. At the same time, the Brothers were able to take missions and retreats around New Zealand.
So the First Order in the early 70s struggled to find their identity both as a community of those who had never lived together before and in the direction of their witness. Were they to be engaged in preaching, care of the disadvantaged or spiritual guidance? Were they to be an Order rooted to one place helping the poor there or were they to be free to take missions all around New Zealand as they had done in the 60s? The history of the First Order shows an alternation or a mixing of these models with their conflicting demands.
The Third Order too had to find its own identity. A somewhat free- and-easy group of like-minded people striving to establish a religious community in New Zealand had to be welded into an Order. People were coming in who had different aims and different needs, and the Order itself was becoming so numerous and scattered that it was impossible to continue meeting together as one group.

 

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