After Vatican II, in the 1960s, former members and other lay people started to be drawn to living a Franciscan Life in conjunction with established Religious Communities of Men and Women. These people have various names in different communities. The Associate Movement has not been officially recognized by the Church, so there is no Rule associated with the movement. Associates feel drawn to the charism of a particular Religious Community, instead of to the Secular Franciscan Order.
The Tiffin Franciscan Associate Movement began in 1973 and has evolved over the years. There are currently 65 associates in the United States and 12 associates in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The Associates share the Sisters’ Mission Statement and have their own Directional Statement modeled after the Sisters’ Directional Statement. Associates participate in many community events. Associates and Sisters often work together in ministry. Associates strive to bring the Franciscan Spirit to their families, parishes, and communities. The Associates are led by an Associate Resource Team.
If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a Tiffin Franciscan Associate, contact Associate Resource Team member Linda Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit given for the building up of the Body of Christ. The charisms of religious communities are those particular gifts that inspired their founders to gather others around them. As Franciscans, we look at the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare to find what is distinctive for Franciscans.
The word charism in our context also refers to the specific “flavor” that makes Tiffin Franciscans distinctive from other congregations. We look at the lives of our founders, Father Bihn and Mother Francis, for these distinctions. These distinctions are articulated in our Mission Statement and Directional Statement in a general way. Our charism is what makes Tiffin Franciscans different from other Franciscans.
We, as Tiffin Franciscan Associates, uniquely reflect the Franciscan values of hospitality, simplicity and joy by caring for and reverencing the land and all of creation, by welcoming and respecting all people especially the poor and marginalized, by working joyfully for peace and justice, and by living simply to make a difference in the world.
The Associate Program began in 1973 with five members – three priests and two former Community members. Some of these associates asked to become part of the community and some were asked by sisters. By 1980 the Associates began making a formal Covenant and Covenant ceremonies began being used. Associates are encouraged to renew their covenants periodically. Renewal ceremonies have taken place in Tiffin and some have taken place in the home parishes of associates. The latter offer powerful witness to who we are as Tiffin Franciscans.
In 1973 there was little or no formation. In 1982 there was a short formal formation program using Murray Bodo’s Journey and the Dream and a booklet, “Continuing the Journey and the Dream” created by a committee. This formation program was the outcome of the 1982 General Assembly. Sometime in the late 80s, the Annual Sisters and Associates Retreat came into being and served as an avenue of continuing formation. In 2010 formation was expanded to not only include the Journey and the Dream, but materials from the Common Franciscan Novitiate, Franciscan values, Community history and mission, corporate stances and the Rules of Francis and Clare. The current formation program was again expanded in 2020 to a group process modeled after RCIA and entails a four month Inquiry Period followed by a seven month period of Initial Formation. This model emphasizes the commitment to live as part of a community and introduces the Inquirer/Candidate to the many ministries of the sisters and associates.
By 1982, Associates were growing in numbers and were looking for more active roles and involvement in mission and ministry. The General Chapter of 1982 defined three options that were still used until the Refounding of the Associate Movement in 2018-2019. Option 1 associates prayed with the Community and attended Community events when possible. Option 2 associates had Active Status which may have included participation in a Local Community, committee work, and active mission and ministry involvement such as Cuernavaca, SOA Marches, jail and prison ministry, Appalachian ministry and others. Option 3 associates lived in Community with a sister. This was very rare and usually happened when two or more individuals live in the same geographic area and are active in the same ministry.
Leadership has evolved over the years. At the beginning in 1973, leadership was the sole prerogative of the Sisters’ Council. In 1982 a sister was appointed by the Council to lead the Associate Program. In 1998 the ALAS (Associate Life and Spirituality) Committee was formed. This committee, composed of sisters and associates, examined other associate programs and became active with NACAR (North American Conference of Sisters and Associates). This committee recommended a three-member leadership team composed of one canonical member and two associates. In 2006 the first team of Sue Nowak, Kay Shrewsbery and Sister Roberta Doneth was appointed by the Council. In 2010 at the direction of the Council, the team was changed to two associate co-directors who worked with a Council liaison. Also in 2010 regional coordinators were recruited by the Associate Leadership Team and Regional meetings were held in Toledo, Tiffin, Columbus and Wisconsin. At the direction of the Council in 2011 Regional meetings were devoted to the development of a discernment process used to select new Associate Co-directors.
In 2013 the first team of Associate Leadership was selected by associate nomination and discernment. The process was modeled after the processes used by the Tiffin Sisters and by LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious). Associates nominated and endorsed those whom they thought had leadership skills. These people then attended a directed discernment retreat to determine who would be on the four-person team. Those selected were Mary Beth Durnell, Linda Haas, Judy Hofman, and Sr. Eileen Kazmierowicz (a sister in private vows).
In 2017 an attempt to use the associate nomination and discernment process a second time broke down. Associates again endorsed people for leadership, but there were few participants at the discernment retreat in February of 2018 and no clear understanding of what associates were being called to or of the roles of leadership. In 2018 Dr. Beth Lipsmeyer was engaged by the Sisters to help guide the associates through a broader discernment process. We examined who we are, what we are called to as Tiffin Franciscan Associates, and what form of leadership we see for the future. Dr. Beth invited seven associates to form a Resource Team. One associate was unable to continue due to health reasons.
From March of 2018 to March of 2019 a core group of about twenty-five associates committed themselves to a Refounding Process with the Resource Team and Dr. Beth. We all committed to being at each assembly as much as possible. During this yearlong process we had four assemblies of two days each. We got to know each other and started to build an Associate Community. During this time of Refounding we developed a Values Template out of which we make our decisions. We wrote our own Directional Statement while keeping the Mission Statement of the Sisters. We set up Committees to organize the assemblies. We identified a leadership structure which includes continuing with the Resource Team of six with two as Co-coordinators. We also set up three Planning Teams in the areas of Spirituality, Community and Service. Each associate from the core group signed up to be part of one of those teams. We divided ourselves into two Regions: Tiffin and Toledo. We meet three times a year by region and once a year for an Associate Assembly. The Resource Team agreed to serve for three more years ending with our Associate Assembly in 2022.
Currently there are two levels of association: Associates and Associate Prayer Companions. Associates are active in Franciscan Circles, Community Assemblies, and/or in ministry with other associates or sisters. Associate Prayer Companions have left active status and pray with and for the community and participate in community events as they are able.
In 2007 Sister Margaret Slowick’s dream began to take shape. It was then she decided to start helping the little ones with low income in the center of Cuernavaca. Through much observation she realized that the little ones were with their mothers who sell handicrafts and that the children somehow needed school, cultural, educational and academic support. Carrying out this work alone was undoubtedly very difficult, so she looked around to the people she knew. Fortunately, the first person she ran into was Malena, who to date, continues to lead here in Cuernavaca as onsite director. Over the years, both Sister Maggie and Malena have invited different people to be part of this dream. This is how today we are twelve associates and we have six future associates and four volunteers for what is now Cuernavaca Children’s Mission.
We are a group of people who began as acquaintances, later became friends, and are now brothers and sisters. We formed a family with the sole interest of helping children who need so much, especially now in these times of pandemic.
To become a Franciscan associate it was necessary to take a course of about two years taught by Sister Maggie. She made us aware of the Franciscan Values and invited us to discern how we were being called to follow them. We also learned what Cuernavaca Children’s Mission is and what is expected of each of us.
The team is formed according to the aptitudes, gifts, and knowledge of each one of us. It consists of the general director who is in charge of the entire organization, administration of resources, planning of work, assistance to the facilities, food that is given to the little ones, administration of financial support as well as the school support of each. The administration also ensures that within the team there is fraternidad, cordiality, and support for one another.
We are a community rooted in the Gospel
and gifted with the charism of Francis and Clare.
Transformed by God’s love and guided by the Spirit,
we continue the mission of Jesus wherever we serve,
adhering to the words
which inspired Mother Francis and Father Bihn:
“…whatever you did for one of the least of these,
you did to me.” (Matt. 25:40)
Engaged in the struggle for peace and justice;
we speak the truth with courage.
Cherishing all peoples and all creatures as brother and sister,
We live in a spirit of hospitality, simplicity, and joy,
celebrating our dependence on God,
who is ever our “Refuge and Strength.” (Ps. 46:2)
We the associates with the Tiffin Franciscan Community
live in the spirit of Francis and Clare
and are drawn ever more deeply into union with God
through prayer, discernment, and conversion of heart that guide our actions.
Cherishing our Franciscan tradition
we journey with the Tiffin Franciscan Community
and all Franciscans throughout the world.
We joyfully choose to live these values:
caring for, and being one with, all creation;
committing to peacemaking, hospitality and partnership;
serving the poor and marginalized; and,
Caring for Creation
We honor the presence of God in all creation. We commit ourselves to living a life in harmony with the universe. We grieve the desecration of our planet, Earth, and we challenge ourselves and others to reverence creation. We commit ourselves to on-going conversion in our use of natural resources.
We abhor all violence and social injustice within our human family. We commit ourselves to non-violence, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We welcome and embrace diversity and inclusivity by partnering with others.
Serving the Poor and Marginalized
We recognize that we must live simply so that others may simply live. We commit to improving the conditions of those lacking the basic necessities of life. We strive to alleviate the suffering of those who are marginalized and disenfranchised and we seek justice on their behalf.
When a person is interested in becoming an associate, an application is sent. When the application is received the Inquirer is interviewed by the Associate Resource Team. They mutually discern if the Inquirer is ready to begin the process of Initial Formation.
The next step is the Inquiry Period which is a group process done mainly on Zoom. When there are enough inquirers, they begin meeting with the Formation Team of associates. Inquirers meet once a month for four modules: The Art of Discernment, Exploration of Spirituality, Franciscan History and Tiffin Franciscan History. At the end of the Inquiry Period there is a mutual discernment to determine if each Inquirer is ready to become a Candidate. There is a simple ceremony to admit each Inquirer as a Candidate for Association.
As the group process continues, the Candidates are asked to choose one or two Companions to accompany them during Candidacy. Again, this larger group meets monthly. Seven modules based on Franciscan values are covered during this period: Care For, and One With All Creation, Hospitality and Partnership, Peacemaking, Prayer, Conversion of Heart, Serving the Poor and Marginalized, and Simplicity and Joy.
At the end of the process there is a retreat at St. Francis Spirituality Center. Next, the Candidates and Community mutually discern readiness to make a Covenant with the Community. There is an interview with Community Leadership as part of this process. Finally, the Candidates make their commitment in a Covenant Ceremony with the whole community.
“Hugs in Mugs” were delivered to the staff at St. Bernadine Convent Senior Care and many other care centers to thank them for their work during the COVID pandemic.
The TAANG Sewing Project creates dresses and shorts to send to children in Developing Nations. TAANG is the Toledo Area Associate Networking Group and is composed of associates from all the communities in the Toledo Diocese.
Tutoring for GED and other programs in Toledo.
Three Associates visiting Tiffin from Cuernavaca Mexico with Sr. Margaret Slowick the founder of the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission. They were here for our yearly celebration of Missioning.
Associates gathered for Community Assembly.
Associate Volunteer Day at the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center.