HOULTON — Men and women interested in learning more about the Secular Franciscan way of life are invited to a pair of upcoming gatherings in Grand Isle and Houlton designed to showcase the vocation and how it plays an active role in the mission of Christ.

The Heart of St. Francis Fraternity (Secular Franciscan Order) in Houlton will hold its annual retreat at Mizpah, located on 126 Doucette Road in Grand Isle, on Saturday, Aug. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The retreat is a day of prayer, song, and fellowship. Then, on Saturday, Sept. 11, the fraternity will host a “come and see” gathering at the St. Mary of the Visitation Parish Center on 110 Military Street in Houlton from noon to 1:30 p.m. All are welcome.

The Secular Franciscan Order, formerly known as the Third Order of St. Francis, is an official order within the Catholic Church, established more than 800 years ago. Men and women, married or single, comprise the order and commit themselves to bringing the Gospel to life where they live and where they work, looking for practical ways to embrace the Gospel in their lives and trying to help others to do likewise. The Secular Franciscan Order does not promote a particular work but supports and challenges individuals to apply the distinctive Gospel spirit of St. Francis to their secular lives and careers. They are united with each other in communities through which they develop a sense of direction according to the Gospel spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

Of particular importance to leadership is spreading this tradition and its history to younger generations.

“Just as St. Francis was called to ‘rebuild the Church,’ so are we,” said Lynette Dobbs, a leader of the Heart of St. Francis Fraternity in Houlton. “These fraternities are often made up of ‘well-seasoned’ people but when the old and the young get together, the result can be a new beautiful! We, as older adults, are hoping to offer young people gentle guidance. By guiding, listening, mentoring, and letting the Holy Spirit lead, we can help bring youth and young adults back into our parishes and into our fraternities. If we are to participate in repairing the Church as St. Francis did, then we must support those who are the future of the Church.”

The fraternity in Houlton, for instance, hosted a crèche making session with faith formation children at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish.

One of the “rules of life” for Secular Franciscans is to be involved in apostolic ministries and with youth.

“When we are called to action, we embrace the call joyfully. Some of us are religious education teachers or eucharistic ministers; some work with the sick, the poor, and the homeless; some have made a commitment to Perpetual Adoration,” said Dobbs. “As a fraternity, we take action on issues that affect the lives of others.”

Many individuals feel a desire to do more, to grow spiritually, to serve God in a special way, or have an affinity for St. Francis.

Getting to know more about the order is one way to determine if it’s the answer to those calls.

“Feel free to come to one of the gatherings and introduce yourself. Come with a friend or a family member. We look forward to telling you all about our lives and our dear St. Francis,” said Dobbs. “This ministry falls on all of us and can bring so many rewards to the Church, future generations, and ourselves.”

To learn more about Secular Franciscans, visit www.secularfranciscansusa.org or contact Lynette at 207- 532-6713 or theheartofstfrancis@gmail.com.