Lay Member Series: Secular Franciscan

Welcome to our summer Lay Member Series on the Blessed is She blog! This week, we will hear from several different members who are lay members of various religious orders. We’ll learn about their walk with Christ, their vocation, their discernment and formation process, and what it looks like to live out their vows in the framework of their primary vocation or state in life.

Katey, Secular Franciscan (in Discernment)

Today, we chat with Katey Normam, a wife, mom, and high school campus minister in Canada. She is currently in the first stage of discernment with the secular Franciscans. 

Tell us a bit about your journey with Jesus.

As a prodigal daughter to the Faith, Christ has called me into a life of great purpose and meaning from one that was based largely on comfort and worldliness. As a young adult, after experiencing a major conversion through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my heart began to be set on fire for evangelization and serving people who had not yet been told of the glory of the Gospel.

What first drew you to the Franciscans?

It was through that initial transformation and turning of my own life that I was introduced to St. Francis of Assisi, a man who resonated with some of the most vulnerable parts of my heart.

After walking with several Franciscan priests and sisters for many years, I began to recognize, in my own life, a call to be more like Francis in a radical way. This tug on my heart led me to begin the discernment process with the Secular Franciscans, a group of lay men and women who make promises to live as Franciscans, growing in Christ, and serving as St. Francis did.

What are the charisms and motto of your order?

The charisms of this order are centered around community life, simplicity, personal holiness, personal and fraternal apostolates, with a focus on social justice and peace in the world.

The motto of the Secular Franciscans is “Pax et bonus,” which means “peace and the good.”

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How did you know you might have a call to the Franciscan order? What does discernment process look like?

Even though I am currently just in the initial process of discernment prior to taking any vows or promises, Christ and St. Francis are continuing to walk with me in moving forward.

My discernment is ongoing, and I pray for guidance while bringing my thought process and any insights to my local chapter.

Were there any particular tools you found useful in your discernment?

Reading G.K. Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis, attending the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and pilgrimaging to Assisi have all been instrumental in my discernment process of taking serious steps towards a profession as a Franciscan.

It has been crucial for me to bring this discernment to priests that I trust—including my Spiritual Director—who have helped me to see the matching elements of who I am called to be as an individual and who St. Francis called his followers to be.

Why do you think the charisms of this order are useful to you in your path to sanctity?

I recognized that the deeper Christ calls me, the more my heart echoes the desires of St. Francis.

As someone who struggles with comfort as well as worldliness, the Franciscan way challenges me to a deeper simplicity not only in the world, but in my relationship with the Trinity as well.

Stepping outside of myself and into service has been a gift and invitation to confront different areas in my life that are in need of mercy and reorienting to God. St. Francis has taught me that importance as I strive to become more like him.

What is the formation process like? Where are you at in the discernment process?

The formation process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscan is broken into three stages:

  1. Period of Inquiry
  2. Initial Formation
  3. Ongoing Formation

The Period of Inquiry is where I am currently. This stage is an introduction to living life by “The Rule” as well as attending the monthly meetings held by my local chapter. Once a candidate has consistently been discerning and attending 4-6 months of meetings, they are able to make a written request to the Formation Director for admission to the Order. Once admitted to the Order, the Inquirer becomes a candidate and is ready to undertake the Initial Formation.

The Initial Formation is, at minimum, a year of formation and study. The candidate must continue to attend monthly meetings while continually discerning their call to profession. After this period has ended, the candidate again submits in writing a request for formal profession into the Secular Franciscan Order. The Council decides with the Formation Director whether the candidate will be admitted to the Order.

From here, the Rite of Profession takes place during a celebration of the Eucharist in accordance with the Ritual of the Secular Franciscan order.

What are the daily practices and other requirements/practices of lay members? How do those look lived out in your particular life and vocation?

To live out a professed life as a Franciscan is not a step in a completely new direction for me. Instead, it adds life and intentionality behind a lot of ways I am already seeking to live my life.

For one, reading the Gospel on a daily basis is required in order to adapt my life to the teachings and life of Christ.

Secondly, an emphasis on apostolate, both personal and fraternal, helps me to keep others at the forefront of what I do and how I act. This has already helped me to recognize my own tendencies towards selfishness. It encourages me to open my heart up to my brothers and sisters throughout my day.

In an even more tangible way, it has drawn me out of myself more in my marriage and how I relate to my husband in love and service.

Your husband is a Regnum Christi member. How do the practices of your different orders “overlap” and how do they differ? What does that look like in the daily rhythm of your household?

Marriage, in fact, is another way I have been drawn to the Franciscans. My husband is a professed Regnum Christi member and has been since before we began dating.

The contrast in our household is a beautiful balance. He is incredibly disciplined and grounded, and I prefer to walk around with no shoes, a Bible in one hand, and a bird perched in the other (kidding, but my Franciscan heart can dream). Like our personalities, our spiritualities can be very different, but there is an incredible marriage and complementarity of the two.

My husband and Regnum Christi push me to have a greater discipline, to not let my emotions take the driver’s seat of how and when I pray, and to love the beauty of structured prayer. I have incredible respect for the Legionaries of Christ and their long commitment to their own formation.

The Franciscan aspect of our household also brings life to different areas. We strive to serve and evangelize through a variety of ministries as well as our own family apostolates, while learning to see God in many areas throughout our day. We have become a hiking family, and love to encounter God in creation, as St. Francis did.

Now, with our new son, we dream and strive to implement a life of community, adventure, discipline, and service.

How has discerning being a secular Franciscan changed your own heart? What about your relationships with your family and friends?

Discerning becoming a part of a religious order is something that has pushed me to grow in humility, community, and selflessness. Like family life, I cannot simply “do my own thing” constantly. Instead, honoring my own gifts, I am called out of myself to share who I am as a part of something greater.

This model, like the family unit and like the Body of Christ, is a pruning that my heart needs and will continue to need as life moves. This walk and discernment process is showing me the beauty of communal accountability and the richness and diversity within the different religious third orders in the Church.

Finding a community that speaks to my personality, but also challenges my specific vices, has reminded me of the struggle and greatness of the path to sanctity.

What advice would you give someone considering a vocation to a third order?

To any sister considering a vocation to a third order, I would recommend taking the initial steps in exploring charisms that have been placed upon your heart.

There is a purpose to our longing. To walk with others on that way, in a specific way, is an encounter with Christ Himself.

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Katey Norman is a new mom, newish wife, and high school campus minister in a small town in Canada. After having a major prodigal daughter moment at 21, she moved to Steubenville, Ohio, finished a degree in Theology, and started serving in ministry full-time. She is currently in the first stage of discernment as a secular Franciscan with the diocese of London, Ontario and is married to a Regnum Christi member. Find out more about her here.

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