Many are called to be secular servants

posted Jun 4, 2014, 2:08 PM by Vidal Martinez
Catholics are living out the spirit of a religious order without taking vows of chastity, poverty and obedience 
By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune staff reporter
When Mike Pollard rises in the morning and retires at night, he recites the
Liturgy of the Hours--prayers and readings that begin and end each day for
members of the Dominican order.

But Pollard is not a priest or a friar. He is a husband, social worker,
father of two and a candidate for the Dominican Laity--a secular order in
which faithful followers live out the spirit of a religious order in their
daily lives without taking vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

These secular orders, known as Third Orders, are the lay counterparts of
religious orders established by men. (Second Orders are those orders'
feminine counterparts, such as Dominican nuns.)

"These are people who love the church enough, while they may not be called
to a religious life per se, [that they] want to join themselves closer to
the church in some very specific way," said Pollard, 34, of Rolling Meadows.
"They have a love of the church and of Christ that they want to know more
about. .. It's kind of neat to be a part of that."

After reciting his prayers Saturday, Pollard and other Third Order members
will gather at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, 3121 W. Jackson Blvd., to
celebrate their vocations. Invited to the event are Dominican Laity, Secular
Servites, Secular Franciscans and Lay Carmelites, as well as Oblates of St.
Benedict, who are not a Third Order but function in much the same way.

The mass, to be officiated by Bishop John Manz of the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Chicago, will be the second of its kind in the area. Last
year, more than 1,200 people, packed the pews for a mass celebrated by
Cardinal Francis George.

Rev. Don Siple, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, said fewer people today are
opting to become priests, friars and nuns. Lay orders, however, are seeing
the opposite trend. In recent years, only two men have entered the
Chicago-area province of the Servite Order, while more than 200 men and
women joined its secular arm, he said.

"That's something to celebrate," said Siple, a Servite priest. "Laypeople
are taking their rightful place in the church in a sense. ... They are the
bedrock of lay spirituality living the gospel in the marketplace."

Lay orders date to the 13th Century. Recognizing that laypeople possess
charisms, or gifts, similar to priests, friars and nuns, Franciscans and
Dominicans were the first to establish secular outlets.

Laypeople who enter the Third Order do not receive holy orders as do
priests. But they abide by the rule or discipline by which religious orders
seek to accomplish their mission, and strive for Christian perfection. Some
choose to wear lay habits.

Many have other jobs and families. Vicki Klick, a computer programmer with
Lucent Technologies in Naperville, said the value that Secular Franciscans
place on work ethic has deepened her faith.

"I've really come to understand my profession as part of my vocation," said
Klick, 46, of Batavia. "We're really supposed to bring Christianity and
Franciscan ways of looking at things into everyday life. ... We're supposed
to be in all kinds of workplaces--from soup kitchens to boardrooms."

As a lawyer and mother of two, Diana Faust of Tinley Park joined the Secular
Franciscans in 1994 as a way to deepen her faith and further express it.

Several years after joining the secular order, Faust decided to switch
professions. Faust, 43, now works as development director and assistant
executive director for Franciscan Outreach, which offers a soup kitchen,
homeless shelter and case management services.

Rev. Thomas Nairn, a Franciscan priest and professor of Catholic ethics at
Catholic Theological Union, said lay orders are a unique calling.

"I tend to think [lay] people join a religious order because the vision of a
community inflames their imagination," he said. "They don't see themselves
being a brother or sister 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ... They want to
share a vision."

At a lunchtime gathering at St. Peter's parish in the Loop earlier this
week, about a dozen Secular Franciscans, arrived for 40 minutes of prayer
and contemplation. The only signs of Franciscan affiliation were rings and
wooden pendants bearing the tau cross, the signature of St. Francis.

Sitting in a circle, the professionals talked about their affinity for St.
Francis and the values he and St. Clare, the order's co-founder, espoused.

"I like St. Francis," said Faust, minister of the lunchtime group, who
shopped different orders before choosing the Secular Franciscans. "He's not
so much the saint that talks to animals. He's a very humble person. His
relationship with God was just extreme. His love for other people was very
far reaching and deep."

It was St. Dominic's penchant for study and a contemplative approach to
evangelism that drew Pollard to the Dominican Laity. Raised Catholic, he
fell away from the church seeking to fill a spiritual void. He tried a
number of different spiritual practices, including Buddhism and witchcraft.

It was not until the woman who later became his wife insisted that he go to
church with her that his Catholic faith was reignited. "Ever since, I've
been wanting more and more," he said.

That is exactly why lay orders exist, Siple affirmed.

"There's a real hunger in the Catholic Church to really ground themselves on
a solid spirituality where the Gospel is the foundation," he said. "And lay
orders do that."
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