The Associate Relationship
Vatican II called all Christians to a universal holiness by virtue of their Baptism. Women and men in religious life set about rediscovering their roots and the lives of their founders. Out of this emerged new and creative ways of being vowed religious. The laity responded to the Holy Spirit in their own ways and began to minister in many ways that had never been open to them before. Into this bubbling pot of graced energy, the paths of many religious and laity began to cross. As they worked together, prayed together and responded to the times, some lay people, in small numbers at first, began to request of their vowed religious co-workers or friends, a way to join them as a kind of lay companion. They felt a desire to share and learn more about the unique spirituality each congregation espouses, its charism, its particular gift to the Church.
Soon the numbers grew, and today there are more than 45,000 Associates in North America. And what is called the Associate Movement is growing around the world.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate (Joliet Franciscans) welcomed their first Associate over 40 years ago and presently there are over 150 Joliet Franciscan Associates across the United States and in the interior of Brazil where the Sisters have served for the last 50 years.
What is an Associate?
Associates comes from all walks of life and varied life situations. They have a common desire to deepen their spirituality through their relationship with the Sisters and other Associates. They continue to live fully their lives with family, work, and social obligations. Associates and Sisters meet in small and large gatherings and keep in touch in creative ways as Associates adapt the Congregation’s vision, mission and charism to their own life situations.
Why have the Sisters accepted Associates?
By sharing the Congregation’s charism and mission with the Associates, Sisters broaden the scope of their efforts to live the Gospel of Jesus and are mutually enriched through prayer, friendship and service. The Joliet Franciscans have a saying, “Where one of us is, we all are”. So Associates extend the mission of the Congregation in a unique way, especially as Franciscans.
Why be an Associate?
Over the years, from large and small gatherings, conversations and more formal presentations, a common thread has emerged from Associates when asked why they became Associates. They seek a deeper relationship with God. In turn, Associates strongly desire to share in that journey with a Congregation whom, over 150 years has lived the charism of St. Francis and St. Clare.
How Do Associates Engage with the Congregation?
Associates apply the spirit and values of the Congregation in their everyday lives while joining the Sisters and Associates as often as they are able, both prayerfully and at events. They are invited to attend two Associate gatherings a year, and participate in a small Associate faith community either in person or by phone. They volunteer to serve with the Sisters and other Associates in a variety of outreach ministries and/or share their own ministries with the Congregation. They are invited to join the Sisters at special Congregation celebrations, special events and prayer services.