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The motto of the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical is Repair My Church.

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Commentary on Section/Meditation 61
From Thomas Traherne’s book “Centuries of Meditations”
By Reverend Friar Leonard Edward Schmidt, OFE
When we contemplate the cross, we may receive the inspiration that brings up the topic of zeal, holiness, or self-denial, etc. If we achieve this insight of a connected value to the cross, we are then happy, full of felicity.
Jesus gave an example of living out his zeal in doing the will of his Father through his obedience to substitute the sacrifice of animals (the Covenant of Moses) with the eternal sacrifice on the cross. In other words, creating a second Covenant – a Covenant of Jesus. The Covenant of Jesus was wider-reaching than the sacrifice of animals. For example, the sin offering was offered for individual sin while the sacrifice of Jesus atoned for the sins of the entire world.
Jesus also was holy because he was obeying the will of his Father.  He achieved holiness by his act of self-denial. In other words, he denied himself by refusing to escape his suffering.
We can apply the same procedure of connective thoughts to the remaining words starting with “patience” and ending with “thanksgiving” in Section/Meditation 61.
Taking another three virtues: modesty, perseverance, and thanksgiving, we can see how Jesus lived these out in his life. With modesty, he had to reveal to the disciples his role as the Son of God, but it needed to be done in a way that they would be ready for. They would not have been able to accept all the teachings at one time without the proper preparation as well as the graces they received over time. Jesus persevered with them throughout his time on earth, and taught them the importance of persevering through many challenges. This, of course, leads to success in the outcome of our undertakings which ultimately results in thanksgiving! We can be thankful for the graces which allow for perseverance and up with happiness.
Similarly, the rest of Traherne’s words in this paragraph can be connected to the cross felicitously by attaining the joy of understanding.
(Cf. United In Spirit: OFE Newsletter, January 2017, Vol. 2, Issue 1​)
Notes: Thomas Traherne (ca. 1636-1674) was an Anglican priest, a mystic, an English poet and religious writer. Christian Classics Ethereal Library Intern Andrew Hanson concluded, “God displays his power in the immensity, complexity, and beauty of his    creation. Thomas Traherne, in his Centuries of Meditations, showcases his deep love for God’s creative powers. The poetry in Centuries has a childlike humility in the face of God’s glory. While living at a time where God’s wrath and humanity’s sin were the main topics of theological conversation, Traherne writes poetry that looks at the beauty of God and His goodness. His poetry is not just good Christian poetry, but good poetry that is appreciated by Christian and secular poetry lovers alike.”

“in order to serve”

Transitional Deacon

“The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church Number 1554)
“At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry.”‘ At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the deacon’s special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his “diakonia.”” (Catechism of the Catholic Church Number 1569)
“Deacons share in Christ’s mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (“character”) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the “deacon” or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church Number 1570)
On April 23, 2019, Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE celebrated his 33rd anniversary of his diaconate ordination. He  was ordained by Bishop Phillip Francis Straling, DD, Diocese of San Bernardino, San Bernardino, CA, USA.
Photo: Saint Deacon Stephen was traditionally venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity.

Married Priesthood

Married Priesthood
By Reverend Father Paul Ochieng-Ogada, DMB
(Cf. United In Spirit: OFE Newsletter, October 2017, Vol. 2, Issue 2)
Saint Peter was married, Saint Paul celibate, and the early church flourished. Both married and celibate priests were common until 12th century when celibacy became mandatory, both married priesthood are gifts to the church.
In 2006, an international study I published with the Society of Jesus, Ak Hern of Kenly Foundation found wide-spread support among Catholic laity for married priests: in Spain 80%, USA 82%, Italy 67%, Poland 60%. The same study found significant support (68-80%) for ordaining women.
The Catholic church is the only Christian denomination in the United States that has a shortage of clergy. We already have married priests and women deacons in the Catholic church. Eastern rites of Catholicism permit priests to marry. In the US, there are over 300 married priests. It’s felt that God is calling our original tradition. It’s time the church granted women equality for pastoral service. In fact, many married priests and their wives minister as couples. History fully supports a married priesthood. For the first 1200 years of the church existence, priests, bishops, and 39 Popes were married. Celibacy existed in the first century among hermits and monks, but it was considered an optional alternative lifestyle. In 1993 Pope John Paul II publicly said that celibacy is not essential to the priesthood. Married priests and their wives were the first pastors, the first bishops, first missionaries. They carried the message of Jesus across cultures and protected it. Life was met
by joyful expectations, Jesus said he would return, and the first Christians believed that it would be soon. Led by married priests, they met at each other’s homes to celebrate the Mass. Strangers were invited to share bread and wine, no one was excluded from receiving Communion, they soon became friends, joined the church and brought others to hear the good news of Jesus. Presently, in the US there are over 250 former Lutheran and Episcopal ministers serving as married priests after converting to Catholicism. Presently the Armenian Church has at least four women deacons. Pope Paul VI and John Paul II signed documents recognizing the apostolic succession and validity of Armenian Catholic sacraments. The steadily worsening priest shortage and some of the worst sexual conduct of present priest requires us to look at other options for preserving Eucharistic heritage.
The laity have a canonical right and obligation to speak about optional celibacy and women’s roles. Authority is vested in us through our baptism and confirmation; we have the duty to explore different ways to ensure the church remains healthy. Canon 212 tells us we have the right and obligation to make our views known on matters which concern the good of the church. We need to return to the early church custom of having women deacons. We look forward at Holy Apostles Monastery to our full reinstatement when the man-made law of celibacy is rescinded. God is calling us back to original tradition, open your hearts and eyes to God’s voice.

Plight of African Children

Plight of African Kenyan Children & God’s Call to Us

By Reverend Father Paul Ochieng-Ogada, DMB  

Dear Readers, Holy Apostles Monastery is in historic times, and God has been speaking to me about the books of Esther and Jeremiah.  Oftentimes, we cannot see the forest for the trees, meaning that sometimes we are so focused on what is immediately in front of us that we cannot perceive the absolute wonder of what the Spirit of the Lord is saying.
You have been raised up for such a time as this; you have a job to do for Jesus, a divine opportunity.  Like Joseph, who was in the spirit because he was on his way to the palace, your own time for “divine favor” has come. Joseph’s purpose was not for Pharaoh; it was for God’s people.  Esther’s assignment was to preserve God’s people, not the king. The kingdoms and nations of this world will be the kingdom of our God.  Things are about to shift – a time of transition.  When you understand who you are, you begin to see and understand the purpose that you serve.  You are put into position in order to carry out a plan.
Prayer is key and vital to your plan.  Do not forsake the ministry of prayer; do not take lightly the corporate gathering.  God has commissioned you to bring forth his plan; you are pregnant with purpose.  God has a plan for you to break out and break through.  Don’t be afraid; look into the future with confidence.  Prayer helps us to determine the direction we need to go and to lead us into the ministries that are essential in our roles to serve God through serving those in need, near and far.
The drumbeat, poems, songs, drama, and sporting activities have masked the underlying structural challenges innocent Kenyan children face in their daily lives.  Kenya is arguably the richest nation in East Africa, but spoiled by wicked political leadership. This beautiful country is endowed with a vast array of natural resources, such as gold, platinum, beautiful wild animals, lakes, and beautiful blue skies, yet it is a country where children have become an endangered species who, instead of being viewed as the future, are now tottering on the brink of being the disposable.  It is with a tinge of sadness that I realize that Kenya leads in infant mortality rate.  A disturbingly high number of Kenyan children have poor access to health care which, in many cases, has resulted in children succumbing to diseases that are easily prevented or treated in other continents, such as America and Europe.   Kenyan children are more likely to be born with HIV/AIDS related diseases and have for many years succumbed to diseases of poverty, such as kwashiorkor, marasmus, and rickets.  It is a common occurrence for Kenyan children not to even afford a decent meal, unlike their counterparts in other continents.  Holy Apostles Monastery missionaries see the highest number of children with little or no access to a sound educational infrastructure and information technology, both at school and at home.
This situation is so dire that, out of our own poverty, the love of Christ Jesus compels us to help them through the help of others, that is, through your help. While it is natural that we want to care for those close around us, it is important that we recognize that Kenyan children do not have even a fraction of the assistance available to children in wealthier nations.  It is my prayer that you will find in your heart the desire to help those who may be far away, but who are in the very greatest need.  It is a true reflection of the ministry that we are called to through Christ Jesus. 
Your prayers and contributions are true blessings,
Abbot Father Michael+, OFE
Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE, DD, STD, PhD

Repair My Church

The motto of the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical is repair my church.
In 1206, Jesus came to Saint Francis of Assisi and speaking through the icon Cross of San Damiano, told him: “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.”
Today, we are faced with a Church “falling into ruins.” Like Saint Francis of Assisi, I believe Pope Francis also received the divine call to repair, heal, revitalize, recharge, and renew the universal Church, the pilgrim People of God.
The Gospel of Matthew reassures us: “I shall be with you until the end of time”. (Matthew 28:20).

He Is Risen

“Accept the risen Jesus into your life. Even if you have been far away, take a small step towards him. He awaits you with open arms.” (Pope Francis)

Holy Week

“In this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love.” (Pope Francis)

An Invitation To Get Involved

An Invitation To Get Involve With The Order of Franciscans Ecumenical
Get Involved: To Feeding Hungry Children Campaign, To Start a Personal Fundraiser; To Help Spread the Word, To Sponsors; To Benefactors; To Volunteers; To Married Roman Catholic Priests; To Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops; To Celibate Roman Catholic Priests; To Roman Catholic Laity; To Wives of Married Roman Catholic Priests; To Catholic Autocephalous Bishops and Priests;  To Religious Orders and Churches to be Ecumenical Friends with the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical; To Religious Communities and Churches to have an Ecclesiastical Affiliation Charter with Order of Franciscans Ecumenical; To all Priests and Friends (persons and/or organizations) to Become Members of the Theotokos Association of Catholic Priests; and To Join the International Confraternity of the Sanctification of Families Union of Saint Francis of Assisi.
May God richly bless you and your involvement!
Abbot Father Michael+, OFE
Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE, DD, STD, PhD

An Invitation To Religious Orders and Churches

An Invitation to Religious Orders and Churches to be Ecumenical Friends with the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical
What does it mean to be “ecumenical friends?”
These are some of the things that reflect what that means: To pray regularly for the unity of the Church; to be rooted in a particular Christian tradition; to take an active part in the careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done for the renewal of one’s own church; to be fascinated and curious about that which is different; to be willing to learn; to cultivate an historical consciousness; to be ready to celebrate vitality in the Body of Christ wherever it is found; to be willing to work together; to feel the scandal of our divisions; to be open to God’s will for the Church; to appreciate the important role of provisional regulations and church structures in our evolution from alienation to reconciliation; to have an appreciation for the hierarchy of truths in Christian doctrine; to try to understand others as they understand themselves; to be alert to the presence of God and the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other Christians and members of other living faiths; and to have a biblical patience.
Abbot Father Michael+, OFE
Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE, DD, STD, PhD

Welcome Home!

Welcome to the blog of the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical (OFE) and the Abbey of Saint Mary Theotokos (Theotokos in Greek means “God-bearer”). 
The Order of Franciscans Ecumenical ​is pleased to provide a “home” for married Roman Catholic priests and to eventually enable them to continue to serve sacramentally within the Roman Catholic Church.
Note: Use of the term “ecumenical” is important to this particular Franciscan order. Whereas we are Eastern / Roman Catholic presbyters who support and promote married and celibate Roman Catholic priesthood, we have a thirty-four-year history of involvement and collaboration with a number of other communities as well, including: Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and other Orthodox jurisdictions; Syro-Chaldean; Celtic; Anglican; and various Eastern Catholic traditions.  

Catholic Apostolic Church / Eastern Rite / International Ordinariate was canonically created in January, 1985 as the Personal Prelature of Pope John Paul II under the guidance of the Russian Emigre Archbishop Josef DeBrulle.At that time, we had to work with total confidentiality.  We went public in 2013. It was later named the Federation of Jesus Abbeys, and, is most recently known as the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical (OFE). Its leadership is provided by Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo, OFE, who is now the Abbot General.

Note: A personal prelature is a canonical structure of the Roman Catholic Church which is comprised of a prelate, clergy, and laity who undertake specific pastoral activities.
The specific pastoral activity of the OFE, as was originally desired by Pope John Paul II, is to create an avenue for married Roman Catholic priests to return to service in Roman Catholic parishes.
May God richly bless you!
Abbot Father Michael+, OFE                                                                                                                                                        
Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE, DD, STD, PhD

“Gift of Women”

“Until we have truly incorporated the gift of women and the feminine dimension of our Christian faith, we will not be able to fully energise the life of the Church.” (Cf., Vincent Long Van Nguyen, OFMConv, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Parramatta)

Over Coming Silence

“Courageous women played an important role in Jesus’ public ministry, and witnessed his death, burial and resurrection. We urgently need to talk openly about women in decision making roles in the Roman Catholic Church. The words of a lay Catholic evangelist Kitty Cleveland, “It’s our time, ladies, in the Catholic Church, to be courageous. This is a time of great saints.”” (Cf., Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo, OFE)

(Photo Credits: Saint Mary Magdalene, Head Hands and Feet | Photo by Simon Webster)

A Hungry Child

“You cannot tell a hungry child that you gave him food yesterday.”  (Zimbabwean Proverb)
Feeding the Hungry Children Campaign is the ministry of the Abbey of Saint Mary Theotokos, Inc. Its mission statement is of funding the Feeding the Hungry Children Campaign and to meet the needs of orphan children that we serve so that they may grow, learn, and have the opportunities of life that they deserve.
Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Members of the body of Christ we are called to assist those in need. We can’t disregard the plight of orphan children suffering hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness, or sickness.
The greatest motivation for helping others is because we are loved by a loving God who created us, provides for us, and gave everything.  A God who has asked us to love and take care of human beings just as he loves and takes care of us.
The Abbey of Saint Mary Theotokos, Inc. is seeking out others to partner with us, make a monetary gift, become a benefactor, volunteer, support an orphan child, become a sustaining member, tithe, make a bequest gift, donate in someone’s memory, make a tribute gift, and make a bequest gift.
All donations received are used for the sole purpose of supporting the Feeding the Hungry Children Campaign. There is no compensation of any kind paid to the President/CEO or other Board members. 
Your individual contribution is a means of sharing in the Abbey of Saint Mary Theotokos campaign and its ongoing ministry. 
Your prayers and contributions are true blessings,
Abbot Father Michael+, OFE
Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE, DD, STD, PhD

Letter to Pope Francis

Open Letter to Pope Francis on Behalf of Married Roman Catholic Priests
April 5, 2019
Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop | Doctor of the Church
His Holiness Francis
Apostolic Palace 
00120 Vatican City State
Your Holiness Pope Francis,
Cordial greeting to you.
The Order of Franciscans Ecumenical (OFE) is pleased to provide a “home” for married Roman Catholic priests and hopefully to eventually enable them to continue to serve sacramentally within the Roman Catholic Church.
As historically documented, we were canonically created in 1985 as the Catholic Apostolic Church, Eastern Rite, International Ordinariate, later identified as the Federation of Jesus Abbeys and most recently as the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical. We were founded within the Personal Papal Prelature of Pope John Paul II of 1985. Our specific pastoral activity, as well as the desire of Pope John Paul II, was to create a way for married Roman Catholic priests to return home to continue to serve within Roman Catholic parishes.
One day St. Francis of Assisi prayed in the little church of Saint Damian outside the walls of Assisi. He felt the eyes of the Christ on the crucifix gazing at him and heard a voice saying three times, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.” This message is just as relevant today as it was in the time of Francis of Assisi.
You “were the only Roman Catholic cleric to praise the life of a former bishop [Jerónimo José Podestá] who had left the priesthood to marry ….You knelt at his deathbed and comforted him.” As Archbishop of Argentina, you noted that in the Eastern churches, priests can be married, and “they are very good priests…It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change.” Obviously, you are very sensitive to the needs of the People of God for the Eucharistic food which only a priest can provide. There is refreshed anticipation that our Church will return to our earliest tradition embracing both married and celibate priests.
The Order of Franciscans Ecumenical (OFE) is where we embrace priests who have left celibate promises/vows as Roman Catholic priests to marry. Sadly, they have become abandoned by the Church and disheartened, and we seek in the OFE to love and console them. We have within the Order married priests of proven seriousness and maturity who wish to return to sacramental ministry. We select married men who are called to priesthood to make them available to Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops.
We can say is that the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical (OFE) is the only formal outcome of a 34 year study presented by the task force created by the Vatican in 1985. Holy Father, we will be remembering you in our prayers during the Divine Liturgy. We, too, ask to be remembered in your prayers.
In filial devotion,
Abbot Father Michael+, OFE 
Very Reverend Friar Michael Cuozzo+, OFE, DD, STD, PhD

Roman Catholic Married Priesthood

Save My Church and Restore Married Priesthood / Optional Celibacy Back into the Roman Catholic Church
The Church is suffering within its own ranks. On the grassroots level, we meet priests who live in grief and sometimes in poverty. We welcome Pope Francis acknowledging in Amoris Laetitia that “we could draw from the experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy.”
The mission of the Order of Franciscans Ecumenical (OFE) is to minister to married Roman Catholic priests by offering them a welcoming home, support, acceptance, affirmation of their marriages, and validation of their lives and ministries. It also supports efforts to restore married priesthood to the Roman Catholic Church. Canon Laws 212 §2 and §3 tell us that we have the duty to express our views about the Church’s “matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful.” Men who have left the priesthood to marry are made to feel that they failed merely because they wanted the fulfillment of wives and families of their own. Sadly, they have become disheartened by the Church’s abandonment.
All of us have seen how many good priests have been dismissed because they chose to love a woman and have a family. Most of them have to find other work to support their families. Those who could not find work often have been pushed into poverty and suffered emotionally because of the treatment they have received from the Church. 
Countless people in the pews have let it be known that they want a priest – married or celibate, it matters little – who will be compassionate about their life issues. Many would welcome a move of the Church to allow married priests back into active priesthood. If the Church is willing to welcome married Episcopal priests into our Church, surely you should be open to accepting former and now married Roman Catholic priests.

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