The official name of the Secular Franciscan Order is Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis. The Secular Franciscan Order is a true order, a portion of the original third order founded by St. Francis in the 13th century. The Secular Franciscan Order is the largest of all the Franciscan orders.
The structure of the Franciscan family is complex, but a simplified diagram can be drawn to show the basic relationships between the original three orders – and show where we fit. Here is a diagram like that:
Like the other orders in the Franciscan family, it’s international in scope, with a hierarchical structure. It has an international fraternity, national fraternities, regional fraternities and finally, local fraternities.
The international fraternity, CIOFS, is located in Rome, Italy. Its website is here.
The national fraternity for the United States is called NAFRA. Its website is here.
Our regional fraternity is Divine Mercy and its website is here.
This website belongs to Divine Providence Fraternity, which is a canonically erected local fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, located in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The most noticeable difference between the Secular Franciscan Order and the other Orders in the Franciscan Family is that we live in our own homes with our families and make our own way materially, while living out the Gospel in a Franciscan fashion in the midst of the world, according to the charism of the St. Francis. We have our own rule, given us by St. Francis and most recently updated in 1978 by Pope Paul VI.
As for likenesses to the other Franciscan orders, we share the same basic charism of St. Francis, although each of the three orders of St. Francis is slightly different in its application of the charism. Like all Franciscans everywhere we strive to turn our lives to God, live simply, honestly and in fraternity with the poor and with all creation.