Following St. Francis of Assisi

At first, my knowledge of the Franciscans was very simple and seemed very superficial, not until I have joined the Franciscans of Our Lady of the Poor, a local congregation founded by the late Rev. Mother Esperanza “Espie” Villareal Orejola FLP.

In 2015, upon entering FLP’s welcome house and friary located at Greenheights Subdivision in Novaliches, Quezon City, I said to myself, “This is it, but I still need to explore a little bit further to know more about FLP’s charism and ministry, its way of life and spirituality.”

As a religious serving under the auspices of the Roman Catholic diocese of Novaliches in Quezon City, while with the FLP, I have learned that despite our busy schedule, we still find time to give priority to our activities that would contribute to our personal growth in holiness by a daily devotion to the Holy Eucharist, deepening prayer life. Although my formation as member of FLP is not structured so to speak, still we balance our lives by spending approximately four-and-a-half hours per day in prayer. Aside from the daily Mass, we have the Liturgy of the Hours, a community Rosary and a personal holy hour made in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and end our day with one-and-a-half hour of spiritual reading after our night prayer before going to bed.

As a religious, whether temporary or perpetually professed, we follow the Constitutions of FLP based on the First Order Rule of Saint Francis — that is, the Rule approved in 1223, during Saint Francis’ lifetime — being followed by all Franciscans, first and foremost by the Order of Friars Minor, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, otherwise known as the Conventual Franciscans all throughout the world.

We live a simple lifestyle as Franciscans as taught to us by Mother Esperanza, especially the love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the tender devotion to the Mother of God, Our Lady of the Poor and Queen of Peace and fidelity to the teachings of the Roman Church.

Today, the Franciscans are ministering in different parts of the country. Aside from working in parishes, Franciscan friars are also involved in other special ministries, such as media apostolate, justice, peace and integrity of creation initiatives, hospital chaplaincy, trans-parochial ministries (e.g., Charismatic and other lay apostolate groups) and the Tri-people (Muslim-Christian-Lumad) dialogue in Mindanao.

Founded in 1989, the FLP composed of male and female communities as a public association of lay faithful is now under the protectorship of the Most Reverend Bernardino Cruz Cortez D.D., the Bishop of the Prelature of Infanta, Quezon. Its religious family is composed of both priests, brothers, sisters and lay associates.

Presently, FLP’s missions outside the Prelature of Infanta, Quezon and Novaliches Diocese are in the Dioceses of Brooklyn in New York, in Newark, New Jersey (where it also maintains a care and mentoring center), San Jose, California, and also in the Diocese of Mombasa, Kenya and in the Diocese of Shinyanga, Tanzania. FLP has missionaries working in London and in Pescara, Italy.

In general, Franciscan traditions are focused on the same values, beliefs and teachings of the Catholic faith, like the importance of charity, benevolence and selflessness. As Mother Espie usually say, “Franciscans do not believe in living lavishly while other Christians live in poverty and misery.”

We live in the values and vision of St. Francis of Assisi, serving the poor and marginalized, an affirmation of the unique worth of each person, an appreciation for beauty, reverence for all creation, a personal faith and God’s providence.

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