Society of Saint Francis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Society of Saint Francis (SSF) is a Franciscan religious order within the Anglican Communion. It is the main recognised Anglican Franciscan order, but there are also other Franciscan orders in the Anglican Communion.

Glasshampton Monastery, England

The Society of Saint Francis comprises the Brothers of the First Order; the Sisters of the First Order; the Sisters of the Second Order; the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order.[1] Francis of Assisi and Clare of Assisi, the founders of the Franciscan movement produced separate rules for three parallel orders – the First Order were to be mendicant friars, embracing poverty as a gift from God and living the community life in the world and serving the poor. The Second Order were to be a parallel community of sisters living a more enclosed life of prayer and contemplation. The Third Order was to consist of brothers and sisters not living in community, nor under full monastic vows, but nevertheless taking simple promises and following a rule of life in the world. These three orders still co-exist as parts of the Franciscan family.[2]

Within Anglicanism, the Brothers of the First Order are called the Society of Saint Francis (SSF); the Sisters of the First Order are called the Community of Saint Francis (CSF); the members of the Second Order are called the Community of Saint Clare (OSC); and the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order are called the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis (TSSF).[3]


During the English Reformation all religious orders, including Franciscans, were banished from Britain. Not until the mid 19th century were the first sisterhoods refounded in the Church of England, in response to the social needs of the time. Then came a revival of interest in Francis. The Community of St Francis (CSF) was founded in 1905 with sisters living in poverty and working in the East End of London.

The Friary of St Francis, Hilfield

Shortly after World War I, the Revd Douglas Downes, an economics don at Oxford University, and a few friends gave practical expression to their sympathy with and concern for victims of the depression by going out onto the roads and sharing the life of the homeless men and boys, looking for work from town to town. In 1921, a Dorset landowner, Lord Sandwich, offered a small farm property (now Hilfield Friary),[4] and here the group of friends was able to offer shelter to the exhausted wayfarers and others in temporary need of help.

In 1934, another small group (led by Father Algy) who had a clearer idea of forming a religious order, joined Brother Douglas (as he liked to be called). Gradually the little community took shape, modelling itself more consciously on the Franciscan tradition of prayer and study, as well as working with the poor. It started to look like a religious order in formal sense, with habits, a chapel, and regular worship. The Society of Saint Francis came into being, followed by the Third Order in 1936, and the Second Order in 1950 with the establishment of the Community of Saint Clare in Freeland, Witney.

Before long, invitations came to establish centres in other places and at the start of World War II, there were houses in south London and Cambridge. After the war other centres were opened in Britain. Establishments overseas followed and the Society now has friaries in the United States, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, and the Solomon Islands. Other communities were made in (Germany), Italy, Africa and the West Indies.

The Daily Office, SSF's office book, was among the first to be fully updated with the Common Worship lectionary, so was used in the wider Anglican Communion. It provided the model for Morning and Evening Prayer in Common Worship.


Each part of the order is under the leadership of a minister general, currently Br Christopher John SSF (elected in 2017) for the First Order brothers, Sr Helen Julian CSF (elected in 2012) for the First Order sisters, and John Hebenton TSSF (elected in 2017) for the Third Order brothers and sisters. Under the minister general the order is divided into provinces, each governed by a minister provincial. The Second Order, being enclosed, elect an abbess, and are currently active only in the United Kingdom. In 2012 the membership stood at approximately 200 members in community (combined First and Second Orders) and 3,000 dispersed members (Third Order).[5]

First Order: SSF[edit]

European Province[edit]

The European Province currently has the following houses of the order:

Province of the Americas[edit]

The American Province currently has the following houses of the order:

  • San Francisco, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • New York, New York

Province of Divine Compassion[edit]

The Divine Compassion Province, which covers Australia, New Zealand and Korea, has the following houses of the order:

  • Stroud, New South Wales
  • Brisbane, Queensland
  • Hamilton, New Zealand – The Friary at Hamilton closed towards the end of 2016 bringing to an end after almost 50 years the First Order's presence in NZ. (Anglican Communion News Service, 8 June 2016)
  • Chuncheon, Korea

Province of the Solomon Islands[edit]

The Solomon Islands Province has the following houses of the order:

  • Honiara, Guadalcanal (Patteson House)
  • Honiara, Guadalcanal (Little Portion)
  • Honiara, Guadalcanal (St Bonaventure Friary)
  • Honiara, Guadalcanal (Michael Davis Friary)
  • Auki, Malaita
  • Kira Kira, Makira Ulawa
  • Lata, Temotu

Papua New Guinea Province[edit]

The Papua New Guinea Province has the following houses of the order:

  • Popondetta, Oro (St Mary of the Angels Friary)
  • Popondetta, Oro (Geoffrey's Friary)
  • Popondetta, Oro (Martyrs' House)
  • Port Moresby
  • Alotau, Milne Bay

First Order: CSF[edit]

European Province[edit]

The European Province currently has the following houses of the order:

American Province[edit]

The American Province, established in 1974, is currently located in a single house:

  • San Francisco, California.


The semi-autonomous mission in Korea is not yet large enough to achieve provincial status, and the single convent at Gumi is part of the European Province, and under the authority of the European Minister Provincial.

Second Order[edit]

Third Order[edit]

The Society of St Francis includes an order of tertiaries, lay or ordained individuals who have taken vows and are followers of a version of the Franciscan rule but do not normally live together in community.[6][7] It is currently divided into five provinces.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Society of Saint Francis – The Constitution"
  2. ^ See details on this website.
  3. ^ Society of Saint Francis – Constitution
  4. ^ Hilfield is a hamlet in west Dorset, England, situated under the scarp face of the Dorset Downs seven miles south of Sherborne.
  5. ^ Anglican Religious Life 2012–13, published Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2011.
  6. ^ The Manual of the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis; part 2: European Province. Wantage: Printed by St Mary's Press, 1975
  7. ^ Third Order, S.S.F., Chronicle: the journal of the European Province. Freeland, Oxon: printed by St Clare's Press. (2 issues a year)

External links[edit]

First Order (Society of Saint Francis, SSF)

First Order (Community of Saint Francis, CSF)

Second Order (Community of Saint Clare, OSC)

Third Order (TSSF)