Beginning a Local Group
Beginning a Local Group (Chapter or Circle) of the Confraternity of Penitents
The Confraternity of Penitents (CFP) is private Catholic association of the faithful with commendation, whose members wish to do penance (be converted). Its members live according to a modern adaptation of the First Rule for penitents, written in 1221, which became the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis.
To assist in their spiritual development, members of the Confraternity may want to form local groups. Each local group is called either a Chapter or a Circle depending on its size and membership. A Circle consists of a minimum of two members from at least two different biological families who are able to meet together monthly to support each other in living the Confraternity Rule. Each member of the Circle should be at least a postulant in the Association. Once a Circle has five or more fully committed members, it shall elect officers and become a Chapter.
Individuals who wish to form a Chapter or Circle of the Confraternity ought to inform their Regional Minister of their desire. The Regional Minister will designate a leader, called a Minister (President) for the establishment of the Circle or Chapter and will assist in every way as the local group forms. To learn who your Regional Minister is, please contact the Confraternity of Penitents.
As the Circle or Chapter becomes more established, it ought to select a name for itself which it can then share with its Regional Minister. It is recommended that the name chosen be that of a lay saint or blessed or a title of Mary to whom the Confraternity is consecrated.
A spiritual assistant (called a Visitor in the Rule) must also be obtained as soon as possible. The spiritual assistant may be either a priest, deacon, or male or female religious who is in total agreement with all the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents. The spiritual assistant should meet with the Circle or Chapter for all or most of its meetings if at all possible and give a teaching on some aspect of the Rule. Please inform your Regional Minister of your spiritual assistant's name and background information.
In time, the Circle or Chapter shall elect officers (Minister, Associate Minister, Messenger, and Treasurer). Please let your Regional Minister know who these individuals are.
Once the Circle or Chapter is established in the United States, the Confraternity will then register it with the IRS and an employer identification number be assigned to the group. This will allow the group to act as a non-profit, tax exempt entity under the group exemption retained by the Confraternity. Circles and Chapters established in other countries will be registered with the Confraternity in the United States and may explore registration within their own nations.
Formation, using lessons in the Confraternity Handbook, will be done within the Circle or Chapter and be overseen by their Regional Minister. Those at upper levels of formation will become the formation persons for those below them in formation. Formators will be assigned for those who have no one above them in formation in the local group. Once members are pledged, they will share among themselves and with the spiritual assistant.
The Minister of the Circle or Chapter will confirm with the Regional Minister the formation levels of members in the local group.
Although not required, members of Circles and Chapters are encouraged to share with online CFP members via the monthly chat gathering.
As established by the Rule, each Chapter or Circle should hold a regular monthly meeting, which is a primary basis of formation for individual members. Each monthly meeting should:
1. Be directed by the Minister unless otherwise arranged.
2. Be joyful in spirit, positive and prayerful in tone.
3. Begin with prayer. Mass, the Divine Office, and/or the Rosary are encouraged as part of each meeting, if possible. The CFP meeting prayers should also be prayed at each gathering. These are found in the CFP Handbook and also on this link as they are also used for the on line chat gathering.
4. Promote the spiritual formation of the members present by covering elements of the Faith and the current formation materials any members may be studying.
5. Involve a faith sharing of all members on their journey with Christ.
6. Answer questions on life within the Confraternity and the Rule.
7. Afford everyone an opportunity to seek assistance in temporal matters and needs from other members of the Circle or Chapter.
8. End with prayer, and if time and circumstances permit, fellowship.
Once a Circle or Chapter is firmly established, with officers, spiritual assistant, and regular meeting time and place, the Minister and spiritual assistant of the group should so inform, in writing, the bishop of their diocese. The Web site of the Confraternity should be included in the letter to the bishop. Your Regional Minister can help you draft such a letter.
Please let us know of your newly emerging Circle or Chapter so that we may welcome you into the Confraternity of Penitents.