Saint Francis Third Order Confraternity of Penitents


Hi All!

I have been shopping a while for a third order and found one that I am going to apply for Inquiry and discernment. It is the Saint Francis Third Order Confraternity of Penitents. I was curious if anyone was familiar with this Order, or had any comments to make about it.

Thanks as always for your input. :slight_smile:


I have little direct experience; however, knowing of the illustrious history of the Third Order Secular of St Francis and of the immense good it has done for the Church, I can none but encourage you in this great task.


I have only read their website and they seem absolutely wonderful. I say go for it.


I am aware of it and I think it is a very good group. Their governing documents are solid. As you are surely aware, it proposes a very penitential and prayerful life.

It’s actually established as a private association of the faithful by the Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and is a confraternity whose members follow the ancient rule (1221) of the Franciscan Third Order Secular, as opposed to the contemporary Rule that was approved and confirmed by Blessed Pope Paul VI and is followed by the Secular Franciscan Order around the world.

Technically the Confraternity of Penitents exists sui juris (and as its own thing) as opposed to being integrated as part of the Secular Franciscan Order or otherwise part of a greater Franciscan institute…unless its status has somehow changed recently.

In other words, the authority over this association of the faithful is not a Franciscan superior but the bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who established the association in his diocese some 10 years ago. The bishop, in turn, has appointed a priest of his diocese to assist the association in the bishop’s name. It does not therefore depend upon a Franciscan authority. It is not overseen by Franciscans. It is also not part of the worldwide Secular Franciscan Order.

I do not write any of this to discourage in any way. It is certainly an admirable association and it does follow the ancient Franciscan rule for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, who were established by Saint Francis of Assisi. I am sure all of these distinctions are explained as you progress through their program of formation.

There are posts elsewhere on this forum about the Confraternity of Penitents and I have found the writings of a Franciscan religious, Brother JR, to be well written and quite precise about these various distinctions.


Great info, thank you. I was not aware of the distinction. There’s a Secular Third Order at a nearby parish that thrives, but I’ll read up on this as well. Again, many thanks.


What is the third order near you? Is it in Kennesaw? Thanks!


I knew there was a Bishop that oversaw the order, but it was not clear to me that they were not under the authority of the Franciscans. I see that they are recognized by Rome.
Thanks for the information!


I was not aware of this. Have you looked into it further?


Historical Third Orders Secular (and all are still in existence):

Secular Franciscan Order (Third Order of St. Francis)

Lay Dominicans (Dominican Third Order)

Third Order Secular of the Carmelite Order

Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (Discalced Carmelite Third Order)

Third Order Secular of Most Holy Trinity (Tertiaries of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives)

Mercedarian Third Order (Tertiaries of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy)

Servite Secular Order (Third Order of the Order of the Servants of Mary)

Secular Augustinians (Third Order of the Augustinian Order)

Secular Augustinian Recollects (Third Order of the Augustinian Recollect)

Minims Third Order

Premonstratensian Third Order


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