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Holy Family Cathedral » Featured, News » Benedictines, Carmelites & Franciscans: Cathedral Parishioners living in the secular world as members of Religious Orders

Benedictines, Carmelites & Franciscans: Cathedral Parishioners living in the secular world as members of Religious Orders

Over three thousand religious orders exist within the Catholic Church. Tulsans are familiar with the Christian Brothers who teach at Bishop Kelley, the Augustinians who run Cascia Hall, the Benedictines at Saint Joseph Monastery, Clear Creek Monastery and Saint Gregory’s Monastery. The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother administrate Saint John Medical Center. The Sisters of Mercy work at Saint Francis Hospital. Local Catholic schools are staffed with Franciscans, Dominicans, and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.

Throughout history, God has called men and women to serve Him by forsaking married life and choosing to live in community as part of a religious order. We call them monks, friars, sisters or nuns. The Lord calls other men and women to live in the secular world and participate in the good works and prayers of the religious orders. These groups are sometimes called members of the Third Orders, as monastic men and women belong to the first and second orders.

Dozens of Holy Family Cathedral parishioners are members of the third orders. Representatives of these orders sat down to talk about the similarities and differences between them. They are Paul Sandstrom, a Benedictine Oblate; Leila Safavi, a Secular Franciscan; and Donna Felzke, a Carmelite Secular.

Donna Felzke O.C.D.S, Leila Safavi O.F.S., & Paul Sandstrom Obl. O.S.B.

Donna Felzke O.C.D.S, Leila Safavi O.F.S., & Paul Sandstrom Obl. O.S.B.


Who is your founder?
Donna (Carmelite): If you go to Rome you’ll see a statue of Saint Elijah, the founder of the Carmelites. He was one of the very first people to live in community on Mount Carmel as monks. They lived there as hermits in the 1300s. Saint Teresa of Avila reformed the Carmelite Order five hundred years ago.

Leila (Franciscan): Saint Francis of Assisi was from a privileged merchant family. His early years were spent indulging in the extravagances available to him. As he approached adulthood, he found himself in crisis, searching for deeper meaning in his life. This inner conflict led him to the deserted church of San Damiano in Assisi.  It was there, praying before the San Damiano Crucifix, that Francis first heard the Word of God. “Francis, go rebuild my house, which is falling into ruins.”

Paul (Benedictine): Saint Benedict was born in Nursia, Italy in 480, sent to Rome by his parents to be educated, and became disillusioned by the decadence in the city. He pursued a spiritual life as a hermit and became involved in a number of monasteries, the last being Monte Casino. He wrote The Rule of Saint Benedict in 529 and died in 547. He is called the Father of Western Monasticism. Out of that grew a number of independent confederations. Each monastery is run by its own abbot.


Does your Order have a charism?
Donna: The charism of the Carmelite Secular Order is to seek the face of God so that God may be known. Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity said, “The Carmelite is a soul who has observed the Divine Crucified One and who has viewed Him who has offered Himself as a Victim to His Father. On the mountain of Carmel in solitude in a prayer which is never finished, the Carmelite abides as if already in heaven for God alone.”

We are trying to achieve contemplative prayer. We do this for the good of the Church. Our prayer is very much a silent, interior one.

Paul: Benedictine Oblates strive to be loyal and active members of Christ and His Church. They strive for their own Christian spiritual renewal and improvement. They foster a spirit of community and make an effort to be of service to others. They associate themselves with a specific Benedictine monastery and share in the spiritual and material good works of that community.

Leila: Our charism consists of rebuilding the Church of God by daily Conversion (penance) and that can consist of many ways such as following the Gospel of Christ daily by loving our fellow man, serving the poor, helping our Church to grow in various ways.


What is required of an individual member? What’s required of the group?
Paul: They make application to be an oblate after which they profess their initial promise to follow the rule of Saint Benedict to the best of their ability given their particular station in life. There is a one-year period of discernment followed by a second application to the Director of Oblates and the abbot to profess their final promises. The final profession is made at the monastery and is a lifetime commitment.

We pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and the evening. We follow the tenets of the Church. We attend weekly Mass. There are two retreats during the year and there is a Fall Oblate Day at Saint Gregory’s, of which I am affiliated.

Leila: As individuals, at a minimum, we are required to pray either the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayers or Evening Prayers) daily.  As an alternate to that we can pray the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a fraternity we have a Lenten Retreat each year in the Tulsa area & our Regional Retreat is in Wichita every June.

Our Fraternity meets the third Sunday of each month for a regular monthly meeting at which we conduct business, have ongoing formation, then we pray. After that is social time. For those that are interested in becoming Professed  we have Initial Formation once a month and work with them in their studies. At a minimum it’s a two-and-a-half year process to become Professed and it is in three stages: Orientation, Inquiry & Candidacy. Those in formation wear a wooden Tau cross which they receive at their Rite of Admission which occurs after they have completed the Inquiry phase. Only Professed members are allowed to wear a metal Tau cross. The Tau serves as our habit. Our Profession is for life & we promise to follow the Rule of Life. For our apostolate we prepare & serve lunch every other month for the women and children at DaySpring Villa, a shelter for abused and trafficked women/children. On top of that we all have our individual apostolate.

Donna: We pray Morning and Evening Prayer – and Night Prayer if possible. We spend at least a half hour in silent meditation. We try to attend daily Mass. While we’re not theologians, we study the documents of the Church and the writings of the Carmelite saints.

At our meetings, we make time for formation, then we have a business meeting and social time. We do two retreats per year.


What is the relationship between your local group and the international Order?
Donna: There is one order for Carmelites, but we are divided into the Carmelite Friars, the Carmelite Nuns, and the Carmelite Seculars. We Seculars have a six year formation. We make promises at our professions. Some may take vows in a more solemn ceremony.

There is our community in Tulsa and there’s another one in Oklahoma City. We started out as a group in discernment, Now we’re a study group, and eventually we will be a canonical group. We receive official Visitors from a provincial council once a year.

We are open to new members. Guests join us in April and May to learn about us. Any Catholic in good standing can join us if he discerns it as a vocation. New members go through a year of aspirancy. At the end of the year, they are clothed in a scapular. Then it is two years before the first promise. Final promises are made after three more years of formation.

Paul: I am an oblate who is affiliated with Saint Gregory’s Abbey in Shawnee. That abbey belongs to the American Castanese confederation, which is independent of other Benedictine confederations.

Leila: The International Franciscan fraternity (CIOFS) offices in Rome and oversees each national fraternity. Each nation is divided into regions and there are multiple fraternities in each region. In the U.S. our National fraternity is NAFRA, which consists of 30 Regions and 680 fraternities. Holy Family fraternity is part of the Juan de Padilla Region.

A Franciscan fraternity must have minimum of five members. We have officers that make up the council & oversee the fraternity. They are Minister, Vice-Minister, Secretary, Treasurer, Formation Director & Council Members. We also must have a Spiritual Assistant that is not a member of our fraternity.


Want more information?
Franciscans: Leila via the parish website.
Carmelites: Mickey Fitch, O.C.D.S. 918-369-0537,
Benedictines: 918-622-7840 or

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