Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) - In the Lincoln Diocese, about eight to 10 groups of priests, made up of about five to six members on average, meet up monthly to share in fellowship with their brother priests. These priests are all members of an organization called Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests, often referred to as the Fraternity.
“It helps us to grow in fraternity with our fellow priests,” Father Gregory Pawloski said.
Father Pawloski is a 42-year member of this organization as well as the Diocesan Responsible, the head of the organization in the Lincoln Diocese.
The requirement of the Fraternity is for each group to meet once a month. Together, the members usually share the Scriptures, spend time in Adoration, participate in a review of life, and spend time in friendly conversation.
The review of life is a central component in the Fraternity, which requires the members to discern the call of God in their lives, and to examine the ways that God becomes present in their lives.
Each monthly meeting is also usually preceded by a Day of Solitude, a day for the priests to be quiet and listen, as a way to prayerfully reflect on their review of life. This day, requiring priests to spend the whole day (or at least six hours) completely alone can be one of the hardest aspects for the members.
There are seven or eight members of Father Pawloski’s fraternity. When this group of priests get together every month to share in their fraternity day, they meet and spend the night at Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House. In the morning they celebrate Mass together.
“I really look forward to it, I think we all do,” Father Pawloski said. “It’s one of the great things God gives us in our priesthood.”
The inspiration for Jesus Caritas comes from the work of Blessed Charles de Foucauld or, Brother Charles, who was born in France in 1858.
“We follow the spirituality of Brother Charles de Foucauld. He was trying to live as much as he could like Jesus,” Father Pawloski said. “We try to live a simple life, we try to be closer to the poor and have a devotion to the Eucharist.”
Brother Charles lost his faith when he was 16 years old, but found it again later in life after visiting Nazareth.
In 1905, he moved to Tamanrasset in Africa and began to translate the Gospel for the people there, the Tuaregs. Brother Charles lived as a hermit among the Tuaregs until his death in 1916 when he was shot by a member of another Tuareg tribe.
The first three Jesus Caritas Fraternities were organized in France in 1952. The organization was formed based on the spirit of the Little Sisters of Jesus and Little Brothers of Jesus orders inspired by Brother Charles, and his spirituality. The first U.S. Fraternity began in Brooklyn in 1960.
According to Father Pawloski, the first fraternity in the Lincoln Diocese formed in the 1960s but tapered off a little bit. Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, later renewed interest in the Fraternity in the diocese in the 1970s when he gathered priests together in Lincoln and started it up again.
From there, Father Pawloski has seen the organization continue to grow gradually.
Today, Jesus Caritas fraternities can be found across the globe. The organization consists of not only fraternities of priests, but has groups for sisters and lay people as well. In the United States, there are 1,200 members in the organization and 4,000 worldwide.
Despite the fact that he has to make a three and a half hour trip from Indianola to Lincoln every month for his group’s fraternity day, Father Pawloski is used to traveling and looks forward to the monthly visit with his brother priests.
Father Pawloski said, “It’s been a great grace and help in the priesthood. We’re trying to live the Gospel and grow closer to God as people. It’s more than a support group; we’re helping each other to grow spiritually.”