Be still. Sitting in Deacon Jim Kitchen’s office surrounded by pictures of he and his wife, their children, grandchildren, and a beautiful cross that was recently gifted to him, this was easy to do. In this moment, I felt in awe of the man sitting with me. Deacon Jim Kitchens emitted an air of contentment and peacefulness that even after the meeting ended, stayed with me. The intent of our conversation, which was squeezed in after mass, but before the work day officially started, was to learn about his recent Profession of Faith to the Secular Franciscan Order, however even in this busy office, a calmness was present. We simply sat and talked.
Deacon Jim shared stories about his love for his family, and the great joy he feels from his weekends spent with his grandchildren in Indianapolis. He enjoys attending their cross county meets, and his frequent Skype conversations with another grandson in Sweden. He has found a way to obtain a balance between home and career.
To date, he has baptized 332 babies and has each of their names written in his journal. He shared times that he was called to sit and pray with and for people as they passed, and mentioned the complete happiness he felt during each of the 35 weddings he has officiated.
“I have felt God’s hand in so many aspects in my life. I encourage all to find a way to connect their heart to God in all they do. Doing so will make their life richer and their decisions better.”
Although many topics and situations were had, I could not help but realize that Deacon Kitchen’s message was clear. Slow down. Embrace quiet time, pray often and enjoy the blessings God has given.
“I think young people, all people really, need to take a moment and be still,” said Deacon Jim Kitchens. “Turn off the cell phones, step away from the noise, and enjoy and marvel at the beauty that God has created for us to see every day. God is always present. In everything.”
In 2006, Deacon Jim was finishing up his Masters of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. It was a busy time for him, as he was simultaneously completing a diaconate program.
“There was a lot going on at that time in my life,” said Deacon Jim. “I remember one day sitting in class and observing how these two Deacons always seemed to be at ease. They were happy. Peaceful. I wanted that.”
The two men he is referring to are Deacon Bill Galligaher and Deacon Jim Fuchs. Deacon Galligaher and Deacon Fuchs shared with Deacon Kitchens that they both were members of the Secular Franciscan Order. An official Order within the Catholic Church, this fraternity was established early in the thirteenth century by St. Francis of Assisi himself. Deacon Jim was intrigued. He wanted to learn more and did. On September 17, 2017, Deacon Jim Kitchens made his public commitment to live as a secular Franciscan.
“In these fraternities the brothers and sisters, who are led by the Holy Spirit, strive for ongoing change. We pray that we always will strive to turn away from sin and to be faithful to the Gospel,” said Kitchens. “We ask for God’s grace in helping one another in this a journey to become closer to Christ. I want to follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis. I strive for joyful simplicity in my daily life.”
For Deacon Jim, the process of becoming a professed Secular Franciscans involved a commitment of four years of formation. This included a monthly formation meeting, coupled with prayer and study. There is heavy emphasis on prayer.
“Formation is divided into three stages: an Orientation stage, an Inquiry stage and a Candidacy stage.”
The Orientation stage is a time for determining a person’s interest, eligibility and disposition to enter into the rest of the process. To be eligible, a person has to be in good standing with the Catholic Church. The Inquiry stage is a time of learning about the Franciscan charism and history. It is an important time of discernment to determine if the inquirer has a vocation to the Order. If a vocation is discerned, both by the individual and the local fraternity, the inquirer is received into the Order.
“Normally, the Bishop does this, but this year, Father Dave (Voors) presided. This year, our ceremony included 5 new inductees.”
These new Secular Franciscan have prayerfully chosen to live a simple, God-centered life. Their dedication and message is clear. Leading by example, Deacon Jim is teaching us, urging us, to just be still.
“I believe that we should not let our possessions own us,” said Kitchens. “I will instead live a life devoted to Christ, imitating Him and following in the footsteps of Saint Francis.”
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