Franciscan spirituality in the life of a lay person

by Renae Bauer

If there is one thing Deacon Paul Umentum wants people to know about St. Francis it is this: St. Francis leads us to a deeper relationship with Christ.

Deacon Paul shared this and how becoming a Third Order Secular Franciscan has permeated his life as a husband, father, deacon and an attorney.  He was the guest speaker at the Associate Gathering in March at the Motherhouse.

Several members of the audience asked Deacon Paul how he squares his professional life with that of a Secular Franciscan but he says it's not that hard; in fact, he said his Franciscan core helps him be a better attorney.  "It changed my approach to my law practice," he says. "People come to me because something chaotic is happening in their lives.  I think about how I can bring peace into this chaos.  And isn't that what Christ did?"

A lifelong Catholic, Deacon Paul attended Catholic schools in the Green Bay area and graduated from Marquette University before attending the University of Wisconsin Law School.  And while the UW isn't a Catholic school, Deacon Paul stayed close to his faith by attending daily Mass.  After earning his degree and license to practice law, he returned to the Green Bay area and worked for several law firms before establishing his own practice a few years ago.  He even returned to the parish of his early childhood, St. Mary of the Angels on Green Bay's east side.

The parish itself dates back to 1864 and has been served by the Franciscan Friars of Pulaski since 1899.  Through the years, as pastors fulfilled their six-year assignments at the parish, Deacon Paul noticed a common element among the Franciscans: "These guys in the brown robes are at peace.  Why? What's going on here?" he quipped.

As he learned more about what it means to be a Franciscan, Deacon Paul found himself attracted to a life centered on peace. Then, around 1990, he responded to an invitation to a Franciscan retreat, of sorts. Participants were required to read and journal each night for 15 weeks and to gather once a week to share their spiritual journey.

In time, he realized the goals and achievements of this world weren't very important anymore. Instead, he found himself growing more involved with his parish and joining a group of people studying the life and teachings of St. Francis.  They were the Third Order Secular Franciscans, St. Ann's Fraternity, to which he was professed in 1997. Today, in addition to his law practice, he works at his parish, serves on several boards, volunteers at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter, participates in missions to the Dominican Republic, and volunteers for Brown County Jail Ministries.  Each day begins and ends with prayer.

For the Associates, Deacon Paul's presentation affirmed their intentions to follow Jesus more closely through Gospel living.

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Deacon Paul Umentum shares how his understanding of St. Francis has led him to a deeper, more peaceful life centered on God. His presentation was part of a recent Associate Gathering. To learn more about the Associate Relationship with the Sisters visit our website or contact Sister Marilyn Herr at Associate@gbfranciscans.org or 920-884-2729.