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Franciscans are members of one of the many religious orders or societies that follow the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi. Male Franciscans who are ordained and live in community are normally part of the Order of Friars Minor, an order founded personally by the Saint in the early 13th century.[1] There are also orders for women (sisters) and for both men and women, whether married or unmarried, living in the world and engaged in non-religious occupations. Sisters are styled "Second Order" Franciscans, while those persons living in secular society and following a modified Rule are termed "Third Order" Franciscans or "Tertiaries."

Male Franciscans are called "friars" (i.e. brothers) to distinguish them from members of monastic orders, who are referred to as "monks." While the vows taken by each are similar, friars work among ordinary people, promoting and living the Gospel through teaching, service, or charitable work, whereas monks conventionally live apart from the world in their own communities.

Most Franciscans, regardless of the particular order, are Roman Catholics, but there are also Anglican Franciscans, Lutheran Franciscans, and some Orthodox Eastern Franciscans. There is also an organization for Franciscans of various churches, the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.