Commission on Franciscan Intellectual Tradition Enhances Website, Revises Name

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

The 20-year-old organization known to its members as CFIT has a new name and an expanded website – enhancements designed to more effectively communicate its goal of preserving, articulating, and advancing Franciscan tradition.  The Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition, part of the Order’s English-speaking Conference, has now added the word “Spiritual” to its title.

Dominic Monti, OFM (Photo from the CFIT website)

“We are now the Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition,” said Dominic Monti, OFM, chair of the organization. “We added the word ‘Spiritual’ to note we are not just trying to unpack our Franciscan theological heritage, but also the way this is translated into life.”

An announcement on the organization’s Facebook page describes the name change as follows:  “… we revised our name to more accurately reflect our goals. Medieval Franciscan thinkers developed distinctive philosophical and theological insights we would like to retrieve for today. But there were other carriers of our Franciscan tradition besides the famous cleric theologians: Clare, the women penitents, and the laity. We’re now calling ourselves the Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition, still CFIT for short.”

The Facebook post went on to say, “Through this name change, we wish to communicate that our tradition is about knowledge and spiritual practice together. The Franciscan intellectual tradition does not exist apart from our spiritual tradition. Yes, we have a vibrant intellectual tradition, but this can never remain simply a set of abstract ideas, a matter of the head, but one inherently leading to transformative praxis, a comprehensive way of looking at the world that can animate our acting, our feeling, and our thinking.”

CFIT strives to preserve, articulate and advance the Franciscan tradition in a language understandable to contemporary men and women, addressing current issues and supporting the work of scholars and practitioners of this tradition.

Last summer, on Aug. 31, CFIT announced the full incorporation onto its website of the classic three-volume series on the life and mission of St. Francis, “Francis of Assisi: Early Documents,” as well as a companion volume, “Clare of Assisi: Early Documents.” They can be found on the Early Sources page of the site.

A sophisticated search function to the documents, and a video on how to use this function, are available to visitors of the website, which is meant to serve as an interactive source for students and theologians.

“We now have over 4,800 registered users, which is very significant,” said Dominic, who noted that the project took six years to complete.

Some CFIT board members at their January 2020 meeting. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Biedenbach)

The website also offers visitors several other resources, among them papal encyclicals with study guides; a resources page with symposium papers; video clips; the Franciscan Connections international blog, which was launched last year, and a blog with CFIT news – a feature launched in the fall of 2019. A full list of the organization’s current initiatives can be found on the “About” page.

“The big thing we are trying to do is to incorporate more videos onto the site, and in general, to update and add other functions,” said Dominic, a historian who is stationed at St. Bonaventure University.

CFIT also communicates to the Franciscan world through a Facebook page that offers photos and information about its activities and multiple weekly blog posts about the Franciscan tradition. The commission also maintains a Twitter page.

With nearly 15,000 followers, CFIT’s technical manager Danny Michaels says the numbers are very good for a niche market with no advertising, according to Dominic.

CFIT was established in 2001 by the Order of Friars Minor English-speaking Conference, one of eight regional- or language-based conferences in the Order. A diverse group of 15 men and women, lay and professed, representing various Franciscan organizations make up the commission.

Jack Clark Robinson, OFM (Photo from the CFIT website)

Earlier this year, at a Jan. 29 meeting, CFIT appointed Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, a former provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in the Southwest,  CFIT Appoints Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, Treasurer ( to its board and elected him to serve as treasurer.

“Jack’s addition to the CFIT board brings a wealth of experience, organizational skills, and a desire to spread the Franciscan tradition,” said Dominic, a distinguished professor of Franciscan studies at SBU.

As treasurer, Jack is responsible for providing accurate and accessible accounting of the organization’s finances, and its initiatives of retrieving, articulating, and advancing Franciscan intellectual and spiritual traditions, according to Dominic, as well as identifying and retaining funding that will enable the organization to continue its initiatives of retrieving, articulating and advancing the  Franciscan intellectual and spiritual tradition.

CFIT partners with the Academy of American Franciscan History, Women in the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition, Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, and several Franciscan study centers – including the Franciscan School of Theology in San Diego, California and the Franciscan Institute at SBU – and the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities.

Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, serves as the group’s liaison with the provincial ministers of the ESC.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic early last year, CFIT members have been staying in touch remotely, with their most recent discussion taking place in March.  The Commission’s executive committee meets monthly.

“We are trying to make more people aware of CFIT, which is challenging since all of us on the commission have other jobs,” said Dominic, who served as Holy Name’s Provincial Vicar from 2005 to 2014.

Since the end of last year, CFIT has utilized the services of a communications consultant, a former editor at St. Anthony Messenger Press – now Franciscan Media – who worked to establish the presence of consistent communication.  Among some of the initiatives was a Lent 2021 blog series written by a variety of Franciscan scholars and writers that featured articles with a Lenten theme based on the Franciscan tradition.

  —   Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.