WASHINGTON — The Franciscan Action Network announced recently that it added two new staff members and two interns, and had a busy few months of workshops, meetings and webinars.
Executive director Patrick Carolan said that despite having a small staff, FAN is able to accomplish a lot.
New Staff Members
The organization recently welcomed Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, as director of advocacy and member relations; Lonnie Ellis, as director of organizing and development; and interns Allyson Legnini, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, and Johanna Escobar, a student from Trinity College, Washington, D.C.
Since 2003, Sr. Marie, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, served as associate director for social mission of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. In this capacity, she was the LCWR liaison to several justice and peace organizations, including the Coalition of Catholic Organizations against Human Trafficking, Justice for Immigrants of MRS/USCCB, Catholic Coalition for Climate Change, Jubilee USA, National Religious Coalition Against Torture, and Religious Working Group on Water. She is also an ex-officio board member of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobbying agency, and a participating observer at board meetings of the Catholic Health Association.
Ellis joined FAN in August. He is pursuing a master’s degree in theology with a spirituality concentration from Washington Theological Union, as well as working for the ecumenical justice group Sojourners. He has five years of community organizing experience, including working for St. Thomas More parish in St. Paul, Minn., and the faith-based organizing group ISAIAH. He was a leader on five successful issue campaigns during that time, including securing a public option for health insurance for children in the state, and a living wage ordinance for St. Paul.
Ellis, who said he likes to integrate spirituality with action for justice, is in formation to join the Secular Franciscan Order, St. Anthony of Nagasaki fraternity. He is a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer through Contemplative Outreach, has studied under Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, at the Center for Action and Contemplation, and spent a year in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. He maintains a website for spiritual practices and justice work called LiberationSpirituality.net.
Legnini recently earned a graduate degree in social work and social research. She has experience working on social justice issues through direct service, as well as through policy and advocacy. Originally from the Philadelphia area, she has worked on homelessness, domestic violence, fair trade, and other issues.
Meetings and Media
In other FAN news, 12 members of the organization’s Action Committee were in Washington during October for a meeting, and stopped by the Occupy D.C. protest. The committee consists of 30 members, representing Franciscan communities from around the country, according to Carolan. Ray Nosabum, the justice, peace and integrity of creation coordinator for St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., attended the event.
The organization, cofounded in 2008 by HNP’s Russell Testa, also held a workshop at St. Camillus Church on Franciscan Values and Grassroots Organizing. Approximately 35 members of the parish attended the Oct. 1 program that explored how parishes can better incorporate Franciscan values at the heart of their ministries, Carolan said.Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, chair of the Province’s JPIC Directorate, helped organize the Saturday event, which was followed on Sunday by FAN Day. According to Carolan, 180 members signed up after Sunday Mass to be members of FAN. This workshop was one of several that FAN sponsored this year, with more planned for next spring.
FAN’s activity related to politics was also written about by Catholic News Service. In a Nov. 30 story carried by the National Catholic Reporter, reporter Dennis Sadowski, CNS, wrote about Catholic social justice organizations that are encouraging churches to draft platforms routed in church teachings for the 2012 election.
Carolan told CNS that the effort is meant to focus the political conversation on the ethic of life. He is reported as saying: “It really is broadening our focus so that we can then have an impact. If we want to change people’s minds on abortion then we also need to show we’re also consistent on the other side on life issues.”
Workshops and Webinars
FAN has also been busy with workshops of its own. On Oct. 26, it sponsored a workshop on human trafficking at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., that included presentations from survivors and their families. Approximately 140 people attended the “Breaking the Chains: The Human Face of Trafficking” workshop, which was sponsored by Franciscan Federation, Franciscan International and The Catholic University of America. The keynote speakers were Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, U.S. ambassador-at-large and director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Human Persons. The conference can be viewed online.
On Nov. 17, FAN offered a webinar on “Spirituality + Science = Care for Creation, Retrieving a Franciscan Cosmology for Climate Conservation.” More than 75 people tuned in to hear Br. Keith Warner, OFM, of Santa Clara University in California, discuss how Franciscan care for creation emerges from the spirituality of St. Francis but also draws on the Franciscan intellectual tradition, which includes the natural sciences. Fostering ecological literacy should be an important goal for Franciscans in the 21st century, said Br. Keith.
Carolan, who joined FAN in fall 2010, invites readers to see his Advent letter on “Righteousness Dwells.” In it, he writes: “Are the laws on immigration that have been passed in places like Alabama and Arizona helping us prepare for the way of the Lord? As Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile recently stated, ‘The law attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.’ Take a moment and reflect on the words from Psalm 85:11-12: Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.”
FAN’s most recent e-letter, distributed on Dec. 5, offered a reflection about the third Sunday of Advent. Christy Elliott, FAN’s director of care for creation, wrote about the theme of “rejoice always.”
— Wendy Healy, author of Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation and Renewal after 9/11, is a freelance writer based in Connecticut.