Franciscan Missions Office Launches New Website

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

Jim Kott, Fr. Teofil Czarniak, and Tyler Curtis review the new website. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Willison)

WATERFORD, Wis. — The Franciscan Missions office has created a new website to offer photos, videos and a blog conveying the worldwide work of the Order of Friars Minor.

“Compelling stories, including a weekly blog, about the daily lives of Franciscan missionaries and the people they serve are featured,” said Curtis, director of operations for the Franciscan Missions, which is formally called the General Secretariat of the Franciscan Missions, Inc. “Vivid photography and videos will help convey the needs of people in remote and often dangerous parts of the world. Visitors may become partners in the cause by offering prayers and making gifts on the site that directly support the Franciscans’ response to the needs of the poor and marginalized people. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the worldwide mission work of the Order.”

The debut of the new website was announced last month. The site, which provides information about its work in 600 missions on six continents, is divided into five main sections: Our Story, Our Projects, Donate, Mass Intentions and Honey – a page publicizing products available for purchase.

The new homepage of FranciscanMissions.org.

“We will provide a vibrant, interactive experience for our visitors,” said Curtis, who has worked for the Missions office since fall 2014.

Franciscan Missions also uses social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. “Follow the news being shown about the missionaries’ work with and for people in need and special projects in the communities where they serve, as well as updates about friars in formation in developing countries,” said Curtis. “We are developing a library of stories that best illustrate the work of the friar missionaries and the people they serve. Leading this effort is Jim Kott who serves as the digital communications coordinator on our team. In addition to the website, Jim is responsible for our presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.”

On Feb. 13, the Order announced on its Facebook page the redesigned website and suggested that people “read stories about the lives of Franciscan missionaries and the people they serve throughout the world. Friends and benefactors provide much-needed prayerful and financial support so friar missionaries can do this important work. Together, we deliver hope.”

The Franciscan Missions provides direct financial support for the Order’s missions throughout the world. Funds have supported orphanages, soup kitchens, medical clinics, sustainable water projects, and the development of farms to feed and to teach others to farm, according to the website. “We fund the education of Franciscan missionaries, the building of churches, housing for the poor, and formation housing for Franciscan students. We have provided humanitarian relief in Haiti, the Philippines, Syria and Ecuador.”

Over the past year since a new director assumed leadership of the organization, the Franciscan Missions staff has been both fundraising and building its staff. Fr. Teofil Czarniak, OFM, a native of Poland, began his role as executive director last year. He is responsible for the fundraising initiatives of the Franciscan Missions.

In addition to the website, the Missions office uses other programs to increase awareness and donations. Recently, the staff launched a monthly giving club: Poverello – Servants of the Poor. A monthly giving program offers donors a convenient way to make regular gifts, while providing a reliable means of support for the missions.

As faithful mission partners, donors help Franciscan missionaries deliver hope through ministries with people around the world. When benefactors remember Franciscan Missions in their estate plans, they become perpetual members of the Legacy of Hope. Their legacy gifts will go on to deliver hope to people in need for years to come. Leading this effort is Carolyn Schmit, the major donor relations coordinator.

“Soon we will begin participating in a Google Grants program. The success of this will be driven by the optimization of our content and messaging on the website,” said Curtis.

In the last five months, the staff added three new team members in the areas of major donor relations, digital communications and data entry. “Our team has grown to 13 people, which includes four friars, two religious sisters and seven lay staff members, both full- and part-time,” said Curtis.

In February, the staff returned to its offices after having been displaced in July when a fire damaged its building. During this time, the building – which houses both offices and friar residences – was being renovated, the staff members operated out of temporary office space not far from its headquarters on Browns Lake Drive. The fire occurred just three months after the offices had been renovated and blessed in April 2016.

The other friars who work at the Missions office, and who comprise the international mission fraternity onsite, are Fr. Sante DeAngelis, OFM, of Italy, Fr. Joy Devassy, OFM, of India, and Fr. Ponciano Macabalo, OFM, of the Philippines.

The Franciscan Missions Office is located less than an hour southwest of Milwaukee.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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