A Franciscan Summer Experience

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Nearly two dozen representatives from Franciscan colleges in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico spent three weeks at Siena College last month as a way to learn about American culture and the Franciscan tradition.

This new program — the Franciscan Summer Experience — was established to build connections between Siena and other Franciscan colleges around the world, said Brian Belanger, OFM, the college’s director of international programs. The program responds to the Order’s call for cooperation between provinces and across national borders.

“It is a significant step in deepening our relationship and helping all of us to realize our interconnectedness,” said Siena president Kevin Mullen, OFM. “I look forward to the time when students, faculty and administrators from Siena will visit the campuses in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The collaborative effort that has begun is not only good for colleges but it is also good for the Franciscan Order.”

In the past, collaboration has been done in various ways, Brian said, “including twinning of parishes, service trips, joint novitiates, the Africa Project, Franciscans International, Franciscan Action Network, and the Franciscan Institute’s summer programs at SBU but, to my knowledge, this is the first attempt at getting Franciscan undergraduate universities to collaborate directly on an international scale. That is, among lay students and administrators and faculty, compared to only vowed Franciscans, as is done at the institute at SBU.”

“This summer was a kick-start to more long-term student exchanges in the near future,” Brian added. “Two students from San Buenaventura in Bogota will attend Siena this fall as visiting students for one semester.”

The summer experience allowed participants to share “ learning philosophies in the Franciscan tradition in a very practical way,” he said. “We also helped one another internationalize our campuses. A common Franciscan heritage eases cultural communication across ethnicities and languages.”

During their July 3 to 24 stay in New York, the participants were exposed to varied aspects of American culture. They visited a local public school and a farmers’ market, celebrated the Fourth of July at a baseball game and served a meal at a soup kitchen, according to Siena’s website.

The group also visited the Province’s St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM, welcomed them to lunch and provided a tour. A group photo was taken during their visit to West 31st Street (shown behind the image above).

franciscangroupThe 21 participants included faculty members, senior administrators and students from three colleges — San Buenaventure University in Colombia, FAE Central Universitario in Brazil and Universidad Franciscana in Mexico.

The program’s name is not necessarily permanent, Brian said. “We called it Franciscan Summer Experience for immigration reasons — we did not want it to sound too academic because it would change the level of visa required — but the name may change.”

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