NEW YORK — The autumn meeting of Franciscans International was not business as usual. While in New York City for their semi-annual gathering, the leaders of Franciscans International – the non-governmental organization that serves as the Franciscan voice at the United Nations — participated in a workshop at the United Nations and hosted a presentation and reception at a Franciscan church, both of which involved members of the extended Franciscan family.
The participants included religious and laypeople from various organizations and geographic regions interested in learning about and connecting with Franciscans International. The group included HNP members from New York as well as from Maryland and New Jersey.
Education and Advocacy at the United Nations
On Nov. 17, close to 25 friars and associates met on a clear afternoon to attend a workshop at the United Nations given by a member of the Department of Information who described the importance of organizations like Franciscans International. This ongoing formation opportunity helped attendees – FI representatives and their guests – better understand what the U.N. expects of NGOs working there.
Two days later, members of the Franciscan family gathered at Holy Name of Jesus Church on the Upper West Side for Mass and a presentation by FI representatives. Joseph Rozansky, OFM, who celebrated the 5:30 p.m. liturgy, described the organization and introduced the board members. Joseph, the Province’s director of post-novitiate formation, was elected chair of the International Board of Directors of FI in April.
“Lingering in the midst of the Franciscans assembled at the United Nations was a palpable esprit de corps,” said Matthew Pravetz, OFM, stationed at Holy Name of Jesus Friary. “Some had long acquaintance and nodded knowingly of the trials and tribulations of the work of Franciscans International. After the liturgy on Saturday, a whole other cohort of Franciscans, with strong representation of Secular Franciscans, some from quite a distance, celebrated and brought each other up-to-date with personal and ministerial chatter. It was a great public witness to the curious parishioners and guests.”
“The Franciscans who attended our Saturday gathering were from different parts of the family and there was also a fairly good number of parishioners who joined us for refreshments,” said Joseph. “I was happy at the number of attendees. I was especially happy with the way that they engaged the board members and staff after the presentations that we gave.”
The event was “very fulfilling” in several ways, said Lawrence Ford, OFM, pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish. “When Joe asked if we would host a liturgy, I thought it was a privileged responsibility to host ‘the Franciscan family,’ while at the same time presenting a great opportunity for our parish to learn more about ‘the family’ and our actions around the world, and, for us to celebrate our charism together and to culminate the Year of Mercy with Franciscan joy.”
“The evening turned out better than I imagined,” Lawrence added. “There were so many Franciscan men and women, from so many different lines of the Franciscan family, many who had worked with FI in the past. Stories were told, and Franciscan pride was deeply felt and old friendships were celebrated and new ones were created.”
Reflecting on the Thursday excursion, Larry said it was “a great thrill to cross the threshold of the United Nations building, to learn some of the intricacies of international agencies informing world leaders while caring for God’s most precious ‘little ones’ at the grassroots and local levels. It was also good to see the board’s excitement as they build on the past, creating a new future.”
“In our interconnected – and yet, chaotic – world, we experienced as Franciscans the relevance of our shared spirituality, the urgent call to work for more justice by coming together at Holy Name Parish and sharing Franciscans International’s mission,” said Sr. Odile Coirier, FMM, liaison officer for FI’s New York office. “More than ever, we realize that nothing can be solved by one person or one country. It was an eye-opening experience for some of us to discover the tremendous work done at the U.N. It is about peace, development, prosperity, human rights. Our common home needs us to be sustained and to be cared for to ensure the well-being of everyone, for we must defend the human dignity and work for the respect of all creatures.”
“Having the FI community here broadened our perspective,” said Larry. “There is a strong and affectionate relationship between the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the friars of Holy Name Province and the people of this parish. We work well together, specifically in local social justice initiatives. It was great for Sr. Odile who lives at Holy Name, to carry on the work of Sr. Liliane Alam, FMM, who had worked at Franciscans International before taking over as business manager here at the parish, and for her to receive a donation from our people was a great and true symbol of the friars and the sisters and our people working together in Franciscan spirit.”
During their business meetings, the board members evaluated and approved a strategic plan for 2017-20. It will be implemented at a time when “various geopolitical factors increasingly render the international environment in which human rights work is taking place difficult and adverse,” according to Sandra Ratjen, FI’s international advocacy director.
The organization plans to execute “an effective, coherent and integrated advocacy agenda in a defined thematic area that brings together the global and regional levels and that reflect the three pillars of FI’s vision – human dignity, environmental justice and peace,” said Ratjen.
During the meeting, the board members also reviewed reports from all the FI departments, said Joe.
“The enthusiasm of the board and staff of FI to study and address the current issues of the organization and to find ways to make our Franciscan presence felt at the United Nations was rewarding,” said Joe. “The board decided to reinvigorate our presence at the U.N. in New York, and there is a strong concern to involve all parts of the Franciscan Family in our common undertaking at the U.N.”
In addition to Joseph and Sr. Odile, the FI representatives who participated in the Nov. 19 gathering at Holy Name Church were Fr. Markus Heinze, OFM, of Germany, FI executive director who is stationed in Geneva, an ex-officio member of board; Fr. Benedict Ayodi OFM Cap, of Kenya, vice president and JPIC director, who lives in Rome; Sr. Carla Casadei, SFP, of Italy, treasurer; Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., of the U.S., secretary and a member of the general council, who lives in Rome; Ruth Marcus, a Secular Franciscan of Malaysia; Clark Berge, general minister of the Anglican Franciscans USA; and Kevin Queally, Third Order Regular, from the United States.
Joe, who has been, according to the Chicago resident, involved with the Franciscan family from the beginning of his ministry as friar, in “one way or another,” said he enjoys his role with FI.
“While in Brazil, in formation, and in Rome, I have always sought to promote dialogue and common work among all members of the family. For this reason, I very much like being involved with FI, because it is the only common project that we have as family, and there is a great spirit of collaboration among those who are part of the organization.”
Information about FI’s advocacy work in Haiti, Japan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was made available in the organization’s November 2016 e-newsletter. Other news can be found on the Franciscans International website.
The spring meeting of the FI board will be held in Assisi to enable FI staff to better understand the lives of Francis and Clare and, Joe said, “the principles and values that characterize the Franciscan family, so as to help them work better with us.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Reorganizing of Franciscans International” – Jan. 16, 2016, HNP Today
- “Franciscans International Plans Nov. 19 Event” – Oct. 31 2016, HNP Today
- “New York City Parish Marks Franciscans Anniversary” – Nov. 24, 2015, HNP Today