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May 2024

by Franciscan Federation

From the National Office

Executive Director Sara P. Marks (left) and Associate Director Eunice J. Park (right)

A photo of our staff in front of the statue of St. Francis at San Damiano Retreat Center, where we had our special Evening of Storytelling event on April 27th. We had a fantastic turnout! The beautiful Fireside Lounge was full as the evening began, with a cacophony of conversations filling the room, and the sun setting behind the hills of Northern California through the windows. So many branches of our Franciscan family were together in one room – sisters, seculars, associates and cojourners, friars, young adults, San Damiano retreatants, local neighbors, and staff from the retreat center. The artist Jen Norton was on site to share some of her beautiful work with us (including our gift for our honoree) and the evening ended with a raffle! It was such a wonderful gathering, if you weren’t able to join us in person, the video of the event will be available for a month on our Facebook page! And read more about the evening below.

Member Spotlight

Hello! My name is Katherine Giorgio and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been an associate with the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls since 2020. I love being part of the Franciscan family because the community encourages me to live the gospel life with peace, integrity, and joy. As an associate, I get to meet with other young adult peers to pray together and talk about life in a Franciscan context. And as a member of the Federation, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with and work alongside wider circles of folks who inspire me in the way they live and work. All of this is of great personal value to me as I go through my 20s and discern my vocation.

An Evening of Storytelling at San Damiano Retreat Center

Darleen Pryds

Darleen shared stories from her book, Women of the Streetsabout some of the early lay followers of St. Francis. These women were preachers, caregivers, benefactors, teachers, and spiritual directors. In other words, they were truth tellers. And through their interactions, work, and stories of faith, they can be mirrors for us, through which we can see ourselves.

Carmen Barsody, OSF

We also honored the amazing work of Sr. Carmen and Faithful Fools, a community in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, that is committed to personal and social change. Through living and working together, they maintain a place of practice and a life of presence through the arts, education, advocacy, and accompaniment, upholding the dignity of all and shattering myths of those living in poverty.

Jesse Manibusan

Our evening culminated with Jesse and his very special surprise guest Janèt Sullivan Whitaker, who filled the air with inspirational music. We sang along to songs of gratitude, being called, and the faithful love of God. And the finale of the night – a raffle drawing for Jesse’s generous donation of a free concert anywhere in the US. Congratulations to our winner, Andy!

A Year of Listening & Learning

We continue our year of being in conversation with our members, as well as those from our larger Franciscan family who are interested in helping with the final phase of our transformation process, to shape the future of the Federation.

We have 3 more upcoming gatherings – two online and one in-person – time still to register. The conversations so farhave been life-giving and heartwarming. In particular, the keynote by Michael Perry, OFM is a rally call for all of us.

Please join us if you are able, more information and the registration form is HERE.


The organizational structure of the Federation is supported by the work of three Commissions which bring to life the mission and vision of the Federation in our world today. Each Commission has various ongoing and one-time projects, groups, resources, and programs which offer a variety of ways to connect, network, and collaborate. If you are interested in any of the Commissions, please see their page for more information and email the Commission chair person, their contact is below. We would love to have you more involved in our work!

Life and Mission

CLM facilitates opportunities for growth in the Franciscan tradition. The Commission endeavors to identify and make online resources available to a wide range of Franciscan seekers, practitioners, formators, and presenters. Unique to this Commission is a two-year, facilitated process that centers the diverse voices of younger Franciscans to discern what is emerging and needs to be addressed by the Federation membership. Contact: Susan Marie Pleiss

Member Engagement

CME’s purpose is to inspire a sense of inclusion for the members of the federation, as well as to offer invitation to potential members. This Commission will inspire Federation members to engage in grassroots efforts to keep the Franciscan spirit alive throughout the year and to engage Federation members in building relationships with each other. This includes the implementation of a virtual annual federation retreat. Contact: Meg Earsley

Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation

JPIC focuses the Federation’s attention on specific justice-led issues, recognizing the interconnectedness of all peoples and creation. This Commission provides education, webinars, and resources to help our Franciscan family address issues of human rights, human trafficking, peacemaking and care for creation. Contact: Pat Millen


The Franciscan Tradition, at its core, revolves around relationships. As such, the Federation seeks to bring people and organizations within our family together to share, grow, and collaborate with each other, with the goal of furthering our mission in our contemporary context. One such area of collaboration is the meeting of Executive Leaders of Franciscan Organizations (ELFO). Established in 2019 as part of the transformation process of the Federation, ELFO meets on a monthly basis to support the work of Franciscan organizations with a national audience. The following organizations make up ELFO:

ELFO Happenings

From Franciscan Action Network:

Please join us for a launch of The Gospel of Peace: A Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke from the Perspective of Nonviolence by Rev. John Dear on Wednesday May 15 at 7 pm in person at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC. Read a review of the book here.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear John Dear’s compelling teaching of Jesus’ essential message of nonviolence, as presented in his new commentary on the synoptic Gospels. There will be an opportunity for discussion with Fr. John and copies of the book will be available for purchase. RSVP to attend here.

Our annual benefit program, “Befriending our Impoverished Neighbors & Becoming Blessed,” is on June 11, 2024 at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. For this event, we invite members of our network to sponsor or buy a ticket and give away their dinner to someone who truly needs it. Learn more and buy tickets here.

Franciscan Thoughts…

Tau Car

By: Vivian Clausing, an Associate with the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, Saint Francis Province. She is also an alum of the Franciscan School of Theology.

“Go ahead and buy whatever you want.” My husband had never said these words to me before. Always, we had thought of the kids, of our budget, of the importance of saving money so that we wouldn’t be a burden to our family. But now, with the kids out of the house and my trusty SUV on its last legs, we needed a new car. What did I want? I had no idea, other than I wanted an electric car, one that would reduce my carbon footprint. On a whim, I made an appointment to try out the Tesla. I’d ridden in them a handful of times, but had never sat in the front seat. The smallest model was affordable, especially with the energy rebate from the state of California. But what convinced me was the test drive. I felt such an upwelling of joy that I knew I had made my choice. Turning to my shocked and nervous looking husband I proclaimed, “Now THIS is fun!” Buying the car was easy, plus I had a trip coming up soon that would be perfect for a new car with a huge navigation screen: Province Days, which was taking place at a location I had never been. “Wow, this is really nice!” My passengers, associates from the Northwest who had previously been sisters, were delighted when I picked them up at the airport, as I usually did for these gatherings. “I’ve never ridden in a Tesla before!” I cringed inwardly. The car was economical but did it send the right message? Teslas are extremely common here in California, but could I drive such a status symbol and still call myself a Franciscan?

 Everyone’s luggage went in and very quickly, our conversation moved to other topics: our families, the ministries we were involved in, our excitement about seeing our community in person again. The Tesla guided us effortlessly to the retreat house, and once again, I was grateful to connect with the Franciscan spirit, the relationships old and new, that inspire me to find ways to make our charism visible in the world. That night, I found myself pondering the Tesla and Francis. Already, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t let the car change my lifestyle. I would drive it to the places that I already volunteer with the homeless and those on the margins in San Francisco. I remembered Lady Clare, the daughter of a nobleman who took food to the poor. Undoubtedly before she wore a habit, Clare walked into the marginalized neighborhoods in Assisi in her expensive clothing. It wasn’t her appearance that defined her, at least at that point, but her acts of love. I suspect that those to whom she ministered saw her as more than a pretty young girl who had snuck out of her parents’ house.

At breakfast, I shared my thoughts with my friend Sr. Norberta who teased me about having  such a fancy car, and then reminded me of the importance of symbols. Symbols, I learned in theology school, can have multiple meanings but point to a deeper reality. “When you drive it, the T doesn’t stand for Tesla,” Norberta offered. “It’s a tau car!” That then, was the challenge. To live in such a way that others saw the Tau, and not the Tesla. It is the challenge that we associates face, as many don’t see us as living spiritually driven lives, at least not until they get to know us. As we often reflect upon in our gatherings, being Franciscan is about our presence. It is about living in such a way that others know we are different because of our love, inclusivity and passion for the poor. When I returned from retreat, I ordered custom license plates, donating to protect wildlife which meant that the plate has a whale tail as its background, co incidentally a T shape. The words, which I have had to explain to friends and family, are as much to remind me as to tell the world what I am trying to be. The plates say TauMom. 

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