A History of Franciscans International
The ONE Apostolate all Franciscans share..
The story of Franciscans International is a story of the Spirit at work among us
calling forth our Franciscan charism into dialogue with the world as we live the call to "Go
Rebuild My House."
A Small Pebble Of An Idea
In 1982 a Franciscan sister from Clinton, IA and an OFM friar in Malta simultaneously
came up with the small pebble of an idea about a Franciscan presence at the United
Nations: both began to separately pursue this concept. In 1984 the Franciscan Federation
(US) adapted the idea as one of its priorities. At the same time the OFM's English
Speaking Conference of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Council (ESC-JPIC) was
also exploring this possibility. It became clear that the Spirit was truly at work and
this much larger dream was meant to be a ministry for the entire Franciscan Family. Up to
this moment individual Franciscans had been adding their small pebbles to the pile. It was
time to start building!
Building A Foundation
In inter-familial UN "Preparatory Committee" was formed in 1985 and began
meeting regularly over the next four years with a facilitator. A systematic organization
of regions, chapters and individual memberships was implemented and Franciscans around the
world were polled about their ministries. Three foci were set: Care of Creation,
Concern for the Poor, and Peacemaking. An application for NGO (Non Governmental
Organization) status at the UN was submitted and we were legally incorporated in the state
of New York as "The Franciscans, Inc." In 1989 the Franciscans were granted NGO
status with the Department of Public Information at the UN. The foundation was now in
Life Giving Structure
And the building continued... each stone bringing more life to this new entity. Br.
Kevin Smith of the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn was hired in 1990 as the first full
time director. Our Vision Statement was endorsed by the six Ministers General of the
worldwide Franciscan Family and the Plant-A-Tree project was initiated along with the
first international development appeal that raised $40,000.00. In 1991 a membership drive
was started among the 1.2 million members of the International Franciscan Family and
permanent tax-exemption status was gained, securing non-profit status. Over the next few
years we continued to attend meetings and network with others on issues.
Consultative Status As An NGO
June 14,1995 we were the 43rd NGO to gain Category I-General Consultative status at the
United Nations (Today with over 1500 NGO's at the UN only slightly more than 100 have
attained this status). Our status affords us the privilege of making written and oral
interventions at all sessions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). We have our own
nameplate and are seated behind member nations. We designate representatives, propose
items for the ECOSOC agenda and enjoy special relations with other UN bodies. Many at the
UN have asked, "What took you so long to get here?", adding, "Franciscans
are the "heart" people and you can bring that caring spirit to the work of the
United Nations." All recognized the connection between Francis and Peace and how
natural it is for Franciscans to be present at the UN.
Our status is both a privilege and a commitment. We have the responsibility to bring
not only our 800 year+ legacy and values but also our current efforts into the global
agenda. Franciscans International is a forum for the voice of the poor and marginalized; a
forum for participation in the decision making process by those who will be most affected
by these decision making policies.
The FI Global Familial Network
Franciscan International has two co-directors in New York City. In addition to our
headquarters in New York we have an office in Geneva to follow the UN work with Human
Rights; a cooperative effort with the Dominican Order. There is also an FI office in
Nairobi, Kenya and in response to the growth of membership in the North American Region
(Canada and the US), a Region Office was established in Milwaukee, WI in September, 1998.
The Milwaukee office coordinates efforts in the region and serves as a bridge between
global and local issues and actions for our members. Franciscans International is the
ONE Apostolate that ALL Franciscans in the Family share.
The Mission Continues
favorite saying is that "Franciscans International has a life of its own."
It has been created with the living stones of Franciscan values and continues to evolve in
response to the Spirit and the needs of our world. FI places its trust in the providence
of God. While this work is supported through annual membership fees and donations,
historically FI has responded to the needs of the time and the prompting of the Spirit,
not knowing the source of the required funding. Yet God provides through the generosity of
many folks who give their own "widow's mite", and then some.
As the North America Region Coordinator I am privileged to travel around the region
meeting members and interested Franciscans. The wonderful people I meet and the good works
being done locally continue to inspire me. I hear over and again of our desire to add our
Franciscan voice with the voice of the wider Franciscan Family to make a difference--A
Franciscan difference --in our world. Together, we can!
Sister Michelle Balek, OSF
North American Coordinator