It is then that the humbled, vulnerable, lost Francis met the poor person suffering in pain and hunger due to Hansen’s disease, or leprosy. Francis was able to look into the eyes of the suffering person and see himself and see the suffering face of Christ. No longer with an air of superiority or popularity, Francis understood the humility of God and the love God has for all God’s creatures.

In the year 1216, Jacques de Vitry said of the Franciscans: “Many well-to-do secular people of both sexes having left all things for Christ, had fled the world. They were called ‘Lesser Brothers’ and ‘Lesser Sisters.’ They are held in great reverence by the Lord Pope and the Cardinals. They are in no way occupied with temporal things, but with fervent desire and ardent zeal, they labor each day to draw from the vanities of the world souls that are perishing and draw them to their way of life.”  Being a lesser brother or sister of St. Francis, we are called to put others’ needs ahead of our own wants. In the Study of the Rule of 1223: History, Exegesis and Reflection by Michael W. Blastic, OFM, that lesser brother is: “expressed socially as the source of humility, poverty and obedience, that is, of taking and remaining in the last place without power over others.” For St. Francis, “others” were all creatures created by God and were his brothers and sisters. Click here to read more.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, racism is defined as “Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” As Franciscans, this is contrary to our identity. Just as St. Francis realized his status with God was the only thing that mattered, we too must embrace our own humility and work towards becoming a true “lesser brother or sister”. Pope Francis writes in Fratelli Tutti in paragraph 198: “Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground: all these things are summed up in the one word dialogue.”  Dialogue is what St. Francis had when he saved the wolf of Gubbio from being killed by the townspeople who were in fear. Dialogue is what St. Francis engaged in with Sultan Malek al-Kamil turning an enemy into a friend. To listen is to be humble. It is to acknowledge that the other has something important to say and to hear it.

The Sisters of St Francis of the Neumann Communities wanted to do something to address racism within our nation. We wrote a public statement against racism based on the LCWR’s open letter on racism, and vowed to continue to work on building our relationships. Our follow up work was a three month program entitled Racism: Awareness to Action. The first step in developing any program is to form a committee. Two staff members and four sisters met and came up with a plan of action. We used our weekly newsletter to disseminate materials for reflection. Sisters, staff and associates read the articles in the newsletter and reflected on them using a reflection guide. The first month, we read firsthand accounts of racism as experienced by some members of our lay staff and a sister. This opened our eyes to see that racism isn’t something outside our doors, but deeply affects the lives of those around us. The second month we read the history of racism, systemic racism and white privilege. The third month we were offered action suggestions to address racism on a personal, local and national level. After the program was completed, group facilitators met with the committee to evaluate the program. Everyone agreed that it only scratched the surface of getting to the root of racism and further work was needed.

Talking about racism is never easy. Defensiveness, guilt, and past hurts are common emotions that surface within us and between us. It is difficult to admit to racist tendencies brought to light during the reflections. The Franciscan value of conversion is key to overcoming these emotions and transforming into a lesser brother or sister. Transformation is a lifetime process that takes honesty. By revealing our attitudes and behaviors that are contrary to being a lesser sister, we are able to do the inner work necessary to work for justice and equality for all, with fervent desire and ardent zeal, ensuring that the dignity of every human person is upheld no matter the color of their skin.
Fratelli Tutti: A Prayer to the Creator

Lord, Father of our human family,
You created all human beings equal in dignity:
Pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit
And inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter,
dialogue, justice and peace.
Move us to create healthier societies
and a more dignified world,
a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.
May our hearts be open
to all the peoples and nations of the earth.
May we recognize the goodness and beauty
that you have sown in each of us,
And thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,
and shared dreams. Amen.

Click here to download this article. Art Work: The Wolf of Gubbio, a painted tapestry by Howard Schroeder, OFS
Franciscan Action Network
for a Conversation on Racism
Jason L. Miller

Monday, February 22, 2021
7:30 pm EST

Click here to register.
Reflection on a Theme:
Called to this Hour
The links below provide background reflection on the AFC conference theme.

For more information about the AFC Conference, click here to visit our website.
A Cry for Help from Our Lebanese Franciscan Sisters

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We lift to God and to you a cry for help for the sake of our patients, students. teachers, doctors, employees and all for whom we care. 

Our non-profit and non-governmental Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Lebanon was founded in 1930 by Blessed Father Jacques Haddad, Abouna Yacoub, with a sacred mission to care for the needy and educate the youth. 

We are now 183 nuns, 200 doctors, 214 teachers and 2000 employees, serving the poor and needy, in our 19 institutions, out of which the renowned psychiatric facilities: Psychiatric Hospital of the Cross (Deir El-Salccb) and Hospital of the Sisters of the Cross-Deir El Qamar, the nursing home: Our Lady Hospital for Chronic disease , St Joseph Hospital with 200 beds and Val Pere Jacques School. In total, we serve 1,550 mentally and physically under privileged persons, 170 orphans, 800 elderly suffering from Alzheimer's and chronic diseases, while educating 3200 students from underserved communities. In addition, we are rehabilitating "Dalmanutha Christ the King" the only Alzheimer Center and Elderly Care Home, but the project is delayed due to the current situation. Click here to read the complete letter.
NEW Opportunities & Resources
Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity of Sacred Heart Province announce the next cycle of its Sisters of St. Francis – Sacred Heart Charitable Fund. We invite applications for a grant from the Fund for the charitable works of Franciscan women religious communities in the United States. Click here to learn more.
Resources on Racism
Open Wide Our Hearts: Four-Session Process for Faith Communities On the USCCB Pastoral Letter on Racism

To order the booklet, click here to download the order form.
Racism Legislation & Resistance Timeline

Click here to view or download the timeline.
The Franciscan Federation promotes exploration and study of Franciscan Evangelical Life and its implications for these times and for our world. (Vision Statement)
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