History of FAN
The original idea for the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) came as a result of a challenge by Franciscans International (FI) and the representatives of each of the six different branches of the Franciscan family. Located in Rome, this entity is referred to as the “Roman VI.”
FI and the Roman VI saw that a great deal of the work they did at the UN and in Rome was affected by what happened in the United States. They called for all of the different branches of the Franciscan families to come together and to present a unified Franciscan voice in Washington DC. A steering committee was formed including Br. Tino Arias (OFM Cap, St Mary’s Province), Tom Bello (Order of Secular Franciscans), Sr. Margaret Mary Kimmins (Franciscan Sisters of Allegany), and Russ Testa (JPIC Director, Order of Friars Minor Holy Name Province).
In the fall of 2007, there was a gathering in Baltimore of approximately 150 Franciscans from across the country, which was sponsored by the Order of Friars Minor, Holy Name Province. The gathering represented many different branches of the Franciscan family, including leaders from all four Catholic orders as well as Secular, Episcopalian and Ecumenical Franciscans. As a result of this retreat, there emerged the goal for a new collective identity, one that would be responsive to today’s social crises, and the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) was created. Built to “faithfully represent our steering committee, our Franciscan institutional members and our many new individual members—both religious and secular—in one way: the propagation of a restorative course of action for our culture through intelligent advocacy. This civic action we call advocacy is rooted in the spiritual strength of an eight hundred year old faith tradition that obligates us.”
The years 2008-2009 were primarily used to organize FAN. An advisory/action committee was created with representatives from all branches of the Franciscan family and all geographic regions. Bylaws and Articles of incorporation were written, a board of directors was established and FAN received its 501(c)3 status. Sr. Margaret Mary Kimmins served as the first board president. Russ Testa served as the Director of Programs, Policy and Organizing and Fr. Larry Janezic (OFM, Sacred Heart Province) served as interim executive director until a hire was made.
Since the early days, FAN has grown in terms of institutional members (53 communities, mostly Catholic, but not all), thousands of individual supporters, the establishment of Franciscan Justice Circles nationwide, and staff. Supported by the prayers and resources of this network, FAN continues to build its advocacy efforts within the core issues–peace making, care for creation, poverty, and human rights–established at its founding. Inspired by the words of St. Francis near the end of his life, FAN is always beginning anew to bring a Franciscan voice to public policy, because “up to now, we have done nothing.”
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