Transforming the world in the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi.” This is the mission of Franciscan Action Network (FAN), a nonprofit, Washington, DC-based organization that works to spread the Franciscan charism by standing up for those who are marginalized and deepening humans’ relationship with God’s creation.
In March 2007, more than 160 Franciscans from various communities gathered in Baltimore, where they unanimously approved a statement of unity that called on themselves and the larger Franciscan family to be agents of social transformation. “The idea was to have a united Franciscan presence in Washington, DC, to work on social-justice issues,” says FAN executive director Patrick Carolan.
By doing this, says Carolan, Franciscans are following the call of their leaders. “St. Francis called us to be at the forefront of social justice, and Jesus certainly called us to really live the gospel,” he explains. “That’s what we’re called to do, and that’s what we try to do.”
FAN focuses its work on three primary categories: care for creation; civil discourse and peacemaking; and social justice, including issues such as immigration reform, human trafficking, workers’ rights, and fair trade.
Beyond its Washington base, the group strives to build mini-networks around the country to unite different parts of the Franciscan family toward a single cause. Last year in Milwaukee, Capuchins, OFMs, Secular Franciscans, and others formed what they call a “Franciscan Table,”from which the group works for change.
FAN has also developed a six-week, faith-formation program called C4C: Franciscan Care for Creation, which parishes and communities can use “that really talks about what both the Gospels and the teachings of St. Francis tell us about caring for creation, but combines that with action steps people can take,” explains Carolan.
Another program in development is Franciscan Earth Corps, which strives to grow the reach of the Franciscans’ work for justice through young adults aged 21–30. “We really want to inspire and ignite a passion in these young adults to issues particularly around ecological justice and care for creation,” says Carolan. “Hopefully that connects them to their Franciscan spirituality, and then who knows where that will lead them as their lives go on?”
Uniting all Franciscans—young, old, Catholic or not—is one of FAN’s primary goals. “We are actually a very ecumenical organization,” Carolan points out, noting FAN’s Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran members. “We welcome them all.”