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“Living Franciscan: Solidarity and Advocacy”

How do Franciscan’s operate in the world? The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy (FCSA) is addressing this question through a series of virtual panels for the Siena community. The panels are titled “Living Franciscan: Solidarity and Advocacy,” and each panel focuses on a different Franciscan initiative. These initiatives include, Franciscan International, The Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, The Franciscan Mission Service, and The Franciscan Action Network.

Not only do the panels display a number of ways in which Fransican’s operate in the world, but they also allow students to learn more about service opportunities after graduation. The panels were organized by Deirdre McBreen, a Student Leader at FCSA. Deirdre described her experience arranging the panels: “Getting to know those who work in different Franciscan Initiatives around the country has been such an amazing experience. I have learned so much about what goes into service related to the Franciscan concern core of heritage, diversity, social justice, and nature. I am looking forward to spreading information about opportunities for students to expand their service beyond their time at Siena. I am also excited for people to know more about Franciscan service outside of Siena. Organizing this series has been a highlight of my time at the Franciscan Center so far!”

On Tuesday, April 6, the first of the four panels was held via Zoom. The event focused on the work of Franciscan International (FI) through presentations by two speakers, Father Joe Rozansky and Marya Farah. Fr. Joe Rozansky, OFM, is the President of the Board of FI and Ms. Farah is FI’s UN representative.

Fr. Joe Rozansky, who is a Siena graduate, began the presentation with an overview of his involvement with FI and the history of the organization. He explained how the organization can be traced back to the early 1980s. During the 1980s, Fr. Dionysius Mintoff, OFM, and Sr. Elizabeth Cameron, OSF, suggested the idea of establishing a space or organization to use Franciscan values in order to uphold human rights through representation at the UN. After proving some more background on FI, Fr. Rozansky then talked about the organization’s goals and operations. He explained how FI is a human rights organization that works to provide a voice for people who may not have a platform to share their story. The organization operates at a grassroots level to collect information from local populations. They then organize materials to present testimony or documents through UN mechanisms. FI has offices in New York and in Geneva, where they advocate for populations in three regions, the America’s, Africa, and Asia. Overall, FI looks at possibilities for how they can work together to seek justice for populations who would otherwise be unable to present information at a global stage.

During the second half of the event, Marya Farah expanded upon FI’s status at the UN. Ms. Farah explored the geographic and thematic areas which the organization focuses on. She then explored the duties of FI’s offices in Geneva and New York. She explained how some of their responsibilities include following resolutions in the General Assembly and attending annual forums, all with the goal of defending human rights. Ms. Farah also discussed how the staff in Geneva works to ensure that signatories of human rights conventions uphold treaties. Ms. Farah also talked about the future of FI. From 2021-24 their work will be centered on three pillars: equal dignity, human rights paths to peace and care for the planet.

Finally, Ms. Farah ended her presentation with information for students on how to become involved with service opportunities through Franciscan initiatives. She explained how since the UN is not open due to the pandemic, FI is not working with interns and graduate students as much as they usually do, but a different way to get involved is through volunteering. She talked about how Franciscans in America are involved with immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border. She provided information on a number of Franciscan shelters which students can volunteer at in order to help migrants. Thus, her presentation not only provided valuable information on UN mechanisms and clarity on how FI works to address human rights, but she also provided information on how students can become involved.

In the coming weeks, FCSA will host three more panels with other Franciscan initiatives. On Tuesday, April 13, from 7-8 PM, a panel will be held with Franciscan Mission Service. The presentation will focus on postgraduate service opportunities for students. The following week, on April 19 at 7-8 PM, the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry panel will include presentations by Siena alumni. They will speak about their experiences volunteering and further opportunities for Siena graduates. Finally, on Earth Day, April 22, at 7-8 PM, Franciscan Action Network’s presentation will focus on environmental justice. Each of the panels will be conducted via Zoom, with links available in the Student Digest in the days leading up to the event, and links are also available via Saints Connect. As a whole, each panel will help show students how Franciscans operate in the world. They will also provide students with knowledge on service opportunities after Siena.