All posts by Ted Witham

Franciscans International and the Society of Saint Francis

Report from the Board Meeting of FI in New York. November 2010

by Averil Swanton tssf (representing the three Orders of SSF)

As on previous occasions the three-day meeting was grounded in the worship and faith-sharing at the start of each day. In addition to this, a Eucharist was celebrated on the Friday evening to honour the work of two volunteers, Mary Theresa Plante FMM and Bernadette Sullivan SFP, who have been working from the New York office of FI for many years, tracking events at the UN and working with other NGO’s.

One of the achievements of the past months for FI has been the appointment of all three Regional Directors in Geneva, New York and Bangkok. As well as being responsible for their own regions, Europe and Africa, the Americas and Asia/Pacific each of these will take the lead in advocacy. This means that the Executive Director will be able to fulfil the task of taking global responsibility and co-ordinating all three offices, which will have some degree of autonomy. All three, Markus Heinze OFM, Mike Lasky OFM Conv and Mateus Tuniewcs recently net up with Denise Boyle fmdm, the Executive Director, and she reported a high level of energy and co-operation between them all.

Work continues with great attention being paid to the UPR, The Universal Periodic Review, whereby every nation in turn is scrutinised on the issue of human rights. FI sees its role as helping with presentations and following up with proposed action from the UN. Member of the New York office had recently gone to Brazil to meet with JPIC reps and Provincials and also grass roots to help with their presentation for the Review of Brazil in 2012.

Other ongoing work consists of training sessions and as we met, Mateus and a team from the Bangkok office were working in the Solomon Islands with Clark and other Anglicans. From early reports of this venture, I gather it was a great success, with several notable firsts, namely not just the first co-operation with Anglicans, but also the first time FI had trained in the Pacific and the first time that all the Anglican communities had got together to train. I understand that a common declaration was made and a press conference held.

This kind of training work is a core part of the service that FI can offer. Foundations are keen to give funds, including set-up costs, so this very valuable work can be funded. Elsewhere within the organization there is great concern about funds. As with so many at the current time, donations have dropped considerably and the excellent scheme of urging people to give 5$ or £5 a month has not taken off as much as was hoped. Various cost-cutting exercises were proposed, but there is real concern that core work should not be threatened. One of the main issues is spreading costs globally. There is strong feeling in some quarters that money raised in one are should be spent in that area. (A feeling that I encountered when I wrote to other Third Order Provinces.) This however ignores the fact of administrative and other support from Geneva or New York to other offices. Attention has been paid to establishing the offices according to local laws with at least semi-autonomy, but funds will continue to be an issue. Denise Boyle herself feels that the Franciscan way is to share and support those in need as and when they need it. Geneva has already halved its office space to cut costs.
A new initiative set up by a new member of the New York office, Heather Metcalf, is ‘Hear it from the Experts’. Each month an evening meeting is held at St Francis’ Church on relevant themes. The evening before the Board Meeting we all went to a talk, Islam in the 21st century ,given by Fr Elias Mallon SA, who also works from the New York FI office . It was extremely good and based on his years of study and experience and the evening was well attended. Fr Elias is coming to the UK next year and will speak at Hilfield and Canterbury. He is well worth hearing. I much admired his sense of humour and his way of dealing with questions from those who still hold 9/11 close in mind and sympathise with those who object to the building of a so-called mosque near the site.

We went to the UN for a briefing on the various women’s groups at the UN and the recent amalgamation of them into one body under a high profile leader. Two of the sisters from St Anthony’s Convent where I stayed also came to this briefing and I became aware of how much work at the UN is done by individuals tracking and following up evidence of human rights abuse on the ground. I particularly like the definition of FI as having one foot in the UN and one foot in the grass roots.

Active advocacy work by FI in the US as it faced its own UPR included issues on homelessness and the right to adequate housing; the rights of migrant workers who have been illegally detained; human trafficking and the impact of mining on indigenous peoples’ rights to clean water and food.

We were reminded of the valuable role of the Clares who pray and support FI and I was wondering how I could engage with the Sisters at Freeland. Can I approach them direct or should I make a point of going to see them and ask for their help? Would Sr Helen Julian be able to act as an intermediary?

We covered a lot of ground and worked hard, but there was time for some marvellous American hospitality and as always time for much laughter.

I am more than happy to give talks to publicise the work of FI and am due to go to a Third Order Cluster meeting next May in Norfolk. Any requests would be appreciated.

I did intimate to the Board that, having discussed the matter with Dorothy it was very likely that I would not expect to serve a second term of 3 years on the Board of FI. If the process follows the same course as it did for me ,I would expect any nomination, together with a CV, would need to go to the Franciscan Family, ie the four Heads of the Franciscan Orders, when they meet in October of next year for appointment the following year. The date of the following FI Board meeting would be 19,20,21 April 2012.

Averil Swanton
December 3 2010

Prepare the Way of the Lord


1. Christmas Unshopping: BUY NOTHING THIS CHRISTMAS!
? Give no gifts this Christmas
? Explain to your family that you are using your economic power to help the poorest by giving no gifts. Often, the gifts we give are useless or unwanted.
? Instead, make gifts or cards which are so much more personal.
? Join the Advent conspiracy. (
? Give Christmas gifts directly to the poor through Oxfam Unwrapped, Christian Blind Mission Gifts of Life, or the Tear Fund.

2. Give to the needy, for example:
? Christmas Bowl,
? Mutunga Partnership,
? Christian Blind Mission ,
? Oxfam, or
? Anglicare.

3. Pray differently. Maybe:
• More silence
• More meditation
• More reflective reading of Scripture
• Fewer words
• Different symbols (candles, ikons, etc.)

Comment on the “Advent Challenge” here. Is it Franciscan enough? Is it too idealistic? Will you try to do some of it? All of it?

Our Appeal to raise money for a dinghy to transport Tertiaries and others in PNG was launched in January of this year. We are almost there, with over $9,000 in the bank; almost another $2,000 is needed.
Nearly $3,000 of this was raised by John Clarkson (Minister NSW-B). The Province congratulates John for a terrific effort, the centrepiece of which was a bikeathon on the Eve of the Feast of St Francis.
Read on to be inspired, encouraged and challenged. Click here for the rest of the article.


Our JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) group recommends this anthology, which gives more than 2,000 verses from the scriptures on poverty and justice.
Word bookstores have this on special at the moment.

Each week during Advent, Franciscans International will post a letter to help us journey towards Christmas. The letter for Week 1 is here .
Franciscans International seek financial support for their work. Please add your donation when paying your subscription (there is a space for this), or send it directly to our Treasurer Geoff Jordan, marked “Franciscans International”.

The group charged by Chapter with sensitively creating studies to help us explore non-heterosexualities and the Church has begun its work. We are finding out that the task is complex, and we are currently reading a challenging book edited by Stephen Hunt, Contemporary Christianity and LGBT sexualities. A summary of the book is on Ted Witham’s blog. If you are interested in reading this book, please ask to borrow it from one of the committee (Ted, Tony Hall-Matthews, Glenys McCarrick, Esmé Parker and Colin Valentine).

Ted Witham has been editing the newsletter only because no-one in our community has come forward to take on this important ministry of communication. If you think God is calling you to this task, please talk to Ted or your Regional Minister.
You need to be able to work with Microsoft Word (a template is provided), and gather material from the many areas of our community. There is a laser printer available to print copies, and someone else can organise the postage and distribution of copies.
Please pray about this. The need is great.

Peace, joy and love
Ted Witham tssf

Dinghy Appeal Almost To Target

Our Appeal to raise money for a dinghy to transport Tertiaries and others in PNG was launched in January. We are almost there, with over $9,000 in the bank; almost another $2,000 is needed.
Nearly $3,000 of this was raised by John Clarkson (Minister NSW-B). The Province congratulates John for a terrific effort, the centrepiece of which was a bikeathon on the Eve of the Feast of St Francis.
Read on to be inspired, encouraged and challenged.

by Father John Clarkson tssf, 134 Mitre St., Bathurst, 2795 NSW

The day started cold and threatening clouds were looming. Previous days had brought us intermittent rain. It was the eve of St. Francis Day, Saturday October 3rd. Franciscans keep that day as a remembrance of the death of St. Francis prior to celebrating his birth to new life the next day. So we experienced a Eucharist of remembrance. Francis always regarded his death as a joyous occasion. He praised the Lord in a great joyful outburst of body and soul praising Sister Death. He exhorted death itself to give praise, and going joyfully to meet it; he invited it to make lodging with him. What a hopeful spirit for us all! After the Eucharist and breakfast my bikeathon began.

Eight of us started. Apart from a couple of adults, my companion cyclists were members of our youth group. One of them had gained sponsors from teachers and fellow students at school. About ten well wishers gathered to see us off at 10.30 a.m. One of cyclists was in a bit of hurry as he was being presented a sporting trophy that morning. The route was about 20 kms around Bathurst and for safety reasons and encouragement, I decided to ask people to stand around the course where there was a break in the course between road and bicycle track. One of my route markers who was halfway round and at the end of six kms of open twisty and hilly road provided us with a carton of water bottles; very much appreciated.

Our cyclist in a hurry beat the markers to their position and completed the course in 70 minutes. It took me 100 minutes! One of our adult cyclists was riding a collapsible bike which unfortunately soon after we started collapsed under her so she had to walk back!
We had a couple of support vehicles with signs borrowed from the Cycle Club. The one behind us protected us from fast cars along the Drive. The last 10 minutes of my ride was tolerable rainy conditions. There were about 15 people in my team and I am very grateful to them and sponsors for their astounding support.

The route started and finished at Peace Park with six route markers and two support vehicles. By the time I returned and I was not last, the Sausage Sizzle was well underway. About 30 people clapped me in! They must have thought I was not going to make it and their money would be safe!

The response to the bikeathon has been quite amazing.
I started thinking about the possibility in June. I obtained insurance cover from the Parish and permission both from the Regional Council and the Police. I have been riding a bike on and off for about 20 years. My bike became a bit fragile but the family encouraged me to use my Government stimulus package to buy a new one to assist the economy.

Recently I have become a reluctant cyclist because we live at the top of a hill and the bike tracks are on lower levels. This bikeathon will encourage me to make more of an effort. One of our riders suggested we make it an annual event. We shall see.
The response has both been a financial success as well as good for fellowship in the Church. In other words riders and supporters enjoyed themselves.

All of us who are members of the Third Order of St. Francis decided that we wanted to help our brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea when we heard that they were not able to have fellowship together, visit coastal and river communities for works of evangelism and also transport emergency cases to hospital. There are few roads.
What they needed for was an ocean-going fibreglass craft which would cost about $6000 and the engine would be $5000. They would also need money to do repairs and purchase fuel. It should be possible to easily obtain this money. I set myself a target of $2000 but we are approaching the $3000 mark at this moment and money is still coming in. I have made it known to church members here in Bathurst but also where I have preached about St. Francis, to parishes where I have done locums, organisations I am involved in, relatives and friends. Lorraine has been my secretary and treasurer. So far we can account for about $2695.85 and there are a few more promises to come. If anyone has not responded and would like to make a donation of goodwill to this bikeathon, please send me a cheque. So far we have over half the amount required to buy this boat and hopefully the appeal will be able to be concluded by the end of the year.

Therefore, my fellow Franciscans, if you have not yet supported this appeal and regard it as important, support my effort, or use your own skills, church and friends to raise significant amounts of money. There are many equally important calls on our money but this craft is regarded as one of them. Thank you to so many of you who have been so generous.

John Clarkson

International Third Order is now on Facebook!

At their meeting in Western Australia in August this year, the Ministers-Provincial and the Minister General decided to experiment with a Facebook page.

The page is primarily for people wondering about a vocation to the Third Order, and it directs people to the web-sites of each Province.

It also encourages Franciscans [and all Christians] with short quotes from St Francis, the Scriptures and other places.

You can visit this new page here.

Helen Granowski new Provincial Chaplain

Please pray for Helen Granowski elected yesterday as the new Provincial Chaplain. Helen has been the Regional Minister for Victoria-Tasmania, and takes up her new post immediately.
Helen is a priest licensed to the Archbishop of Melbourne, and was previously Principal of Canberra CEGGS and St Hilda’s, Southport (Qld).

An Order of Penitents

The Third Order marks the Friday before Palm Sunday as The Day of Penitence. On this day, Tertiaries meet to remind ourselves that St Francis founded the Third Order as an order of penitents, that is, people who take their Christian faith seriously.

We ask God to continue to forgive and heal us as we prepare to remember God’s love for us as shown by Jesus on the Cross.

Many Tertiaries will pray this Collect on the Day of Penitence:

Lord our God,
grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart;
that so desiring, we may seek and find you;
that so finding, may love you;
and so loving, may hate those sins
from which you have delivered us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

May you find a blessing on your journey.

Ted Witham tssf
Minister Provincial


It is easy for Christians to criticise Christmas with its consumerism and sentimentality for example. But as a Franciscan, I resist giving oxygen to the negativity of the Christmas critics.
St Francis was positive. The San Damiano crucifix told him to repair the church, not point out its ruins and its faults. So, I have compiled a list of the 10 Things St Francis would approve in our culture’s celebration of our Lord’s Nativity.

1. Christmas cribs and other Nativity displays which show the birth of Jesus in poverty.

2. People filling churches and flocking to Carols by Candlelight to be touched in some way by the story of Christmas.

3. Christmas lunches put on for the homeless and the poor.

4. Politicians taking real action to help the homeless.

5. The financial system reflecting on the fall of Wall Street, and looking for ways to lift the poor in developing nations out of poverty.

6. Families are gathering in joy.

7. Donors to Christmas Bowl, Christian Blind Mission, and countless other charities.

8. Artists, singers, writers of carols and poems communicating the Gospel story.

9. Peacemakers in Palestine/Israel… and everywhere else.

10. Muslims, Hindus and others, who love Christmas as well as Christians do.

Happy Christmas!

Bishop Jim Kelsey n/TSSF dies

Jim Kelsey, Bishop of Northern Michigan in The Episcopal Church died yesterday in a car accident. Bishop Jim was a Novice in the Third Order and Bishop Protector of the First Order Sisters (Community of Saint Francis) for the Americas.

You can

May God surround his wife Mary, his family, and his Franciscan friends with love and consolation – and may Jim be received into the joyous company of Francis, Clare and all the saints.