For some years now, the Franciscans International Board of Directors (IBD) has conducted two in-person meetings each year. One is in Geneva and the other in New York. This year’s Geneva meeting was transferred to Assisi to enable the IBD and the entire staff of Franciscans International (FI) to go on a spiritual retreat together.

From May 10 to 14, 2023, our friars at the Franciscanum hosted the IDB as well as the staff members of Franciscans International. There were eight IDB members and nine staff members. Two of the staff members work at our New York office, and seven, excluding the Executive Director, work in Geneva. The Guardian of the Franciscanum, Friar Jurek NOREL, warmly and affectionately welcomed the visitors to the community.
The IBD conducted an exclusive meeting during which the board members selected Blair MATHESON, a member of the Tertiary Society of St. Francis (TSSF), as the new Executive Director. Blair replaces Markus HEINZE, OFM, who served the organization for three consecutive three-year terms. Before his appointment, Blair served on the IDB as a representative of the Anglican Franciscans. He is from New Zealand.
On Saturday, May 13, the Minister General Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, who serves as a liaison between the Conference of Franciscan Family (CFF) and FI, visited with the board members for some talks. Friar Carlos thanked the IBD and FI, for the work they do on behalf of the entire Franciscan Family. He said the friars often feel comfortable when feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and consoling the afflicted. However, they are shy about eradicating the causes of hunger, disease and suffering. The Minister General said that some friars think that talking about these things is political, yet not talking about them is also political. He also pointed out the difficulties and opposition that some friars face coming from authorities inside and outside of the Order. After the Minister General concluded his conversation with the IBD, everyone joined the friars of Franciscanum for lunch.
The purpose of the spiritual retreat was to help the staff draw the connection between what FI does at the United Nations and what Francis started some eight hundred years ago. While the retreat helped IBD members rekindle the Franciscan charism, it also introduced the staff members to Franciscan spirituality and to St. Francis in particular. During these days, both the IBD and the staff visited and prayed at the holy shrines that preserve the memory of St. Francis.
On Sunday, May 14, at 6:00 a.m., the IBD celebrated Mass at the Tomb of St. Francis. On Monday, May 15, they visited the shrines of the Carceri, San Damiano, and Chiesa Nuova. On Tuesday, May 16, they visited the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, Rivotorto, the Basilica of St. Clare, and the Sanctuary of the Spoliation, the place where St. Francis stripped. On May 17, they went on a pilgrimage to Greccio, Italy, the place where St. Francis first dramatized the nativity. There, they concluded the retreat by celebrating the Mass of the Nativity.

Friar Joseph Kwame BLAY