I think I am transitioning Franciscan Passages from being primarily about my traveling from place to place to give talks and lead retreats to being about making movies that tell the stories of women religious and other people who Francis himself would have loved.
Since 2010, I’ve been putting the word out there that I was available to travel for speaking engagements far and wide. Its been challenging yet satisfying. Recently, I was introducing myself to a small group for a series of classes and was surprised by a very angry man whom I’d never met before who demanded to know my credentials for teaching this topic several times over. Just for fun, I decided to include here what I had explained to him as it gives an overview of my life with Franciscan Passages.
I wrote a friendly email and included this:
You asked a few questions about how I came to be an expert on this topic so I was hoping tonight to give you a bigger picture of the story: I am not a priest or a nun. at its high point, the graduate program I attended and later worked for and later taught for, had 90 priests and nuns there, plus myself and one or two other lay people. Most people were there for enrichment while about 3-5 people were actually graduating with the M.A. each year (in my graduating class, four of the women were nuns from India and the one male joined the friars after graduating). Believe me, it is strange to be one of two or three lay people in that world but we adapted and found great friendships among our classmates. I’ve been teaching Franciscan writings for eight years. I had no template for this. In fact, when I went to the dean of the grad school to ask him what I might “do” with this degree, he sat back and chuckled. That was his answer. For the decades since the graduate school was founded, the people who studied there were all priests and nuns who would then go back to their own religious communities to teach what they’d learned. In the case of us few lay people, there were not religious communities to return to and thus, we found ways to share what we had learned there with others. In my case, my husband’s job had us move every one or two years so I adapted my way of teaching so that I would offer short class series, workshops and retreats rather than seeking a position teaching at a university (I’d already taught another topic 22 semesters at a college at that point anyhow and wasn’t particularly interested in that route anyhow) or something more long-term. Its been interested teaching at big and small venues since 2010. This class is the smallest I’ve taught (especially if only one person comes tonight) but I’m ok with that. I am proud that I found a way to teach about this arcane topic to thousands of people in a hundred different formats and venues over the years. I look forward to continuing to spark people’s interest in the writings of Francis (and Clare) long into the future. Unfortunately, the graduate school program in Franciscan Studies, which did not think outside the box soon enough to find new ways to be relevant in a changing world, died a slow death, never to be revived again. From what I’ve been told, though, the future of Franciscan scholarship and thought is happening in Zambia in Africa, where the schools of Franciscan studies are bursting at the seams, so that makes my heart sing to know there are still scholars of Franciscan history being formed despite the demise of the school here in the U.S. (and the one in England in recent years).
Anyhow, that was a long history, but I wanted to answer your questions completely. I hope to see you next Monday. I’ll be giving away the book I created which is an exegesis (but in layman’s language) of Francis’ deathbed writing.
Over the years, I’ve gotten resistance and sometimes, believe it or not, open hostility from those who you would think would be most thirsty to learn more about the writings of Francis. Early on, I remember a person coming up to a booth I had in Charlotte at the Eucharistic Congress and telling me I should be ashamed of myself for daring to teach people about Francis when I am not, like her, a Secular Franciscan. Wow. I just responded with my understanding that it is a calling, isn’t it? Wow, that lady was so mad at me. I’ll never forget. I don’t know who she was or what ever became of her but I sure hope she got some of that Franciscan peace down in her heart over time.
At the same time, I have been warmly received by many wonderful people in fancy and simple places. In Honduras, I got to spend a day with Honduran Franciscan sisters on a retreat day in a former hot springs/spa area not far from the orphanage where they worked. Wow. I prayed during that whole trip because my Spanish is not United Nations Translator-ready and I wanted to serve them as best I could. I have been warmly received by a tiny school in New Mexico where the teachers come from all over the country to give a year in this remote area. I cherish my conversations with those volunteers and recall fondly a trip through the freakin’ Rockies in my rented car when I volunteered to drive one into Colorado so she could purchase the raw milk she loved.
I haven’t posted on here much during 2017 and 2018. These years have been a time of transition. It would probably be helpful to share some of the struggles and uncertainties I’ve faced but in this modern time of 24-7 access to info, I think sometimes we share way to much with strangers. For example, perhaps I could have shared my tbrokenheartedness at the news of the extent of the scandals and abuse in the report that came out of Pennsylvania in August or the ongoing shenanigans of those who forgot our church is about Jesus and are scrambling for power, trying to bring others down in the process. So many of the reactions I saw to this scandal were just more of the same…people with a particular agenda (whatever that may be) thrusting it forth with the scandal as proof that their agenda (whatever it may be) is the one to pay attention to. In Pennsylvania, a thousand people were abused at the hands of church men. In many cases, those who were abused go on to abuse others so the real figures of the harmed are exponentially larger than the original 1000 people. What do we do with that?
I have not been actively pursuing getting-the-word-out that I am available to give talks and the result has been not receiving many invitations to give talks in 2017 and 2018. I don’t know what the next steps are, but I am sure I will be making more movies about women religious. Additionally, I want to make movies about others who are cool but ignorant people make ignorant assumptions about. That’s what I can tell you for now. I may open up the blog again if my travels to make these movies is interesting to folks.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. You can still find my posts on our facebook page on occasion: https://www.facebook.com/FranciscanPassages/
And you can find my movies here: http://www.franciscanpassages.com/movies/