Many of Franciscans International’s friends, partners, and colleagues gathered in Geneva and online on 8 November to usher in a new era for the organization and say goodbye to Markus Heinze OFM, whose final term as Executive Director is coming to an end after more than a decade. The event was also an opportunity to meet and welcome his successor Blair Matheson TSSF, who will officially assume the role on 1 January 2024.
Markus took the opportunity to thank those committed to FI’s work for the support he received over the past years. “All that we achieved was only possible because of all of you. It’s like an orchestra: everyone plays their own instrument, but that’s what creates the wonderful sounds,” he said. “But of course, it’s not about our achievements – it’s about our mission and vision to respect the dignity and the rights of every person. For that I thank you.”
Reflecting on the change, the President of FI’s International Board of Directors, Brother Michael Perry OFM, delivered a short address, exploring the meaning of leadership in a Franciscan context and its linkages with human rights advocacy at the United Nations.
“One of the most striking things about leadership in the ‘Franciscan’ world – if such a world really exists – is the intuitive sense that true authority is derived from the bottom, from being among the least, sharing their experience, and engaging with them, rather than seeking to occupy a place at the top of society.”
Concluding the meeting, those in attendance offered a blessing to Blair as he prepares to take over. “It was clear that my time at FI would end, and some may have gotten nervous about what would come next,” said Markus. “I promised people we’d do our best to find a good Executive Director, but I didn’t know he would be that good.”