Followers of St. Francis

Jane DeRose-Bamman, OFS

Image of Jane DeRose-Bamman, OFS

Born and raised in the Catholic faith in Lansing, Michigan, Jane DeRose-Bamman, OFS, has long been connected to her faith by way of family, education, and parish communities she’s belonged to. She and her six siblings “were gifted with Catholic education from grade school through college” by her parents. Now at the helm of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) in the United States as its national minister, Jane can see the connecting dots that resulted in her taking on this role. 

In a sense, Jane’s personal, educational, and professional background made her a prime candidate for becoming a Secular Franciscan. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame, she was drawn to a career path that would include roles working for the Environmental Protection Agency and, later, for state agencies in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Also key to Jane’s vocational path is her shared connection with her husband, Brian, in serving those on the margins. The two met in Chicago, where she was living at the time, while both were helping out at a homeless shelter. “The common ministry was an important part of what brought us together,” she says. “In fact, he proposed to me when we were volunteering overnight at the shelter (with 30 people sleeping in the hall next to us).” The couple now make their home in Roswell, New Mexico. 

Finding the Franciscans

Despite Jane’s lifelong link with Catholicism, when a coworker in Chicago suggested she might be called to a third order, she says, “I had no idea what that was.” She’s by no means alone in that regard. Indeed, many lay Catholics are only vaguely aware of the numerous and vast networks of religious communities, fraternities, and orders that operate under the larger umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church. For more on the Franciscan Third Order, see the Franciscan Field Guide on page 17. 

Jane’s path to leading a group of 600 local fraternities with approximately 12,000 members coast-to-coast began years ago, when her co-worker nudged her to consider joining the Lay Carmelites. Although it wasn’t a good fit for her, the seed was planted, and not long after, another coworker invited her to attend a meeting of Secular Franciscans at St. Peter’s Church in the Loop in Chicago. As she learned more about the Secular Franciscans, Jane began to feel a closeness with Francis of Assisi and the charism he promoted. 

“When I started to study more about the charism, the attraction was that it is so complete,” she says. “Respect for all life (animate and inanimate), living the Gospel with a focus on sharing the good news with others, striving to be a peacemaker in our families, work environment, communities, and the world,” and more drew Jane deeper into the Franciscan charism. She continued to attend meetings and made her public profession to live out the OFS Rule in 1995. 

‘Not Just a Prayer Group’

As Jane became more immersed in the OFS world, she began to take on leadership roles, locally and nationally. Prior to being elected national minister in 2022, she served as the national secretary for seven years. “Although I serve as national minister, I am part of a council,” Jane says. “Working with the other elected members of the council, we attempt to model the life of a Secular Franciscan, as individuals as well as servant leaders. We pray and discern what Jesus would like us to accomplish. We engage many members of the order with varied gifts to help us further [our] goals.” Despite her position as leader of the Secular Franciscans in the United States, Jane is quick to point out: “The Holy Spirit is really in charge; I’m trying to cooperate.” 

When asked what people find surprising about the Secular Franciscan Order, Jane replies: “It’s not just a prayer group. Living the rule means we are active workers in God’s vineyard. We are ‘called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively’ [OFS Rule, Article 14].” For Jane, the Franciscan charism boils down to action fueled by prayer and fraternity. “Franciscans like to do things!” she says. “You’ll find Secular Franciscans involved in parish ministries, preparing and serving meals at soup kitchens, helping to build schools in Africa, advocating for environmental change in communities and in Washington, DC, [promoting] peaceful dialogue in contentious situations (such as the upcoming elections),” and much more. 

There are a variety of events happening in 2024 at the national level that Jane is excited about: “We have an annual chapter of the national council to conduct the business of the order in the United States. It’s a ‘business meeting,’ so we have a full agenda of topics to discuss. However, these meetings are gatherings, thus there is an emphasis on prayer, time to build relationships with each other, and exchange ideas on how to best serve our sisters and brothers.” Virtual meetings for those interested in young adult ministry, justice and peace initiatives, and a virtual gathering to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St. Francis receiving the stigmata are all on tap for 2024 as well. 

With so many US Secular Franciscans involved in ministry and outreach nationwide, it’s no wonder that overseeing such an operation can be daunting. But Jane looks at Sts. Francis and Clare for inspiration on how to step back and look at the big picture. “Francis and Clare both recognized that God is in control,” she says. “This has been one challenging aspect for me. This is God’s order. I do my best to cooperate and allow God to lead.” 

St. Anthony Messenger | Franciscan Media

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