WASHINGTON – Three individuals who recently returned from serving in solidarity with marginalized communities through the Franciscan Mission Service were celebrated last month at FMS’ recommissioning Mass. On Jan. 27, FMS recognized missioners Anna Klonowski, Cindy Mizes, and Misty Menis-Kyler, who lived in Bolivia, Jamaica, and Guatemala, respectively, for two years.
The special re-commissioning Mass, an annual event, not only brought to a close the missioners’ time serving with FMS overseas, but it also concluded the missioners’ two-week re-entry retreat, which was co-facilitated by FMS returned missioner Beth Riehle, who served in El Salvador from 2006 to 2009, and programs manager Emily Norton.
The re-entry retreat is a unique programmatic component that distinguishes FMS as an international mission organization. It offers returned missioners the opportunity to engage in guided individual reflection time, group sharing, and sessions such as “Trauma and Violence in Mission,” “Gifts of the Journey,” “Reverse Culture Shock,” “Navigating Transitions” and “Being Faithful to Who You Have Become.” The central goal of re-entry is to provide returned missioners with a safe space to process their time overseas and begin to reflect on how they want to integrate their mission experiences and Franciscan values into the next chapter of their lives.
“I [was] grateful for the opportunity to welcome the lay missioners back to Casa San Salvador [in Washington, DC],” said Beth Riehle. “This sacred space is where they began their orientation and were commissioned to their mission sites. The missioners were able to unpack and share their mission stories, both the hardships and the joys. It was a blessing to accompany them during this time of transition. Their stories of mission challenged me to continue to be faithful to my own call.”
Being faithful to one’s call was a theme that FMS was intentional about integrating into this year’s Recommissioning Mass. The ceremony was unique as it invited not only the recently returned missioners, but all FMS program alumni – those who served internationally and those who served in the United States – to verbally renew their commitment to serve alongside the marginalized, follow where Christ leads them, and continue breaking bread with people in new and different ways.
During the homily, Joseph Nangle, OFM, former FMS co-director, emphasized that “overseas mission experiences prepare and challenge us for the rest of our lives.” We are called to “reverse mission,” a guiding principle of FMS in which returned missioners are continue sharing their mission spirit in the United States, advocating for peace and justice in home communities in the United States, said the friar who spent 15 years working in Bolivia and Peru.
Fr. Joe described how important it is for the FMS family to stay united as a community of faith and to encourage each other in the challenges of reverse mission. “The Gospel values that defined Christ’s mission are our mandate as well. We are no less called than Christ was to be the presence of the Lord in this time and this moment in our history,” he said.
How we live out this mandate that Christ also received is unique to each of us. Missioner Anna Klonowski described how grateful she was to discover this through the FMS retreat and Mass: “One particularly impactful part for me was getting to meet and spend time with so many members of our extended FMS family — DC Service Corps alum, returned missioners, board members, and supporters. I saw so many inspiring examples of how to live out our shared Franciscan values, which motivates me to continue searching for the unique ways I am called to live as a Franciscan-hearted person.”
Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM Conv., chair of the FMS Board of Directors, presided over the Recommissioning Mass and remarked, “Celebrating the re-commissioning of [recently] returned missioners and FMS program alumni at the Eucharist was a powerful way to bring the past, present, and future together as the Body of Christ and to realize that the call to mission continues here in the U.S. Joy, enthusiasm, and a sense of gratitude pervaded the whole celebration.”
The presence of the body of Christ was striking and powerful as upwards of 20 program participants stood up and reconfirmed their commitment to living out the Franciscan charism. Staff members were beaming with gratitude and pride as they facilitated the blessing over alumni.
“Standing with program alumni and recommitting ourselves to live out the Gospel values, reminded me that the mission of FMS does not stop when our service [term] is completed,” shared Joshua Maxey an alum of the DC Service Corps Program. “The journey continues as we are called to continue to share these values with those whom we encounter daily.”
As a part of the recommissioning celebration, FMS invited its vibrant community of board members, staff, formation presenters, current and former volunteers and missioners, and family and friends in attendance to a reception at Casa San Salvador, the FMS hospitality house. Staff and volunteers organized a delicious breakfast, to which guests contributed. The Franciscan charism permeated the space filled with joy and purpose, an atmosphere that one guest said felt like a large, family reunion.
Amy Brandt, FMS communications associate and DC Service Corps volunteer, curated a gallery of framed photos that the missioners had taken during their time serving on mission. The depth of meaning of having the photos in the chapel was quite powerful. It was a beautiful way to remind guests that each person – our Bolivian, Guatemalan and Jamaican brothers and sisters – in the photo had a sacred story and was a part of the Body of Christ that Fr. Brad highlighted.
Anna, Cindy, and Misty have been sent forth to begin the next chapter of their lives, never forgetting their lifelong call to mission. Please keep them and the communities in which they served in your prayers.
Additional news about Franciscan Mission Service, the more than 30-year-old organization in Washington, D.C., can be found on its website, https://franciscanmissionservice.org/.
— Kevin Ruono and Emily Norton are staff members at Franciscan Mission Service’s office.
- “Three Commissioned as Missioners” – Dec. 11, 2018, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Mission Service Launches New Publication” – Aug. 2, 2011, HNP Today
- “Joseph Nangle Recognized for Mission Service Commitment” – Oct. 25, 2006, HNP Today