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Franciscan Mission Service Accepting Applicants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Do you know someone with an interest in serving alongside the economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized, and who would like to grow spiritually by living simply among people in Latin America, the Caribbean or Washington, D.C.? Franciscan Mission Service, the 30-year-old nonprofit inspired by the Franciscan values of humility and accompaniment, is now accepting applicants.

Those participating in the FMS long-term overseas mission program serve two to six years – doing as St. Francis did more than 800 years ago – building bridges between cultures. Those in the program’s D.C Service Corps participate in an 11-month service leadership experience for young Catholic men and women.

“The organization supports lay Catholics, from age 21 to over 70, as they become missioners willing to encounter and be transformed by Christ,” said Elizabeth Hughes, executive director of FMS. “It is never too late to embrace your baptismal promise to follow the Gospel wherever it may lead, and to work for peace, justice, and hope.”

The application process is one of mutual discernment, according to the FMS website, which provides details on the steps to becoming a missioner.

Though the standard application deadline is May, the organization’s leaders are accepting inquiries on a flexible schedule this year due to the pandemic.

Tim, a missioner, in Kingston, Jamaica, tutoring students. (Photo courtesy of Liz Hughes)

Since 1990, FMS has supported 230 lay missioners in 20 countries, and the organization currently has missioners in Bolivia, Jamaica, and the United States. In January, FMS celebrated the return of four missioners at the organization’s annual re-commissioning Mass. Testimonials from former missioners can be found on the FMS website.

In recent weeks, while the organization’s staff members have been working remotely because of the pandemic, FMS has held informational webinars and a discernment retreat to share how being present to others is the most powerful expression of love.

Hughes, who has served as executive director since 2017, recently commented on what the ministry of presence looks like at a time when physical gathering is limited.

“For me,” Hughes wrote in the March 2020 FMS newsletter, “it’s a reminder of our connection as the Body of Christ and the reality that we do not stand alone. We are still the Church, spread out as we are. We still find sacredness in the present moment. We still stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable. We still celebrate with joy the many gifts in life and mourn with those who are suffering and grieving. We still walk in community with one another.”

Before the pandemic triggered social distancing, FMS held an alternative spring break for students from Alvernia University, a Franciscan institution in Reading, Pennsylvania. The participants spent a week learning about Washington, D.C., and practicing a ministry of presence while visiting several service organizations in the nation’s capital – including Christ House, Little Sisters of the Poor, the Father McKenna Center, and the Sant’Egidio Community.

In March, FMS board members met remotely and discussed the organization’s goals, including empowering each missioner to discern whether to remain in-country during the pandemic or return to the United States. Most of the missioners chose to remain in Bolivia or Jamaica.

A group of FMS missioners and DC Service Corps volunteers (Photo courtesy of Liz Hughes)

Among the FMS board members are several with ties to the Province — former Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Virginia, and Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, former president of St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. In 2015, John was presented with the Anselm Moons OFM Award at the World Care Benefit.

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on March 15 that events of 50 or more people not be held, FMS canceled its 2020 World Care Benefit and Celebration that had been scheduled for April 3. This annual event usually raises roughly $45,000, according to Hughes. This year, FMS conducted an online auction, celebrating 30 years of mission virtually.

Last year, Ignatius Harding, OFM, of Virginia, was recognized by FMS for his more than 40 years of commitment to missionary service in Bolivia. In 2006, Joe Nangle, OFM, was given the Anselm Moons Award after having served as FMS director for 12 years.

Information about FMS can be obtained by contacting staff members by email at info@franciscanmissionservice.org, or by phone at 202-832-1762.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: Several returned FMS missioners have written essays for HNP Today’s Franciscan Influences series. They include Amanda Ceraldi, Jeff Sved, and Kristin Zielinski-Nalen.

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