WASHINGTON — “My call to mission is, at its foundation, simply a response to the magnificent love and mercy Jesus continuously gives me,” proclaimed SarahJane Cauzillo, one of three missioners honored at Franciscan Mission Service’s annual Commissioning Mass.
The Commissioning Mass, which took place in the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, concluded FMS’ intensive, three-month Formation program and celebrated the growth that SarahJane and her fellow missioners, Stephanie Ashley Cabán and Timothy Shelgren, have experienced on the journey.
Joseph Nangle, OFM, presided at the Nov. 18 Mass, and Fr. James Gardiner, SA, concelebrated. The service featured readings, hymns, and prayers that have been significant to the missioners during their formation.
Liz Hughes, executive director of FMS, said, “We were delighted to have Fr. Joe and Fr. Jim preside at the Commissioning Mass. Holy Name Province and FMS have been intricately linked since FMS’ founding, and we couldn’t have been happier that Fr. Joe both celebrated Mass with us and presented multiple formation sessions for our missioners. We were also incredibly grateful to have Fr. Jim journey with us, not only as a concelebrant at Commissioning Mass but also as one of five Franciscan Board members. Fr. Joe and Fr. Jim share with all of us a model of missionary joy and presence.”
The commissioning ceremony followed the Liturgy of the Word. Each missioner promised to embrace the responsibility and privilege of service, to be a witness to the Gospel, and to serve with an open mind, a compassionate heart, loving hands, and a peaceful spirit, trusting in God’s strength and rejoicing in God’s promise. Then, the missioners read their personal mission statements, capturing their commitment to serve God and the significance of God’s call in their lives.
Finally, each missioner received a Tau cross, a symbol of Franciscan spirituality. Programs manager Emily Norton presented these crosses, saying, “Receive this Tau cross as a symbol of God’s call for you to bring justice, peace, and love to the world.” The congregation affirmed and concluded the liturgy with a benediction and a strong declaration of “Amen! Amen! Amen!”
Supporting the Missioners
Teresa Redder, OFS — who, along with her husband, Jeff, is celebrating her 25th year as a Secular Franciscan—views the Commissioning Mass as an important way to connect with the missioners before they go overseas. “We’ve come to the Commissioning Mass many times to get to know the missioners so that, when we pray for them, they’re very real to us. This is our mission, telling the stories of the missioners.”
“What’s been inspiring about the whole FMS family is that so many young people have come and have put their faith into practice at such an early age,” said Jeff Redder, OFS. “It’s very inspiring to see the number of young people living the Franciscan way.”
More than 70 people attended the Commissioning Mass, including board members, formation instructors, returned missioners, and current volunteers with FMS’s U.S.-based program, DC Service Corps, who have been living in community with the missioners-in-training in Casa San Salvador. Following the service, family, friends, and guests gathered for a reception at Casa San Salvador.
The Franciscan charism permeated the event thanks to the presence of many Franciscan-hearted people, including lay Franciscans and members of partner Franciscan organizations. “I think it’s really important to be part of the wider Franciscan family,” said Jason Miller, director of campaigns and development for Franciscan Action Network. “As someone who works in advocacy, it’s important to be present to the people who go out into the world and do direct service, to accompany them on their journey.”
“I clearly see now how powerfully God works through people when people allow him to. FMS does allow him to!” reflected Tim Shelgren after the Mass. “As the receiver, I say thank you FMS, and thank you, God!”
In January, the new missioners will trade the lives they know in the United States to live in solidarity with a new community. They can be accompanied through prayers and financial support, and by keeping up with their blog posts on the FMS website, which also includes information about how to apply to be a missioner.
During Advent, Franciscan Mission Service is offering inspiring writing from friars, sisters, Secular Franciscans, and Franciscan-hearted people in a blog series called “Faith Makes Us Neighbors.”
— Rose Urankar is programs associate for FMS. She graduated from University of Notre Dame in 2016 with a B.A. in Theology and American Studies and says she “is glad to be applying her mission experience at FMS after spending a year serving in the Dominican Republic.”
- “Franciscan Mission Service Launches New Publication” – Aug. 26, 2017, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Mission Service Celebrates 25 Years of Lay Ministry” – May 13, 2015, HNP Today