Franciscan Mission Service to Honor Ignatius Harding April 27

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

WASHINGTON — For his more than 40 years of commitment to missionary service in Bolivia, Ignatius Harding, OFM, is being honored by Franciscan Mission Service, the organization that for more than 25 years has sent laypeople to foreign countries in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. He will be given the 2018 Anselm Moons Award at the World Care Benefit and Celebration on April 27.

“We look forward to celebrating the people and mission that make FMS special,” said FMS executive director Elizabeth Hughes. “This year, we are particularly honored to celebrate Fr. Ignatius and his more than four decades of mission in Bolivia, accompanying the people of Bolivia and generations of FMS missioners.”

All are welcome to the event – an evening of food and fellowship – that will be held at 7 p.m. at St. Francis Hall on Quincy Street NE in the nation’s capital. Information can be obtained from the FMS office at 202- 832-1762 and tickets can be purchased on the Franciscan Mission Service website. Those planning to attend the event are asked to register by April 23.

Dedication to Mission
Ignatius, who is currently stationed at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., served from 1972 until last summer in Bolivia – at various locations and in varied roles.

“Our fundamental vocation, received from Francis of Assisi, is to be fraternities of minor brothers in mission,” said Ignatius. “I was privileged to have many wonderful experiences attempting to realize that vocation with my brothers – from a fraternity in a huge rural mission parish with several towns and 248 native Aymara communities; to years in a fraternity focused on prayer and mission in a simple rural setting; to an inner city fraternity experiencing, up close, the struggles of the families in our neighborhood; to ministry in the fraternity at the minor basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in La Paz, known as the Cathedral of the People, with its cultural center, school, Secular Franciscan fraternity, Franciscan youth groups, health clinic, Franciscan Family Justice and Peace and Integrity Center, and great team of volunteer ministers, and working at the Franciscan Social Center.”

“Mission means opening up to another culture, language, customs and really, another life,” he continued. “Even though the globalization of commerce is radically modifying the lifestyles of peoples around the world, in Bolivia most are still more uncomplicated and more transparent in their simple wholesome agricultural culture.”

He added, “I was also inspired by the commitment of many laypeople in the church: from FMS missioners, to young and old promoting human rights, sometimes at great risk; to health practitioners in St. Luke’s Integral Rural Health Foundation; to International Defense of the Children workers; Franciscans International ministry, as well as so many traditional roles in their local churches.”

A native of Connecticut, Ignatius joined the Order in 1965 and professed his first vows in 1966. He professed his final vows in 1970 and was ordained in 1972.

Spending so much of his life outside of the United States has given Ignatius an intercultural experience an appreciation of the world vision and mission of the Franciscan Order, he said.

Intercultural living and ministering opens a person to new ideas and to different relationships and ministries, he said in 2016 while reflecting on his 50th anniversary as a friar. 

Recognition and Collaboration
Past recipients of the Anselm Moons Award include HNP friars Joseph Nangle, OFM, and John O’Connor, OFM, and Russell Testa, director of the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. The award was launched in 2006 in honor of Fr. Anselm Moons, OFM, who founded Franciscan Mission Service.

“It is somewhat overwhelming to receive the Anselm Moons OFM award, given that he was such a mission visionary for the Franciscan Order and as founding director of Franciscan Mission Service,” said Ignatius. “In the Order, he envisioned the Franciscan family as a fruitful missionary enterprise throughout Africa and the world. He forged visions and institutions created, not without some resistance, for the integral evangelization not only of the mission, but especially of the missionary.

“I have seen and can see the light of his eyes in so many wonderful Franciscan Mission Service missionaries and their families,” he added. “I can only hope that this great honor of being identified with Anselm Moons, OFM, will continue to keep alive the challenges of today’s mission in me and at FMS.”

Ignatius said that though he has never had any formal connection to Franciscan Mission service, he had “the longtime privilege” of being accepted as a friend of Franciscan Mission Service and of the FMS missioners in Bolivia.

“Over the years, I worked with lay missioners from many different countries and religious families. Our FMS sisters and brothers clearly stood out from the rest by their obvious Franciscan spirituality formation and lifestyle as sisters and brothers in the mission of collaborating with their sisters and brothers in Bolivia, to serve together to build up the church by their witness. They seem to understand Francis’ idea to preach by your life, and then if sometimes necessary, with words. Most people usually begin backwards with the words. I was often inspired and encouraged in my own Franciscan vocation by these wonderful FMSers who joined us temporarily in the mission of the church in Bolivia.”

Mission is as much part of the DNA of Franciscans as is being instruments of peace, said Iggy. “We can’t be followers of Francis if we are not mission-oriented peacemakers.”

Through the years, since sending their first missioners overseas in 1990, FMS has trained, commissioned, and supported more than 130 men and women for service in Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Kenya, Namibia, Nicaragua, Peru, Siberia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, the Philippines, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The organization came into existence in 1985 at the request of a group of North American OFM Franciscan friars who felt called to offer laypeople the opportunity to experience international mission in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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