Holy Name Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, currently in its 27th year, has welcomed 12 participants for the 2015 class to serve those in need and to share prayers and live in community. These young adults represent seven colleges, eight states and Guam.
As in past years, the Franciscan volunteers are serving at three sites: St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, N.J., supervised by Juan Turcios, OFM, the St. Francis Inn ministries in Philadelphia, supervised by Michael Duffy, OFM, and for the first time, in Silver Spring, Md., at St. Camillus Parish, supervised by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, and Christopher Posch, OFM.
The FVMs, who began their year of service in August, focus on three core values, according to Katie Sullivan, the program’s executive director. They are intentional community, direct ministry and expressed prayer.
Reflection and Retreat
As part of their spiritual journey, the volunteers embark on four retreats each year. In August, the participants took part in a five-night orientation retreat at Loyola on the Potomac Retreat House in Maryland. In the fall, they traveled to Western New York for a four-night retreat led by Sr. Madonna Hoying, SFP, with the Mt. Irenaeus community to reflect on themselves, their communities and prayer.
“We do a broad overview of pretty much everything,” Sullivan said. “We talk about Francis and spirituality, potential community, ministry, prayer … and simple living.”
Additionally, the St. Camillus FVMs joined other parishioners and pastor Michael Johnson, OFM, on a mission trip to the Lakota Reservation of Pine Ridge in South Dakota in October. The volunteers helped to build and fix houses as well as to develop relationships with some of the Lakota people.
Sullivan believes the FVM program is one of the Province’s best-kept secrets, and that faith-based service is one of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church.
“There are a lot of programs out there, and I think young adults are flying under the radar,” Sullivan said. “We need to tell people that young adults are doing great and amazing things. They are not doing it for their own glory. They’re doing it for love of their brothers and sisters and for God.”
The age range for this year’s participants is 21 to 27. Pope Francis has been hailed for his devotion to bringing young people back to the Church, and that fact was all the more evident when a few of the volunteers described their experience of sharing in the pope’s visit to the United States this fall.
“Knowing how inspiring Pope Francis is to the world, knowing how much peace he spreads through his words and more importantly his actions, made seeing him so wonderful. His address, given to us in Spanish, sang of showing compassion to others and cherishing gifts that different factions have to offer, on individual and cultural levels,” said FVM Jessie Tette. “He bridges gaps of culture, language, religion — everything that can separate people — to lead the world into more understanding and action toward peace.
“We are extremely blessed to have such a Christ-like leader of our Church who moves so many hearts to love, and I will not soon forget the kindness that he called forth in me and countless other people in the U.S. and the world,” added Tette, a graduate of Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.
Troy Hillman, an FVM from St. Bonaventure University, said he’s already had an experience that’s affected his life.
“One experience that has touched me is of a young man in our youth group, who during an icebreaker was asked, ‘name someone you would trust with your life.’ He said that he trusted me completely — someone he still barely knows! Stories like this help remind me of the incredible love and way in which the people we meet as FVMs have and will continue to touch our lives forever, and make me grateful to be with such wonderful human beings,” Hillman said.
Even when their year of service is over, Sullivan said, the experience each volunteer has in the program will continue to shape their service to their faith in the future.
“Many of the people who come through this [program] have a very academic knowledge of their faith,” said Sullivan, who served as an FVM for two years before beginning her role as director in 1998. “Some of them have implemented it beyond the theory and beyond the classroom as well, but a year with FVM is a lived year of faith, so it’s integrating it into all that we do — how they communicate, how they work, how they pray.”
FVM Hannah McGrath, also from St. Bonaventure University, said she is grateful to be part of a program where she can receive from others, but also give what she can.
“We are called to serve one another and I love the FVM way of serving in a setting that emphasizes personal, spiritual and communal growth,” she said. “We are there not only to serve others, but also to receive whatever love or lessons they have to give us … I don’t just want this to be a year of my life. I want to let myself be formed and changed by my experiences this year in such a way that I will always live in service and love for the world.”
— Mary Best is a St. Bonaventure University graduate who lives in Western New York.
- “Concelebrating Mass with Pope Francis by Michael Duffy, OFM” — Sept. 30, 2015, HNP Today
- “Impact of a Volunteer Year” by FVM Andrew Staiti — Aug. 7, 2015, HNP Today
- “Friars Celebrate Silver Anniversary of Franciscan Volunteer Ministry” — Aug. 8, 2014, HNP Today