Franciscan Volunteer Ministers Start Year of Service

Matthew Johnson Around the Province


From left to right: (top row) Michael Duffy, Talia Rivera, Brendan Zaleski, Andrew Staiti, Katie Sullivan and Juan Turcios (bottom row) Matthew Johnson, Mary Verme, Tammy Kinney, Mary and Grace Kincaid. (Photo courtesy of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.)

The HNP Franciscan Volunteer Ministry is beginning its 26th year with six dedicated participants and a new board president. The ministry is proud to introduce the volunteers for the 2014-15 year, who are serving the poor and marginalized in the cities of Camden, N.J., and Philadelphia. With two returning FVMs, this year has started off with a bang, and all are settling into their new homes and communities.

Current FVMs
In Camden, Grace Kincaid, Tammy Kinney and Andrew Staiti are serving in conjunction with the friars, while ministering to the people of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. There, the FVMs are working at the school as teacher assistants and music coordinators, tending to Brother Jerry’s Garden, ministering to the community at Francis House, and wearing many hats in the parish, including helping with music ministry and the youth group. The FVMs are under the direction of Juan Turcios, OFM, the Camden site supervisor.

Across the river in Philadelphia, St. Francis Inn Ministries welcomed Talia Rivera, Mary Verme and Brendan Zaleski to the intensity and beauty of running a full service soup kitchen, women’s center and thrift shop. The FVMs have the opportunity to serve some of the most amazing people in the world. Though the mission of the soup kitchen is to give the basic needs of food and clothing, the FVMs are also able to experience the wonderful guests who come every day, and truly become part of the community. Michael Duffy, OFM, one of the FVM founders, is the Philadelphia site supervisor.

This year’s FVM class comes from up and down the East Coast, with family roots in Guam, Ireland, Japan, Poland, Italy and Scotland. Our FVMs represent five colleges: The Catholic University of America in Washington, LeMoyne College in Upstate New York, Rowan University in New Jersey, Stonehill College in Massachusetts and the University of Georgia in Athens.

“The variety of experiences that our FVMs bring is amazing, particularly this year,” said Katie Sullivan, director of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. “From tastes in music, to prayer styles, to mechanic and culinary skills, each offers unique and wonderful gifts.

“The volunteers have demonstrated a level of compassion and courage that should be lauded,” she continued. “We are forever grateful they have chosen FVM as their medium to help change the world one person at a time. It is such a pleasure to work with these dedicated volunteers, knowing just how much this year will affect their lives.”

Events and Plans
Earlier this month, the FVM board met with new president Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM, who brings FVM history with him, as well as passion and drive to move FVM into the future.  It’s always great to be in New York City for the meeting, because that signifies the heart of the Province.

This summer, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, a fantastic event and turnout. We had representatives from every year of FVM, as well as families and friends of the program, and many friars and board members.

This week, the Philly group is hosting a kids’ party for Halloween and, in mid-November, the FVMs will be heading to Western New York for a fall retreat at Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat.

The FVM staff is beginning to recruit for next year, accepting applications for 2015-2016. Information about the program, recognized in March with the Saint Katharine Drexel National Justice Award, can be found on the FVM website.

— Matthew Johnson is associate director of the HNP Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.