Franciscan Volunteer Ministers Prepare for End of Service Year

Katie Sullivan In the Headlines

For the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, spring brings a time of looking back at a year of service and looking forward to who will join in the more than 20-year-old Province ministry. Director Katie Sullivan reports on new applicants and recent events.

PHILADELPHIA — Spring is in the air! At the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, it is an interesting time: The current Franciscan Volunteer Ministers have just about 13 weeks before the end of our 2010-2011 year. It is a time to remember the people, ministries and wisdom of the year.

In Camden, N.J., and Wilmington, Del., the FVMs serve with children as teachers, mentors and coaches. In Wilmington, they are teaching English as a new language and sharing in the lives of those working as migrant workers at Delaware’s racetrack. In Camden, they are part of the Francis House community — a place of welcome for those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. In Philadelphia, they serve with those who are hungry, and through those relationships learn of other needs.

That is just a small selection of what the FVMs do. Across all of their activities, there is the overarching ministry of presence and of growing in relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Reflecting at the Mountain
On our spring retreat this February, everyone traveled to the one place held in common by all who have served in our 22-year history: Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat in West Clarksville, N.Y.

Welcomed there, the FVMs had the opportunity to hear reflections on how to live Franciscan values beyond their year as a volunteer. Agnes Brush, a Secular Franciscan from the St. Irenaeus Fraternity based at Mt. Irenaeus, along with 1990-1991 FVM alums Lisa Jo and Doug Looney, facilitated these reflections and discussions.

Preparing for a New Year
As July nears, there are a few current FVMs applying for a second year. Others will be shifting to other experiences, ranging from graduate school to full-time employment. But these experiences of intentional community, expressed prayer and direct ministry are forever woven into the fabric of their lives.

In these final months, the FVMs recommit to living fully in the present, to making the most of this precious time. Doing that, while discerning where and how God is calling them after this year is a delicate balance for the FVMs.

c-fvmWhen hosting prospective FVMs, this balance is highlighted and put to the test. It is an opportunity for the current volunteers to share their stories and the relationships nourished through this year, and it is certainly something they all have enjoyed. But it is also a challenge meeting those who may follow in their footsteps, for the people and ministries that the FVMs have come to love will be entrusted to others who do not yet have those relationships.

The good news? Thus far, we have 20 inspiring people who are considering joining the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry in fall 2011. Responding to a call and seeking how to serve and grow, they apply to our program. It is a delight to report that a significant number of these potential FVMs are from St. Bonaventure University and Siena College.

At this point, there are four confirmed FVMs for the coming year. Each learned of FVM in a distinct way: One came on a series of alternative spring break trips to St. Francis Inn; one found us on the Holy Name Province website; and two are graduates of Siena and St. Bonaventure, where FVM has been promoted by on-campus staff and by our own associate director Matt Johnson, formerly titled FVM promoter.

Ending the 2010-2011 Year
Our closing retreat — the final official gathering of our 2010-2011 FVM year — is in July. I humbly ask for your prayers for our current FVMs, for the people of our sites, for our friars and staff, for those in the midst of the application process and for those who will be 2011-2012 FVMs.

May God continue to bless you this Lent and into the joyful season of Easter. May it be a time of renewal, of hope and of transformation.

— Katie Sullivan, who served as an FVM from 1995 to 1997, is executive director of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. She encourages readers to visit the program’s website and Facebook page, where photos and reflections are frequently posted.