The report below was submitted by the executive director of the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry who shares a summary of the organization’s activities at the three locations where FVMs are based – Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., and Wilmington, Del. The writer welcomes young adults to apply for the next FVM year, which begins in August.
What a year this has been! It’s hard to believe that we are but weeks away from the conclusion of our 2012-13 session. Come August, the HNP Franciscan Volunteer Ministry will begin its 25th year.
We are still accepting applications for our 2013 to 2014 session. We want and need more people called to live, serve and pray with us. Information about FVM and the application process can be found on our website.
Growing in Community
Many FVMs have noted how quickly the time has flown this year. While serving in their ministries, they developed relationships and were welcomed into the lives of their extended communities. Their experiences have included:
• Joining in celebrations of feast days, quinceñeras, and sacraments at our parishes
• Experiencing the annual excitement of the St. Francis Inn block party in Philadelphia — which served more than 520 guests this year, a Boston Market feast — and dancing to tunes provided by Patrick Tuttle, OFM
• Tutoring and leading after-school programs — including sports and Friends of St. Francis — at St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden, as well as collaborating with and mentoring the Student Leaders of Von Nieda Park, whose impact has been both local and state-wide
• Growing in understanding, not only of the human immunodeficiency virus and general health care, but also the strength and joy of the human spirit at Francis House in Camden
• Developing leadership, connections to creation and advocacy skills by working in the community garden in Camden and with Camden Churches Organized for People
• Coming to see incarcerated women and men as more than “criminals” and “inmates” or individuals and reactions through prison ministry, realizing that those who are incarcerated are also God’s beloved children — sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who are also on journeys of healing, recovery and hope
• Holding babies, walking with patients and families, and bringing laughter and comfort through hospital ministry
• Creating art with those who live with behavioral and health disorders through Creative Visions
• Teaching language and culture, and, in turn, learning themselves through English as a Second Language programs
• Hearing stories and developing a type of family with those who are often away from their blood relatives, loving and supporting them from a distance, through migrant ministry
• Seeing people who are in the depths of despair and experiencing those who society would say are broken, but who in fact are examples of faith, true joy, and strength, through soup kitchen ministry at St. Francis Inn and in Wilmington
Looking to the Future
Beyond these tangible ministries, our FVMs dove into the ministry of living as intentional communities. They were tested and tried, discovering their own limitations and strengths, learning to trust and rely on each other, growing in faith, and sharing tears and laughter. They celebrated birthdays, holidays and just-because days. They supported each other through the deaths of loved ones and the inherent struggles of life. They hosted and enjoyed meeting each other’s families and friends.
Throughout all of this, their prayers have been expressed individually, in their home FVM communities, and within the greater Franciscan communities of St. Francis Inn soup kitchen and St. Anthony of Padua, St. Paul’s and St. Joseph’s parishes. They were also shared during our four retreats throughout the year, including two with the Mt. Irenaeus community in Western New York.
This has been a year blessed with challenges and joys, and with the simplicity of the ordinary. As hard as this time of farewells can be, it is because of the depths of the relationships our FVMs have entered and the remarkable generosity they have demonstrated in sharing themselves, their limitations and strengths, their hopes and dreams, their hearts and minds, and their faith. We are blessed to have had them with us and hold them in our prayers as they go forth.
Now they are considering their next steps. Out of the 15 FVMs, eight are looking for jobs in their fields of interest — everything from justice, Catholic social teaching and parish ministry to hospitality and health care. Several are going to graduate school for subjects including medicine, library sciences and communication arts. One volunteer plans to join the team of St. Francis Inn, a two-year commitment, and one is joining the staff of St. Francis Inn, a one-year commitment. Finally, one volunteer is finishing the process to return for a second year as a Franciscan Volunteer.
— Katie Sullivan, executive director of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry since 1998, is based in Philadelphia. The friars who serve as FVM site supervisors are Michael Duffy, OFM, Philadelphia, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, Camden, and Christopher Posch, OFM, Wilmington.