Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Plans 30th Reunion, Accepts Applicants

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

An evening of food, fellowship, prayer  and reminiscing in the heart of New York City on July 20 will mark the 30th anniversary celebration of the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.

The festivities will feature a reception at San Damiano Hall at 129 West 31st Street, which will double as a fundraiser for the three-decades-old faith formation program that fosters service to the poor and marginalized, personal and social development, spiritual growth, prayer life, and social justice advocacy.

Wrapping up their one year of service at three sites, which included Philadelphia, Pa., Silver Spring, Md., and – for the first time in FVM history – Durham, N.C., the current 11 lay volunteer ministers are planning the traditional end-of-year retreat in July.

FVM is accepting applicants for the ministry’s 2019-20 service year, which runs from summer to summer and begins this year on Aug. 17.

Since FVM’s inception three decades ago, more than 240 volunteer ministers have served with friar communities at the current locations, as well as in Anderson, S.C., Camden, N.J., Buffalo, N.Y., Boston, Mass., and Wilmington, Del.

The 30th-anniversary fundraiser-party is much anticipated by past and present volunteer ministers, FVM supporters and friars, according to Katie Sullivan, the program’s executive director since 1998.

Looking Back and Forward
“It will be a time to gather, to remember, to celebrate and to anticipate,”  said Sullivan, who served as a volunteer minister in the mid-1990s. “It will be a wonderful celebration of prayer, food, fellowship and shared memories – and some great raffle baskets!”

Guests planning to attend the FVM reception can RSVP online. Tickets will also be available at the door, which will open at 4:45 p.m., with children under 12 admitted free.

Out-of-town guests are encouraged to check with the nearby Hampton Inn Madison Square Garden, located on West 31st Street, where reduced-rate lodging accommodations have been arranged. Rooms must be booked by June 21 to qualify for the discount at this link.

The last major reunion event, held five years ago to commemorate FVM’s 25th anniversary, was described as a glorious and wonderful “rehearsal of the heavenly banquet.”

Accepting Applicants
The next steps for the 2018-19 Franciscan volunteer ministers, according to Sullivan, include graduate school, social service jobs, and additional service years. She said that a few have been accepted for a second year with FVM, and one plans to be part of the Franciscan postulant program. Their year-end retreat is July 14 to 18 at a location that will be a surprise to the participating FVMs, she said.

The 2018-2019 FVM class members at their fall retreat at Priestfield Pastoral Center in West Virginia. (Photo courtesy of the FVM Facebook page)

“If you know someone who would be a good fit with FVM, please invite him or her to learn more about us,” said Sullivan, noting that interested candidates can apply online through the FVM website.

FVM wrote a new chapter in its 30-year history when for the first time this year, four ministers arrived in North Carolina to serve at Immaculate Conception Parish. They lived, worked and prayed with the parish and their presence was felt in the broader Durham community as well. Under the guidance of the friar site supervisor, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, the volunteer ministers were involved with one-on-one tutoring and mentoring; religious education; Reality Ministries (a community of people of different abilities); Catholic Charities Food Pantry; Urban Ministries (furniture program for those transitioning to housing); parish music ministry, and pastoral and extraordinary ministers of Communion visits to local hospitals.

In Philadelphia, the FVMs worked with the Eucharistic-based community of St. Francis Inn under site supervisor Michael Duffy, OFM, to provide meals to guests, assist with other needs, and coordinate children’s events. Additionally, one volunteer ministered with a longtime Inn volunteer to assist guests with job preparation, including resumés, job search, shower/laundry availability, clothes, and interview coaching.

In Silver Spring, the FVMs lived and worked with the community of St. Camillus Parish under site supervisor Christopher Posch, OFM. Their service included: working in classrooms and after-school programs with the students of St. Francis International School; serving at the parish food pantry; teaching English as a new language; coordinating peace programs (such as teaching conflict resolution and peacemaking skills to men at a shelter, parish groups, and school children), and participating in the parish music ministry and Meals on Wheels program.

Information about the FVM’s sites, history and mission can be found on its website and photos of events can be found on the FVM Facebook page.

 –  Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: Several former Franciscan Volunteer Ministers have written articles for HNP Today about how serving as a Franciscan Volunteer Minister had a positive effect on their lives. They include Sheila Herlihy, Jeff Sved and Leo Vaccaro.