Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Receives National Justice Award

Maria Hayes Friar News

PHILADELPHIA — For an outstanding spirit of service and evangelization, and for bearing the values of St. Katharine Drexel, the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry was recently presented with the Saint Katharine Drexel National Justice Award.

The award was given to FVM by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament on March 2, the day before the feast of their foundress, during a Mass at the sisters’ motherhouse in Bensalem, Pa. Michael Duffy, OFM, one of FVM’s founders, gave the homily, and Franciscan volunteer ministers provided the music.

This year, FVMs are serving at two HNP ministries: St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Camden, N.J., and St. Francis Inn Ministries in Philadelphia. Usually participating for a year or two, volunteers are generally recent college graduates looking to work in a service role before launching their careers. While part of the program, FVMs live in communities attached to friar fraternities, dedicating themselves to helping the Church and its programs.

“The purpose of the lay volunteers is to grow in faith, love and hope by serving the poor and marginalized, and working for social justice in Franciscan ministries,” said Sr. Patricia Suchalski, SBS, president of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who presented the award. “The volunteers live in Gospel-based communities as witnesses to their faith through prayer and a simple lifestyle. Their gifts and talents are exchanged with the people of God with a loving Franciscan spirit.”

Previous award recipients include the U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD, of Memphis, Tenn., and Xavier University president Norman Francis. Executive director Katie Sullivan and associate director Matthew Johnson, alumni of the FVM program, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

“To be awarded this for who we have been these 25 years, for who we are, and for who we hope to be, is a grace,” Sullivan said.

Also present at the Mass were FVM alumni, parents of alumni, two of Mother Drexel’s students and a man whose cure was one of the miracles attributed to St. Katharine during her canonization process.

During his homily, Michael referenced the connection between the Franciscans and St. Katharine Drexel.

“Sr. Patricia said that St. Francis was a great inspiration for Mother Drexel, to the point that the habit she designed for her sisters had a white cord with three knots, modeled after the Franciscans,” said Michael, who serves as an FVM site supervisor in Philadelphia. “This award was an honor for Holy Name Province, which began the FVM program and continues to support this vital ministry to young adults and to all who are involved in its presence.”

Incorporated in 1989, the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry was inspired by a group of Siena College students who wanted to serve with Franciscans. The leaders publicize the value of the program through presentations at schools and conferences. Last month, Johnson took two FVMs — Tim Quinn of Philadelphia and Grace Kincaid of Camden — to the University of Georgia, where they spoke with students. In a reflection on the visit, Johnson said, “It is such a joy to see young people who want to live their faith and to share their gifts with others.”

More information about FVM may be obtained from the organization’s website.

 Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.