Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Strengthens Bonds, Welcomes Recruiting Collaboration

Katie Sullivan Around the Province

PHILADELPHIA – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed lives around the world in tragic ways, with illness and loss, and in hopeful ways, with the strengthening of relationships and healing of the earth. In the midst of this momentous time, some things have remained constant, including the work of the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.


Katie Sullivan, left, with the 2020-21 FVMs – Trevor Carney, Deaynna Koskulitz, David Hojnowski, Liam O’Toole – and Michael Duffy, and Emma Edwards at the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry’s spring retreat at Loyola on the Potomac in Faulkner, Maryland.  (Photo courtesy of the author)

For our 2020-2021 FVM year, the ministry welcomed its 32nd class of Franciscan Volunteer Ministers. Though smaller in number than most years, the commitment of the FVMs has been boundless and their faith truly inspirational. We are serving with only one community of Franciscans this year, St. Francis Inn Ministries in Philadelphia.

The four 2021 Franciscan Volunteers, with Michael Duffy, OFM. From top left, clockwise, David Hojnowski, Deaynna Koskulitz, Liam O’Toole, Trevor Carney. (Photos courtesy Katie Sullivan)

Our four FVMs have been navigating life gracefully during the pandemic. They serve the guests of the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen alongside the friars, sisters, and lay team members. They share in the faith community through Mass and evening prayer. In their own home, they eat together weekly, pray together three times a week, and have a dedicated time for weekly communal fun.

Though St. Francis Inn has not been able to offer its standard indoor, restaurant-style dining during the pandemic, thus making the length of interactions shorter than usual, our FVMs have developed relationships with the guests, learning stories, sharing laughter, and supporting those in crisis. Along with the guests and the Franciscan community, the FVMs rejoice with each adjustment that returns life at the Inn closer to the pre-pandemic norm.

Recently, the United States celebrated National Volunteer Week from April 18 to 24, and joined the world in recognizing April as World Volunteer Month. It is important to set aside time to lift up all those who volunteer, whether they give one hour or have been volunteering for many years.

During April, and every day, we give thanks for our FVMs – past, present, and future. Since 1989, more than 250 young adults have served as FVMs, living as intentional communities, serving with Franciscan ministries, and sharing and growing in their faith lives. In our 32 years, FVMs have been welcomed to accompany eight Franciscan friar communities: Anderson, South Carolina, Boston, Massachusetts, Buffalo, New York, Camden, New Jersey, Durham, North Carolina, Silver Spring, Maryland, Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia.

Recruiting new FVMs during a pandemic is difficult because we have not been able to go to the places where we usually meet young people and describe the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, and because college groups cannot visit any of our ministry sites.

We would be grateful for help in sharing about the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry so that our 2021-2022 FVM year will have us back in our three usual sites – in the Immaculate Conception Parish community in Durham with Hugh Macsherry, OFM, at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia with Michael Duffy, OFM, and  at St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring with John Heffernan, OFM.

How can you help?

  • If you know someone who may be called to a year of lived faith and service, suggest that he or she contact us. Emma Edwards, our associate director, and I are delighted to talk with young people who are considering programs like the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. We can be reached via email.
  • If you would like FVM brochures to share with others, let us know and we will send them to you.
  • If you want to learn more or are connected with a class or a young adult group, we can coordinate a time to talk with you and/or the group.
  • You can invite people to join virtual volunteer fairs. This month, we participated in two, hosted by five faith-based volunteer programs, including Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. These events, called “It’s Not Too Late,” are geared toward graduating college seniors. The second is scheduled for May 18 from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST, with more information found here.
  • Stay current on FVM news by visiting our website and by following the Franciscan Volunteers on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

We look forward to sharing more about FVM in the future. We ask for your prayers for our FVMs as they finish their year in July, for all those already committed for our 2021-2022 FVM year, and for those discerning a year with the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.

— Katie Sullivan, a native of Washington, D.C., graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. She served as a Franciscan Volunteer Minister for two years and has been an FVM staff member since 1998.