As its 2019-20 service year comes to a close, the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry is already looking ahead. The more than 30-year-old organization is planning for its 2020-21 service year by seeking applications from men and women of faith with a strong desire to serve the marginalized while living in community and challenging themselves to grow in the values of St. Francis.
Franciscan Volunteers, mostly recent college graduates, serve in ministry for 12 months at Franciscan schools, social service programs, and parishes – either in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Silver Spring, Maryland; or Durham, North Carolina. They typically share an apartment or row house that is walking distance to the Franciscan friar community and ministry site.
“They live their year in simplicity and community, which means shared accommodations, spending, and transportation. Besides their service, Franciscan Volunteers commit to praying, eating, and having fun together each week,” said FVM executive director Katie Sullivan. “Each house has a network of support.”
With the coronavirus outbreak, the ministry has placed emphasis on the safety and health of volunteers, staff, and placement site communities. Many of the ministry offerings have adapted to needs resulting from the pandemic, according to Sullivan, who said that services will continue to evolve as the communities adjust to the safety guidelines of their regions.
“The emergence of COVID-19 and its ripples throughout the world highlight existing and emerging needs for people who are marginalized,” said Sullivan, who served as a Franciscan Volunteer from 1995 to 1997. “FVM endeavors to continue our mission of accompanying our brothers and sisters, living Gospel values, and trying to be ‘love … lived in service.”
Though life has been modified since March when shelter-in-place regulations took effect in most states around the country, the FVMs are still living the Gospel values and spirit of St. Francis. Those involved in school and parish ministries have worked remotely from their family homes since early spring, video chatting with students and phoning parishioners who are alone or isolated.
“Many of our FVMs who are with their families have also taken on local volunteer roles, such as delivering food and medication, driving the elderly to appointments, helping at family farms, and contributing to virtual retreat,” said Emma Edwards, FVM associate director, who noted that FVMs still serving at ministry sites have been adjusting to the needs of the time.
For some, that means continuing their usual ministries, but with added safety precautions – and for others, it has meant taking on new ministries that better serve immediate needs, such as food distribution and virtual prayer efforts.
One FVM has embraced the new challenges. “Because I have fewer ministries right now, I have been challenged to be truly present and give it 110 percent at each ministry,” said Jesse Koch.
Larry Hayes, OFM, Provincial Vicar and president of the FVM board, praised the Franciscan Volunteers for their deep commitment to service.
“During the time that I have been involved with the FVM program, I have consistently been impressed by the caring of the staff and the passion of young adults who participate. They help to keep the Franciscan charism alive, visible and attractive in our world today,” said Larry.
Chris Posch, OFM, supervisor of the FVMs in Silver Spring, cherishes working with the Volunteers.
“My Franciscan vocation has been profoundly enriched by FVMs’ truth-seeking, connecting faith with action, wrestling with dragons, longing for union with the Almighty, selfless giving, articulating thought-provoking questions and outrage, maximizing each moment, and simply having a good time and enjoying life’s many blessings,’ said Chris, who was among those who participated in last summer’s celebration of FVM’s 30th anniversary.
Information about applying to the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry can be found on the organization’s website. Photos of its participants and images portraying its mission can be found on its Facebook page.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
Editor’s note: Several former FVMs have written essays for HNP Today about the impact that their service with the Franciscans had on them. They include Michael Fenn, Sheila Herlihy, Andrew Staiti, Jeff Sved, and Leo Vaccaro.
- “Ministry Outreach Intensifies in a Changed World” — April 9, 2020, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Welcomes New Staff Member” – Feb. 12, 2020, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Celebrates History, Seeks New Associate Director” — Sept. 10, 2019, HNP Today