The Province’s 2019-20 Franciscan Volunteer Ministry got off to a dynamic start with the hire of a new associate director who shares the same enthusiasm for post-graduate service and with 10 volunteers from six colleges deeply committed to and passionate about spreading Franciscan ideals at ministry sites in three states.
Emma Edwards, a native of Connecticut, joined the FVM staff last November as associate director.
A 2012 graduate of The Catholic University of America with a bachelor of arts degree in media studies, Edwards has been a longtime advocate of post-graduate service. Her service year with the Augustinian Volunteers, during which she headed service opportunities for students of Merrimack College in Massachusetts, sparked an interest in working with young adults and led to the pursuit of higher education at Catholic institutions that included Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass. – where she earned a master of arts in counseling psychology and theology, and King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
As FVM associate director, Edwards works closely with longtime FVM executive director Katie Sullivan in Philadelphia in support of the alumni of the program and to recruit future Franciscan volunteers. She succeeded Lizzy Heurich, who held the position from 2016 to 2019.
A lifelong admirer of St. Francis of Assisi, Edwards said she is “thrilled” to be part of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry family.
“It has been wonderful getting to know all of the volunteers – and ministry sites as well. Many of the volunteers have plans and passions. One seems committed to becoming a friar, and another is hoping to become a licensed social worker and then join the military,” said Edwards, who moved to New Jersey last year with her husband Edwyn, a college football coach.
Awestruck by Courage, Dedication
“Each volunteer has a unique path that took him or her to their current role. There are many unknowns when you commit to a year of service, which can be an insecure feeling. I’m in awe of their courage and dedication,” Edwards said. “They are all taking this time, when they could be starting their careers, to help people and learn about themselves. Several of the FVMs are doing a second year of service, which is a beautiful testament to their dedication to the program.”
Sullivan, who has been working for the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry since 1998, said the volunteers each year are nothing short of inspiring. “I feel privileged to have been able to meet and work with such dedicated people, and to see how much they enjoy putting into practice the message of the Franciscans,” said Sullivan, who served two years as a Franciscan Volunteer.
Since 1989, HNP has provided young adults with the opportunity to serve others while growing in their faith. Through the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, which last summer commemorated its 30th anniversary, the Province fosters service to the poor and marginalized, spiritual growth, social justice advocacy, and personal and social development.
As with most years, the 2019-20 FVMs are living in three locations – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Silver Spring, Maryland, and Durham, North Carolina – where they are serving in diverse ministries.
In Philadelphia, the central ministry for FVMs is the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen, where the volunteers coordinate meals, lead visiting groups, arrange special events for children and families, and assist at the clothing distribution center of Marie’s Closet.
In Silver Spring, the FVMs serve in a number of ministries and programs at St. Camillus Parish, the Langley Park neighborhood, and in the overall community – including the youth group at St. Francis International School, religious education, Kairos Prison Ministry, St. Francis Builds, Meals-on-Wheels, English as a new language teaching, and Little Friends for Peace.
In Durham, the ministry sites include Reality Ministries, the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, Furniture Project of Durham, Durham CAN, Urban Ministries of Durham, and hospital ministries as well as Immaculata School, where they help with religious education, athletics, and afterschool care.
2019-20 FVMs Challenge and Inspire
This year’s FVMs hail from five states – Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York – and Honduras. Their alma maters include the HNP-sponsored Siena College and St. Bonaventure University, as well as Iona College (in New Rochelle, New York), St. Mary’s University (San Antonio, Texas), and Rosemont College and Villanova University (both just outside of Philadelphia). Edwards plans to visit many of these colleges to share with young adults the benefits and experiences of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.
“Being challenged in new ways,” and “joyful and exhilarating” are just a few of the words that friars use to describe their experience working with the volunteers as FVM site supervisors – including Michael Duffy, OFM, in Philadelphia, Hugh Macsherry, OFM, in Durham, and Christopher Posch, OFM, in Silver Spring.
“The FVMs show a zeal for our Christian mission, and they challenge me to engage that mission in new ways,” said Hugh, of Immaculate Conception Parish, who added, “They have helped me feel energized.”
“Being able to journey with young people for a whole year as a dynamic player in their lives is exhilarating, joyful, and deeply satisfying,” said Michael, who as one of its founders has been part of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry since its inception.
“One of the main purposes stated in the foundational beginning of the FVM program was the desire to promote the Franciscan spirit in the world. Since the numbers in religious life are dwindling and vocations are fewer, why not infuse the laity with the charism to keep it alive in the world?” continued Michael, who is part of the team at St. Francis Inn.
“Walking with young adults and being part of the process – as they flex their spiritual muscle and apply their passion for peace and justice issues and environmental concerns – is a wonderful experience,” said Michael. “When reading a newspaper or watching TV, one may often think the image of the young is one of entitlement, eroding values, and a lack of motivation. But to journey with the FVMs and experience their ideals, goals and unbounded energy provides a very different impression, and hope for the future.”
Photos that were taken at the FVM 30th anniversary celebration last summer, as well as information about the ministry – its mission and application process – can be found on the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry website.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communication 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.
- “Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Plans 30th Reunion, Accepts Applicants” – June 19, 2019, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Volunteer Ministry Takes Root in Durham” – Nov. 28, 2018, HNP Today
- “Michael Duffy Marks 50 Years as a Friar” – Feb. 10, 2016, HNP Today