Franciscan Volunteers End Service Year with Retreat

Lizzy Heurich Around the Province

Thomas Gallagher, pastor of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, leads a prayer service for the visiting FVMs. (Photo courtesy of Katie Sullivan)

After spending the last year learning about Franciscan values and serving those in need, eight young adults who were part of Holy Name Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry from 2016 to 17 gathered with their staff and friar leaders for five days of fellowship and prayer. The nearly 30-year-old program welcomes applicants through August to participate next year at one of its three sites – Philadelphia, Hartford, Conn., and Silver Spring, Md. Information about the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry can be found in its newsletterwebsite and its Facebook page.

The Franciscan Volunteer Ministers recently completed their year with a closing retreat held at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, Conn. The volunteers, friar site supervisors, and FVM staff spent the week of July 16 reflecting on the past year, sharing laughs and memories, and exploring Connecticut. Each day, they prayed together and shared in the celebration of Mass together.

On Monday, the FVM community visited the current exhibit at Wisdom House’s Marie Louise Trichet Art Gallery.  The exhibit, which is titled “Transfourming Sorrow,” featured artwork from Kardash Onnig. Onnig’s grandparents survived the Armenian genocide, so sorrow has been a part of his family for generations. The exhibit featured a “Womb of Sorrow” and additional sculptures that represented sorrowful events in people’s lives and the transforming of that grief. Onnig was on-site and gave a talk to the FVM community about his life and his artwork.

The next day, Tuesday, July 18, began with morning prayer after which the FVM community traveled to Hartford, Conn., to spend time with the St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish community. The visit included Mass, learning a bit about liturgical dance through their Summer Nourishment Arts and Spirituality program, and a prayer and reflection on transition with Thomas Gallagher, OFM. FVM was blessed with two of the parish’s music ministers – Gabe Lofvall and Pam Johnson – who played piano and led the community in song for prayer. Tom shared the parallel of two childhood games, Musical Chairs and Follow the Leader, in relation to this year with FVM. For example, both during the year and as this year concludes, FVMs are invited to move their chairs to another space and see from other perspectives. Tom also invited the FVM community to recognize and consider four separate calls: into holiness, adulthood, community, and mission and ministry.

Tuesday evening, back at Wisdom House, consisted of dinner and time with FVM alumnus Frederick Keator, who spoke about “life after FVM,” about the impact the program continues to have on his life, and about how he brings the values into all he does. Additionally, Frederick shared a note from his and his wife’s eldest child, Gabriela, who begins college this fall. Gabriela wrote, “Only God can inspire true change … The Spirit works through each and every one of us to create this change, but true change only comes through Christ … As FVMs, that is what you all have done over your past year. Yes, you have all laughed, cried, taught, served, and grown throughout your time, but more importantly, you opened yourself up to love without counting the costs. And through that Love, Christ was able to do some incredible things that have touched lives. By loving, you have allowed yourself to be vessels of the Holy Spirit, truly showing others what being a son or daughter of God means.”

The 2016-17 class of Franciscan Volunteer Ministers and their supervisors Ronald Pecci, Michael Duffy and Christopher Posch. (Photo courtesy of Katie Sullivan)

The last full day of the retreat, July 18, was spent at the Burr Pond State Park. The day included swimming, kayaking, canoeing, board games, and soaking up the sun. It was a great day to connect with nature and enjoy some relaxing time together. There were even handstand contests in the water! Wednesday evening, after dinner, the group enjoyed a trip to the Frozen Gnome for ice cream because an FVM retreat would not be complete without ice cream.

On the final day, the FVM community enjoyed a closing Mass led by Michael Duffy, OFM. His homily touched on the three ways that God is always with us: Scripture, the Eucharist, and relationships. Christopher Posch, OFM, led a blessing that was a variation of the Rite of Acceptance. Ronald Pecci, OFM, was honored for his dedication to FVM throughout the years, from his time as the friar site supervisor in Buffalo, N.Y., to this year where he served as the friar site supervisor in Camden, N.J.

The FVM office staff – Katie Sullivan and I – are extremely proud of the FVMs and the growth and relationships they experienced throughout the duration of their volunteer year. The eight new FVM alumni are off to new adventures. Two FVMs have jobs in the Silver Spring, Md., area, two FVMs have jobs in the Philadelphia area, and two FVMs have returned to their respective homes to continue the job search. One FVM, Richard Philip, will be a postulant at Holy Name College beginning in August. One FVM is returning to do a second volunteer year. We ask you to keep these FVMs in your prayers as they transition to their next step in life.

Lizzy Heurich has served as associate director of the HNP Franciscan Volunteer Ministry since last August.

Editor’s note: HNP Today has published essays by FVM alumni about the program’s impact on them. The most recent appeared in the June 19 issue of the newsletter.

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