ATHENS, Ga. — Last month, three representatives from the Province’sFranciscan Volunteer Ministry visited the Catholic Center at UGA. They spoke the weekend of Feb. 4 to nearly 30 students at our Thursday Night Theology gathering about their ministries in Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., and Wilmington, Del.
They also spoke at our weekend Masses. Their stories were filled with all of the raw reality of what life is like in the inner city. Day in and day out they see realities of living with God’s poor. These young people gave us a bird’s eye view of being with the poor families, the crack addict or of the wounded veteran scarred by the effects of war. All of these folks and more are the alienated and estranged of our world, and all of them have been touched by the comfort of their Franciscan communities. Every story they told made us want to laugh or cry, but they always gave one hope.
One wondered why a young person recently out of college would consider coming to God’s little ones. None of them had any explanations of why they said “yes” to the ministry they do now. Each had their own evolving story. What affirmed their yes as coming from God was their spirit. Despite the plight of the poor, they had a peace and joy among them that could not be ignored.
The Franciscan Volunteer Ministry is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of Holy Name Province. I want to personally thank Chris McNabb from Wilmington, Claire Wittmeier from Philly and Matthew Johnson, the promoter of the FVM’s, for coming to Athens. Though they left us weeks ago, I still hear comments about their visit to UGA. They left a great imprint on our lives.
I would strongly encourage all of our ministries throughout HNP to invite these young people to your faith communities. You will not be disappointed. Their youth and enthusiasm for Christ in the spirit of St. Francis will enrich and renew the life of any faith community and I know that their presence rekindled in me the first stirring of my life to follow St. Francis.
— Fr. Thomas is director of the University of Georgia’s Catholic Center. News from and about the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry can be found both on its website and on its Facebook page.