WEST CLARKSVILLE, N.Y. — The Franciscan Volunteer Ministry (FVM) teams from Camden, N.J., Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia gathered with friar supervisors and FVM staff members Matthew Johnson and Katie Sullivan here last week for their fall retreat at Mt. Irenaeus.
Sullivan, the program’s director, said, “The Mountain is the one place that FVMs throughout the history of the program hold in common. It was wonderful to again be welcomed home there.”
The retreat included a surprise appearance by former FVM Debbie Holihan, who served in Wilmington from 2005 to 2007 and had recently returned from a year of service in Peru.
Promoting Volunteer Ministry
FVM’s promoter, Johnson, has been busy traveling to college volunteer fairs, retreats and meetings around the East Coast. “In the last month, I have been to St. Lawrence University, SUNY Potsdam, Sacred Heart University, Boston College, Stonehill College, Assumption College, College of the Holy Cross, St. Anselm College and St. Bonaventure University,” Johnson said. He added that he had met hundreds of students interested in volunteer work during these visits. “It is a beautiful thing to see so many young people interested in service!”
Up next for Johnson and Sullivan is a trip to Durham, N.C., to attend the Catholic Network of Volunteer ServiceNational Conference. While in Durham, Johnson will also visit a volunteer fair at Duke University.
Life of an FVM
A key component of the life of an FVM, according to Sullivan, is a commitment to being an active member of his or her intentional community. At each site (Camden, Philadelphia and Wilmington), the volunteer teams eat, pray and have a community “fun night” together at least once a week she said. They also eat with the larger Franciscan community once a week.
“The frequency of the meals and prayers is usually greater than that minimum commitment — and the fun certainly occurs beyond that one designated night,” Sullivan said.
The community of St. Anthony of Padua in Camden, and site supervisor John Coughlin, OFM, eagerly welcomed back the FVMs, having missed their energy, creativity, hope and faith for the past year. The four Camden FVMs — Chris Calderone, Norma Dhanaraj (shown in photo), Josh Dupuis and Anna Perkins — have quickly become vital and treasured members of the parish community according to Sullivan. They serve in a range of ministries: teaching music and art at the elementary school and English as a second language, working with a community garden, visiting at Francis House, and participating in the parish’s music ministry and faith-sharing group, Quest. Additionally, the Camden FVMs have designated one day a week as a day when they eat no meat and a second day of prayerful fasting.
The community of St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia and site supervisor Michael Duffy, OFM, are thrilled to have four FVMs this year, Sullivan said.
Celia Bogan, Mary Donahue, Rory Dunphy and Leo Vaccaro have been a delightful complement to the personalities and gifts of the inn team members. The Philadelphia FVMs have eagerly embraced the daily ministries of preparing and serving meals, picking-up donations, helping at the thrift store, and training and supporting the many other volunteers. Additionally, Bogan and Donahue have the opportunity to go to the Thea Bowman Women’s Center; and all four have pooled their creativity to help develop fun encounters for the kids of the inn — including a spookily fun Halloween party, she said.
After two years without an FVM community in Wilmington, the St. Paul community and site supervisor Christopher Posch, OFM, are exhilarated having this community of four: Kelly Donnelly, Brad Landry, Julianne Wallace and Eddie Whelan.
As in Camden, the ministries are varied. The FVM assignments include prison ministry, migrant ministry, teaching English as a second language, teaching music at the elementary school, tutoring and coaching at the school. Even within those sites, the FVMs express their gifts in a variety of ways. At the women’s prison, they are involved in group reflection, one-on-one conversations/mentoring, teaching creative writing, facilitating a meditation group and coordinating a musical to be performed in a couple of weeks.
After a time for rest and reflection at Mt. Irenaeus, all the FVMs are back to their full schedules. Sullivan said she encourages readers of HNP Today to check the ministry’s Twitter, Facebook and blog for frequent updates.
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.