‘Living Witnesses to Gospel Values’: Meet the New FVMs

Johann Cuervo Around the Province

The 2016-17 class of Franciscan Volunteer Ministers and their supervisors. (Photo courtesy of the FVM)

This past August, nine young adults began a year of service with three Holy Name Province communities – in Camden, N.J., Philadelphia, and Silver Spring, Md. – through Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.

Since 1989, FVM has given its participants the opportunity to donate a year or more of their lives serving the poor at the Province’s ministries. Based on the Gospel message to express love in action, the program provides an environment that fosters service to the marginalized, personal and interpersonal development, spiritual growth, and an active prayer life.

“This year’s class is gifted intellectually, artistically, musically, and spiritually,” said Katie Sullivan, who has been the program’s director since 1998. “I give thanks for them and to their loved ones who shaped them into the gifts they are. The FVMs are touching the lives of their brothers and sisters in ways they do not fully recognize.”

Volunteers and Locations
In Philadelphia, under the supervision of Michael Duffy, OFM, volunteers Marisabel Alonso, Hanna Briggs and Jesse Nunez are serving as part of the Franciscan community that runs St. Francis Inn. Their main focus is the soup kitchen, which feeds up to 400 guests a day – in body and in spirit. Their duties include preparing and serving the meal as well as picking up and distributing food and clothing. FVMs also work at the Thea Bowman Women’s Center and Marie’s Closet, a thrift shop.

“My year so far has been phenomenal, yet heartbreaking. I work full time at the soup kitchen or the women’s center, and my heart feels full because of it,” said Briggs. “These lovely people are the first ones I say hi to everyday. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my year as an FVM, I am so grateful for being apart of it.”

Across the river, in Camden, FVMs Jesse Pellow, Rick Phillip and Mike Specht are serving in ministries fostered by St. Anthony of Padua Parish, a vibrant and diverse Franciscan parish. Some of the ministries include: St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School, the youth ministry, religious education and Abigail House. The FVMs are under the direction of Ronald Pecci, OFM. This is Ron’s first year as Camden site supervisor. He is the former friar site supervisor for the Buffalo FVM community.

“My ministries at St. Anthony of Padua have been rich in part due to the variety of services that I’m able to be a part of. I’m helping out in the parish school, teaching and assisting the kids. I help lead an after school boys mentoring club, as well as coach some of the schools sports teams. The children at St. Anthony of Padua have touched my heart in so many ways that I wasn’t expecting, and I’m a better man because of it,” said Specht.

Christopher Posch, OFM, in Silver Spring, is supervising FVMs Brianne Keahon, Cella Mahoney and Stephanie Mobley, who are participating in ministries fostered by St. Camillus Parish where he is pastor. These include work at St. Francis International School, Meals on Wheels and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Some of the FVMs at a recent retreat (Photo courtesy of the FVM)

2016-17 Retreats
Through their service year – from August to July – the FVMs will go on five retreats to reflect and pray about their experiences. This year, their opening retreat took place at Loyola on the Potomac Retreat House in Maryland. Volunteers had a chance to bond with their home community and experience fellowship with the larger FVM family.

Holy Trinity Spiritual Center in Maryland hosted the Myers-Briggs retreat led by Sr. Madonna Hoying, SFP. Here, the volunteers learned about their Myers-Briggs personality type and the types of their community members.

This fall, volunteers enjoyed time in nature, prayer and a dinner at Mt. Irenaeus with students from St. Bonaventure University. The FVMs will return to Western New York for another retreat in the spring of 2017 before their closing retreat in July.

The Franciscan Volunteer Ministry is based on the balancing of three core values: community, ministry and spirituality. FVMs are distinct compared to other volunteer service groups in that their ministries work very closely with each parish and the friars. Participants also live in the neighborhoods where they minister and are encouraged to pray together, share a meal together, and have a community fun night at least once a week.

“I have been the associate director for the program for nearly five months now. Those five months have been a joy. I have enjoyed sharing laughs and memories with our friar site supervisors, Katie, and all of our FVMs. This year’s volunteer class has left an impact on me that I will cherish for a long time,” said Lizzy Heurich, associate director.

This year’s FVM class represents nine colleges: Iona College, Mercyhurst University, Palomar College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth University, along with the two Province-sponsored schools – Siena College and St. Bonaventure University.

About the Program
“This program really instills Franciscan spirit. It brings together many people who had never met, yet who have the same background with the Franciscans and a similar outlook on life,” said Michael, one of the FVM founders and supervisor of the Philadelphia site for more than a quarter century. “As living witnesses to Gospel values and Franciscan ideals, the Franciscan Volunteer Ministers are committed to a simple lifestyle that promotes solidarity with the poor and builds a Christian community with one another,” according to The Franciscan Volunteer Ministry’s website.

Information about the program and the application process can be found on the website, as well as their social media platforms, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook.

— Johann Cuervo is communications assistant for Holy Name Province. 

Related Links