WASHINGTON — It’s an exciting season of growth and change at Franciscan Mission Service.
During Labor Day weekend, FMS welcomed to training one of the largest classes of missioners in recent history. Over the following weeks, these six lay people have been formed in the Franciscan missionary charism in preparation for a minimum of two years of service to Bolivia.
“We are honored to support and develop these young Catholics for the mission service,” said executive director Kim Smolik. “It is amazing how this Franciscan training and overseas experience equips them to be compassionate leaders for the Church.”
Descriptions of the six members of Lay Mission Class 29 are below.
Born and raised in Columbia, Md., Dana Doseff is a graduate of Longwood University with a degree in English. She recently spent a year teaching English as a foreign language in Indonesia.
Hady Mendez is the youngest of four daughters raised by Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, N.Y. She graduated from Manhattan College before starting a corporate career in technology that lasted for more than 20 years.
Brittany Koepke grew up in Tennessee and studied Latin America and Spanish. Previous service trips to Mexico strengthened her passions for truth, social justice, and the dignity of every human person — passions which she is excited to embody while on mission with Franciscan Mission Service.
Valerie Ellis comes to training from Tampa, Fla., but is originally from Wichita, Kan. Having designed and taught a class at Hillsborough Community College called “Avoiding Violence: Be a Part of the Solution,” Valerie is looking forward to applying her non-violence experience in the mission field.
This year’s class also includes a young married couple, Mary and Nate Mortenson, who recently celebrated their first anniversary. They share a love of bicycling and bringing people together around food. The Mortensons met at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where Mary studied sociology and outdoor leadership, and Nate studied Spanish and geology.
Weeks of Training
All of the missioners-in-training study and live in Washington at Casa San Salvador with Franciscan Mission Service’s prayerful young adult community, which includes Catholic graduate students, interns, volunteers, and the organization’s own three domestic volunteers.
The 13 weeks of training include workshops and sessions on topics such as scripture, prayer, Catholic Social Teaching, conflict resolution, and cross-cultural adaption. Holy Name Province friars — including Joseph Nangle, OFM, Dominic Monti, OFM, John Ullrich, OFM, and Anthony LoGalbo, OFM — have long contributed to this training by leading sessions on St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality and history, as well as by serving as spiritual directors.
During formation, the missioners-in-training spend Wednesday mornings with a marginalized population in Washington. Their regular service at local clinics for the homeless, drop-in shelters, and nursing homes for the elderly poor helps them apply what they’re learning in formation and prepare for their own ministries abroad.
The missioner candidates are all preparing for service in Bolivia, which they will begin in January. Some will join current FMS missioners at various ministries in the city of Cochabamba. Others will go to Coroico in the Andes to the Franciscan-founded university of Carmen Pampa, which serves the rural and ingenious population.
All are invited to the special commissioning Mass and reception for lay mission class 29 on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington.
FMS is grateful for the prayerful support of these courageous lay people. More information about the missioners — including blog posts — and ways to donate on their behalf is available on the FMS website.
— Bridget Higginbotham is communications coordinator for the Franciscan Mission Service.