WASHINGTON — After a rigorous three-month period of formation with Franciscan Mission Service, Becky Kreidler, Hannah Hagarty, and Sabrina Portner were commissioned last month as lay missioners who will accompany and serve economically poor communities abroad. This is FMS’s 34th class of missioners.
The Nov. 17 ceremony included a Mass, celebrated by Ignatius “Iggy” Harding, OFM, at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, and a reception at the FMS volunteer house, Casa San Salvador. At both the monastery and volunteer house, FMS Board members, formation presenters, returned FMS missioners, D.C. Service Corps members, and friends of FMS offered their collective best wishes, support and encouragement for the newest FMS lay mission class.
In turn, guests were blessed to hear each missioner’s personal mission statement, shared publicly for the first time as a prelude to the Mass. During the next two years of mission service, these statements will serve to ground missioners in their vocation.
In her mission statement, Sabrina, a 21-year-old who was born and raised in Sleepy Eye, Minn., and who will serve in Bolivia, said, “I strive to live loving God with all my heart, understanding, and strength and to love my neighbors, especially of Bolivia, as God loves them, so that one day our gaze will match God’s gaze of boundless love.”
Commitment of Current and Past Missioners
Becky, a 22-year-old from Chicago, Il., who will serve in Guatemala, also spoke of love in her mission statement: “I depart from a life of individualism and embrace living in intentional community in all its challenges, lessons, and grace. I relinquish the idea of success and money and allow love to be the only measure. I examine and hold my privilege and choose to listen, learn, and live in solidarity with those on the margins.”
Hannah a 23-year-old from Colfax, Iowa, who will serve in Jamaica, said, “I strive to live each day with authenticity, compassion, and peace…by committing to being present and genuinely listening, by living in solidarity, and by seeking to console those who are troubled, understand those who are oppressed, and love my neighbor as myself.”
These touching personal mission statements prompted many in the congregation to reflect on the meaning of mission and its role in the global Church. Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, associate director of the Franciscan Action Network, said, “Each year when I attend [commissioning] I am inspired by the commitment of women and men who desire to…be in mission with vulnerable people outside the United States,” she said. “This year I was moved and inspired by the testimonies of [these] three beautiful young women who give me hope for the future of our troubled Church, country and world.”
Reflecting on Mission Journeys
For some guests, commissioning was a time to reflect on their own mission journeys. Jeff Sved – a returned missioner, formation presenter, and member of the FMS Board – said, “Commissioning Mass is an important milestone on [the] FMS journey, and this was my first opportunity to celebrate with the mission class since my own commissioning with class 28. It has been a joy to walk with [the missioners] during their time in D.C. and it was a privilege to celebrate this milestone with them, officially welcoming them to the FMS family as Franciscan lay missioners!”
While commissioning may be an outward sign of membership in the FMS lay mission family, the ties that bind the missioners had been forged months before the ceremony through relationships built in the Casa community and beyond. Scott Robinson, a young adult serving with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, said, “Although I just recently met [the missioners], the Franciscan family that I am a part of has a real closeness, and I felt that sense of unity when we came together in a heartfelt sending Mass to celebrate their new beginnings. Thanks be to God for this spiritual family!”
As the new missioners make their final preparations to leave their home communities, this spiritual family takes on a new role as a source of support that crosses time zones and borders. Perhaps not so coincidentally, these weeks between commissioning and departure for mission sites reflect the tone of the current liturgical season of Advent. This is a period of waiting and anticipation, but it is also a period of spiritual promise. Recognizing this, Patrick Martin, a Secular Franciscan and FMS Board member, said, “As we send our newly commissioned missioners on their way, I could not help but imagine the many grace-filled moments they will have in their service to those on the margins.”
Whether present at commissioning or offering prayers from afar, many people whose lives have already been touched by the new missioners felt the significance of the ceremony. “These three women are truly incredible and it was an honor to witness them in front of the Blessed Sacrament, with all their fears and excitements, confidently commit to a life of mission,” said Amy Brandt, a D.C. Service Corps volunteer who lived with the missioners during formation.
The new missioners will begin their ministries overseas in early 2019. They can be accompanied through prayers and financial support, and by keeping up with their blog posts on the FMS website. Those who feel called to mission are encouraged to visit the programs section of the FMS website, or contact programs manager Emily Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: In recent years, several former FMS missioners have written essays for HNP Today about the impact that their service with the Franciscans had on them. They include Amanda Ceraldi, Kristen Zielinski-Nalen, and Jeff Sved.
— Meghan Meros is associate director of Franciscan Mission Service, whose office is in Washington, D.C.