PHILADELPHIA — The month of June included time for prayer and fellowship, for fun and for making a difference for the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.
Former FVMs and their families — making up roughly 30 people — gathered atMt. Irenaeus in Western New York for a reunion retreat over the weekend of June 25.
“We had representatives from the first ‘prototype’ FVM from 1987 spanning all the way to FVMs who served in 2008 and 2009,” said promoter Matthew Johnson, who added, “Alumni traveled from as close as Olean, N.Y., and as far away as Georgia.”
Five sites — past and present — were represented: Boston, Buffalo, N.Y., Camden, N.J., Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. Currently, FVMs live in the communities of Camden, Philadelphia and Wilmington.
“We shared prayer, Mass, friendship and family over the course of the weekend,” Johnson said. “It was amazing to see how well everybody meshed with each other. No matter when they served, all of the FVM alumni interacted with each other as if they had lived together before.”
St. Francis Inn, a ministry site of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, held its 21st annual block party June 13 in Philadelphia, attended by roughly 500 — current FVMs, staff and community members and friars including guardianMichael Duffy, OFM, as well as Jeffery Jordan, OFM, who is spending his summer in Philadelphia, also attended the block party.
The celebration included water balloon tosses, food, dancing, jump rope and more. Patrick Tuttle, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C., played disc jockey for the day — a tradition he began two decades ago.
“We had a bit of rain, but that didn’t stop Fr. Pat or the guests on the dance floor,” Johnson said.
The project — a mural created by a local artist and community children — began as a way to raise awareness and responsibility in a Cramer Hill park, near St. Anthony of Padua Church. It was featured in the July 2 issue ofCatholic Star Herald, Camden’s diocesan newspaper.
“This park has a reputation as a place where numerous drug deals happen daily, public drinking gets out of hand every weekend, hazardous parking and illegal vending and littering is rampant, and reckless ATV drivers endanger the people who come to enjoy the playground and sports fields,” said Anna Perkins, an FVM serving in Camden who helped with the project.
The hope, Perkins said, is “to get a commitment from the city and county police that they will be more proactive in patrolling and enforcing the rules of the park, so we can preserve this community treasure as a safe, clean and fun place for families to come.”
The mural and park are already getting some attention from city officials and police representatives who have agreed to make public commitments to take action against the park’s problems.
Perkins told Catholic Star Herald, “When the changes are made, many people will be affected, hopefully for the good.”
Photos of these three events are featured on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry. To read Anna Perkin’s reflections on the Camden Peace Art Project and St. Francis Inn Block Party, as well as her experiences as an FVM in Camden, read her blog, “anna.in.light.of…”
— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.