April is National Volunteer Month and FMS kicks off our celebration with a message from our executive director, Kim Smolik.

From a very young age, my parents gifted with me the experience of volunteering and lessons about the value of serving others. Through our church and community, we volunteered as a family throughout our hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

One of the most fun service experiences growing up was building a playground at our parish. My uncles and dad oversaw the construction, and my mom, sister and others helped with providing meals and supplies. In one way or the next, it felt like the entire neighborhood got involved. I love the sense of community that it built.

My family’s example of volunteerism stayed with me through college and beyond. I spent spring breaks with Habitat for Humanity, taught in Ecuador and then volunteered in Mexico with the Center for Global Education. Back in the U.S., I directed the Catholic Charities Volunteer Corps before coming to FMS.

There is a reason why I have remained in a career that promotes service: It doesn’t just feel good; service is core to our humanity. It creates connections between ourselves and others. Service gives us a sense of belonging. It fosters gratitude and compassion.

Service with and among the poor, the type of service we promote at FMS, asks us to be reflective, faith-filled people. Why is there poverty and suffering? What causes it? What can we do to eliminate it individually and as a society? Service asks us to engage with the world around us in ways our day to day life otherwise may not.

While the cornerstone of FMS is direct mission service with and among the poor, volunteerism at our headquarters in Washington DC is the foundation upon which we make mission service possible. So this month, we celebrate all the people who give of their time and talent to Franciscan Mission Service.

  • More than 30 highly-skilled facilitators, teachers, celebrants, and mentors volunteer their time to help prepare our missioners for service oversees during the three-month missioner formation/training program.
  • Our 15 board of directors regularly donate their time and wisdom. We are especially grateful that these board members freely offer their skills in finance, accounting, law, nonprofit management, fundraising, marketing, first-hand mission experience and lives committed to the Franciscan charism. Without skilled and generous board members, FMS would have hire consultants in these areas, and nothing can replace their commitment to our greater purpose.
  • Four young adult Catholics are currently spending a year volunteering full-time in our offices using their skills in programming, development, finance, communications, design, writing, and more. In turn, they learn about the inner workings of a nonprofit while receiving strong mentorship and professional development opportunities. Since we launched its domestic volunteer program in 2009, the presence and commitment of the domestic volunteers has brought new life, energy and capacity to FMS.

    Volunteers come to us because they are inspired by their faith to volunteer, but they want an experience that most one-year, faith based volunteer programs do not offer. Our program also provides the formation and engagement around issues of social justice, the Franciscan charism, simplicity, spirituality, and intentional community life.

This April, we ask you to please consider supporting and honoring all our volunteers through a donation to FMS. Your prayers and donations are as essential as our volunteers in making our work possible.