The three members of our 28th Lay Mission Class have begun their training in Washington, D.C. Candidate Jeff Sved reflects on his formation so far.

Over these first few weeks with FMS, one theme has continued to demand my attention. It has continued to surface during our various formation sessions and to dominate my personal reflections. Even though the overarching focal point has been preparation, I’d say my personal focus has been joy.

This theme began to stand out during our introduction to the life of St. Francis but has long been a factor in my own discernment leading me to mission. In discussions about community, Franciscan symbolism, Catholic Social Teaching, and especially prayer, thoughts on where joy can be found popped into my mind repeatedly. The most direct connection came from Francis’ parable on true and perfect joy, which was shared early during our first week.

Often Francis is connected to images of nature or service or poverty or simplicity, but the more I learn about his life, the more apparent joy becomes as a central theme in his life. Francis found joy in his life and this was exhibited in his love of nature, in his life of simplicity, and his loving service among the poor. Above all, it was his joyful spirit that reflected clearly the love of Jesus to those around him.

Where I experience joy and how I show joy have become the driving questions of my reflections throughout formation. Not surprisingly, the answers are hard to define.

Most often I look back on my day and can recognize joyful experiences: my daily walk through the monastery gardens, a shared moment of silent reflection on the day’s readings, catching a sunrise or a sunset, or the warm welcomes we’ve received from the extended FMS family.

These are incredible experiences that I’ve been blessed to enjoy, but they are instances of joy. Where do I recognize the overwhelming joy exhibited by Francis in both the good and the bad? How do I share that joy with others?

I am still wrestling with these questions, knowing that searching for the answers is at least a step in the right direction.

And I want to pose these same questions to you. Where or how do you experience joy? In what way do you share joy with others? 

These questions are given as an invitation. Mission work is never in a vacuum, and in this way I am inviting you to join me on this walk, to question together, and to discover true and perfect joy in our lives.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jeff spent this past year in Wilmington, Del., with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry teaching math in a prison and teaching English to members of the Latino community. A graduate of Villanova, he is preparing for two years of mission in Bolivia.